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What's The Greatest Web Software Ever? 178

An anonymous reader writes "What's The Greatest Web Software Ever Written?, Charlie Babcock of InformationWeek asks, in his follow up to last year's widely read list of greatest software period. The winner then was BSD 4.3. The new Top 12 list is a little funky in that it doesn't distinguish between apps, sites, and controls — XMLHttpRequest object set — is one of the winners. It includes many of the usual suspects, like Digg and AIM, along with some unexpected winners. (like World of Warcraft) The number one choice however, Apache server, is arguably correct."
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What's The Greatest Web Software Ever?

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  • Ever ever? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Zapotek ( 1032314 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `soksal.sosat'> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:13AM (#19001677)
    Well, if you take "ever" literally... the greatest software ever hasn't been written yet.. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Common, we already know the winner, it was Windows 9x. This series of OS's created the internet we know today, full of spam, botnets, popups, porn popups that come up when you least want them, and open 5 more popups if you try to close them, god forbid anyone doesn't have anti-virus software installed, eating away at their CPU and memory utilization, and no one complains anymore for having to reboot their computer just to close a browser window.

      So thank you Windows, we have been raped by your presence and w
    • by Stellian ( 673475 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:06PM (#19002457)

      Well, if you take "ever" literally... the greatest software ever hasn't been written yet.. :)
      You are wrong!
      The greatest software in the world has indeed been written, and the importance of this breakthrough cannot be overestimated [].
    • "Well, if you take "ever" literally... the greatest software ever hasn't been written yet.. :)

      And how do you know for certain? Maybe there will never be any greater software written than de greatest software that has been written until this moment.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @05:55PM (#19005043)
      In the same order as the author used in the 7th ad-filled page*:

      12. AOL Instant Messenger
      11. Digg
      10. Hotmail
      9. World Of Warcraft
      8. Wikipedia
      7. XMLHttpRequest object set
      5. eBay
      4. The Well
      3. Craigslist
      2. AltaVista
      1. Apache

      *If you want to say thank you, mod up -- and thank YOU.
    • Hopefully so.
  • by EveryNickIsTaken ( 1054794 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:19AM (#19001711)
    Or just another blogger? Besides the fact that it's nearly impossible to read his article, and the fact that it lumps dissimilar items together on a top-# list, his omissions make this a waste of time. Top "web software" and no NCSA Mosaic or Netscape Navigator (1.0)? Also, I thought the WELL was a BBS/Shell account provider?
    • It matters more that the article is a waste of time than whether he is a blogger or a "real" journalist. Unless of course you define "real" journalists as people who write only articles that are not wastes of time and bloggers oppositely... But I don't think that is a very useful definition.
      • by Ucklak ( 755284 )
        I think in todays vernacular, a journalist is a blogger that gets paid by a publication.
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by belg4mit ( 152620 )
          No, in today's vernacular a blogger is someone whom plays at being a journalist
          by having a public diary and parroting the thoughts and ideas of others.
    • Well, he writes for a trade mag which is a step down the food chain from mainstream media, but as trade mags go, Information Week does try to maintain some journalistic integrity. For instance, in the stories I have been quoted in there over the past year, they have always asked if I had corroborating sources for the points I was making, at least for the ones quotes that were factual as opposed to just being my opinion
    • ***Top "web software" and no NCSA Mosaic ... ***

      If you will read the article a little slower, you will find the following paragraph at the end of Page 1.

      'If we're looking for great Web software, why not start with Mosaic? It qualifies as a brilliant synthesis of what went before, bringing new utility to the millions of users coming onto the Web in 1993. But, alas, Mosaic was No. 6 on my list of greatest software ever written; no sense repeating myself. '

      You may not agree with his reasoning, but he cle

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:19AM (#19001717)
    WoW is far better than Apache.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by omeomi ( 675045 )
      What is WoW even doing on this list? In what way is WoW on the "web"? On the internet, yes, but I've yet to see somebody playing WoW on a web page of some sort. Do we really have to start calling every internet technology the "web"? Maybe this is explained in the article, but I'm tired of loading page after page of advertisements just to find out...
      • Hows about we call it "What's the greatest tube-traveling software ever?"

        Seems reasonable to include WOW if he uses hotmail outlook on the first page (at least in a picture), I think he's taking it more as "What's the greatest software to make use of the web ever?" rather than "What's the greatest software that runs on a web page ever?"
      • Totally agreed. The guy seems like he oscillates back and forth between "web software" and "internet software" with no rhyme or reason. AIM is also misplaced here. If AIM and WoW qualify, why not Usenet or BitTorrent?
        • Does he give any justification for AIM even being on the list (I've, obviously, not R'd TFA)? It wasn't the first IM software. To my knowledge, that was ICQ (later bought by AOL and integrated with AIM). It might be the most popular in the US, but it certainly isn't outside; only one of the people on my contact list uses AIM, the rest use either Jabber or MSN (with a rough geek Vs non-geek divide between the two).
          • by omeomi ( 675045 )
            It wasn't the first IM software. To my knowledge, that was ICQ (later bought by AOL and integrated with AIM).

            I think the first IM system was IRC...
            • Not at all. IM is pretty much the "buddy list and primarily 1-on-1 chat" paradigm. IRC is more of a chat room, of which there are many many examples that predate it, going back to old BBS systems. IRC itself was a replacement for an old chat room system called MUT. In fact, IRC wasn't even the first chat room system to run over TCP/IP.
  • Vista mentioned eighteen times on the informationweek [] main page ..
    • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:36AM (#19001847)
      Thanks for mentioning Vista a couple of times in your post. We hear in the Vista marketing team really appreciate it when Vista gets a mention. I inspires us in the Vista family to really work to make Vista the best Vista that it can be.

      Thanks again for mentioning Vista. Now I'm off to sit on my balcony with a cold beer and enjoy the Vista.

      Yours etc
      Vista Marketing Team
  • My List (Score:5, Interesting)

    by queenb**ch ( 446380 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:29AM (#19001781) Homepage Journal
    1 - Apache - still one of the most popular web servers out there. One of the most flexible and adaptable. It just rocks.
    2 - Routed - the router daemon that, in some shape, form or fashion, runs probably 90% of the internet. Without routers to move the traffic, the rest of it just a moot point
    3 - Netscape 1.0 - The idea of a GUI browser is fundamental to how we experience the web today. Without that, who needs dynamic objects like Flash since you wouldn't be able to see them.
    4 - Flash - The idea that you could put moving pictures, sound, and video on a web page is a pretty fundamental one that gets largely over looked.
    5 - Shockwave - The idea that could put games and other interactive media on a web page is another pretty fundamental idea that gets largely overlooked.
    6 - CSS - Stylesheets - what a blessing to every web master everywhere. Praise the Lord and pass the wine.

    I'm kinda surprised that more of my list didn't make it. Oh well......

    2 cents,

    Queen B.
    • Re:My List (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:33AM (#19001809) Homepage
      Flash, I'll grant, begrudgingly (ack), but.... Flash *AND* Shockwave? And both of them on top of CSS? What are you smoking? Aside from the fact that it's not really a Piece of Software (and if it's there, why isn't HTML on your list, btw?)... as long as it's there, it ought to easily outrank both.

      Pass the Macromedia^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H Adobe kool-aid, wouldya?

      • While the implementation may not have been great, Macromedia was one of the first to identify that the web would gradually evolve into an application platform with the majority of the UI processing done at the browser level.

        Say what you will about flash, but a lot of what it's done has revolutionized the web. (Not to mention that it was the first streaming media platform to be widely adopted because it "just works")

        All that being said, as a Mac user, I have a firey disdain for the (grossly unoptimized and
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 )
          Flash revolutionized nothing. Flash is the antithesis of AJAX, not its progenitor. Otherwise you might as well credit Java, because far more serious browser-based applications were written with that technology.

          Though I supposed they deserve credit for being so doggedly cross-platform and cross-browser. YouTube succeeded thanks to Flash, because they were not beholden to Microsoft or to Real or to Apple.

          • The design of the human eye with aggressive edge and motions detectors in the periphery makes it difficult to concentrate on the fovial cone required to read, comprehend, and assimilate textual content while any Flash ad is "flashing" on the margins of the screen cleavage and lucre. I've had Flash disabled on my system since the mid-nineties. Easiest recapture of ten IQ points ever. Unfortunately, even with Flash disabled I still can't function at my peak in the early evening after drinking half a bottle
    • Re:My List (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:35AM (#19001831)

      3 - Netscape 1.0 - The idea of a GUI browser is fundamental to how we experience the web today.

      So why Netscape 1.0? Why not either Mosaic (earlier) or Firefox (better)?
      • If you want to compare mosaic browsers, OS/2's webex was the best of the time :-P
        • WebEx wasn't based on Mosaic. I loved IBM's Web Map mode, though. It was a very nice way to show a user's browsing history, especially for the time.
      • Because Netscape was the one to really bring it to the masses. Mosaic was a project. Firefox was the second coming.
        • Mosaic was only one player in the early stages of the first browser war. I used a variety of forms of Mosaic before I discovered Netscape. It wasn't until some years later that the market thinned to NS and IE as the two major competitors.
      • by Argon ( 6783 )
        Because Netscape 1.0 truly revolutionized the web. I have used both Mosaic and Netscape 1.0. While Mosaic definitely deserves a mention because it was the first GUI browser for all practical purposes, it's no comparision to Netscape. No source, but it was cross platform. Excellent user interface, excellent rendering. To me Netscape 1.0 was the software that showed the real power of the web.
    • by BiggyP ( 466507 )
      Does anyone use Shockwave any more? I thought it had, thankfully, died out years ago.
    • Re:My List (Score:4, Insightful)

      by owlnation ( 858981 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:46AM (#19001893)
      I'm with you apart from number 4 and 5.

      Flash is, for my 2 cents, The Worst web app out there. It breaks usability - it's totally client side and screw the user. It's resource hogging and 98% of the time it's being used where it need never be - it's only the other 2% that's valid legitimate use.

      Shockwave is much the same - although mercifully less used and abused than Flash.

      Please understand that, in all seriousness, I value Flashblock / Firefox as the singular most valuable software combination currently available on Earth. I love those Flashblock guys, they gave me the web back.
      • doh - I meant Flash is server side, not client side - I've not had enough caffeine...
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by PenguSven ( 988769 )
          You meant flash is server side? well then you're clearly wrong. however i do agree that flash is clearly NOT a great innovation 90% of the time.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I'd say Firefox, and <<insert extension>>.

        The fact that Firefox 1) allows extensions and 2) has such an awesome community of extension developers, makes it the swiss army knife of the web.

        Yes, software like Apache and IIS and PHP and MySQL help make the web. But Firefox allows it be browsed and developed.

        Anyone can appreciate the browsing aspect by using Firefox with <<insert extension>>

        But the angle I am coming from is from that of a web developer. Without Firebug and the Tidy HTM
    • Re:My List (Score:5, Informative)

      by nuintari ( 47926 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @12:46PM (#19002337) Homepage

      2 - Routed - the router daemon that, in some shape, form or fashion, runs probably 90% of the internet. Without routers to move the traffic, the rest of it just a moot point

      You are kidding right? You don't actually think that routed runs anything major do you? For starters, unix systems are not routers, they can be used as such, I use one at home. But for a backbone connection with millions of packets per second, they are a poor choice. They cannot keep up with a good cisco or foundry router.

      Next, routed implements RIP, an interior routing protocol, for use within one AS, you _never_ use RIP for external routes to other networks, that is where BGP comes into play. Might I also mention that RIP is an ancient interior routing protocol, with serious limitations that make it a poor choice for all but the simplest networks. Most modern networks run on OSPF for internal routing, RIP is just pathetic.

      I don't know anyone who still uses routed for anything serious, and certainly not the 90% figure you made up. I doubt it accounts for 1% of 1% of all routed traffic. It is just an old bat that has fallen by the wayside. Even networks that still use RIP for a segment or all of their interior routing use a better implementation of RIP than the one in routed.

      If you want to use a UNIX system for a router, I suggest you look into OpenBSD's OpenOSPF and OpenBGP.
      • by netik ( 141046 )
        Maybe he meant to say 'gated', or zebra.

        The early Juniper routers were basically a BSD box running gated with some custom code added in. They ran BGP, OSPF, and all major routing protocols.

        I don't think there were enough of these boxes to constitute a major application for the Internet, though. The majority of the Internet is routed by Cisco and Foundry devices.

        Perhaps the right answer here would be that Cisco IOS is one of the most important Internet applications, ever.
    • Apache - still one of the most popular web servers out there. One of the most flexible and adaptable. It just rocks.

      "Flexible" and "adaptable" are far too polite ways of saying what it really is: complex. Apache, despite being very elderly, isn't mature at all. Its configuration file is haphazard, full of nuances and inconsistencies; for years, most apache installations had "apache.conf" and "httpd.conf", and damned if I ever knew what directives belong where. It's the only software I know of where yo

      • I won't disagree with you about the complexity of the Apache httpd, but I've run into a lot of software that I've found to be much harder to properly build and configure.

        The main reason why I actually like Apache is because it is well documented, you can actually look at the official docs and figure out how to do something (although there are still a few things that might not make sense at first). There are lots of other apps out there that have config files that make no sense without proper docs and that

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      3 - Netscape 1.0 - The idea of a GUI browser is fundamental to how we experience the web today.

      And still available from my site here [] at 394.1k

      Sorry, only Windows. No Linux version
  • by thammoud ( 193905 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:34AM (#19001817)
    not just the language is what is attractive to the millions of developers. While the language is nice, the fantastic libraries that are included with the VM are what makes the big difference. Is it perfect? Far from it. No platform even comes close to the library support provided by the Java platform. With the new open source license, things will only get better. Thank you Sun.
  • by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:35AM (#19001825)
    Oh, wait. Wrong place for THAT.
  • by ZorbaTHut ( 126196 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:35AM (#19001833) Homepage
    The article's writer appears to have gotten this confused. As I'm sure everyone on this site knows, WoW isn't a Web application - it doesn't listen on port 80 and doesn't communicate with web browsers (barring a few status pages - you certainly can't play the game that way.) AOL Instant Messenger wasn't originally either. There are now web-based interfaces available, but he's not talking about those, he's talking about the original service which - again - didn't listen on port 80 and couldn't communicate with web browsers.

    Amusingly, his screenshot of "Hotmail" runs into the exact same problem. He's apparently decided to take a screenshot of someone using Microsoft Outlook to log into Hotmail - not a web browser. While you can obviously use Hotmail with a web browser, and I suspect the majority of people do, that screenshot is particularly badly chosen.

    Bad, bad writer.
  • by SCHecklerX ( 229973 ) <> on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:43AM (#19001877) Homepage
    It's the most useful page I ever use. I can use it to plan bike trips, drives to friends houses or bars, bike races, etc. I also use it for looking up businesses in the area, and for phone number lookups. An example of 'web 2.0' being used as the best method to create the service.
    • Guess I should have read the article first. We are defining 'web' as 'TCP/IP?'. In that case, it's a difficult choice as I use a lot of different tools equally. Apache, MySQL, Bind, and Sendmail (with all of their associated extensions/plugins) are definitely at the top of my list. Also IPSec and your firewall of choice. Those two mixed with the rest have paid the bills quite well :)
    • Google Maps is handy as a quick reference, but as a mapping application it's not the best. It's designed as a road map, and misses out a lot of important information for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

      MultiMap [] does a bit better as it uses Ordnance Survey [] maps at certain scales, but I ended up going back to paper OS maps because MM is soooo slow, and you can take a paper map with you.

      Credit to Google though, they modified the route planning algorithms fairly recently (a few weeks ago I think). It

  • by gregger ( 156275 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:47AM (#19001895) Journal
    I mean, it's going to be! Right?

    Well, it has to be to me anyhow... ever since my copy of BLAZEMONGER [] actually self destructed (taking my Amiga with it) because I *thought* about making a backup copy of it in case it got worn out.

    That's copy protection! At least I didn't have to call their customer support.

  • They got the ball rolling. Without them, who knows what direction things would have taken. Maybe we'd all be digging Gopher [] holes instead of wandering the Web.
  • Digg, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:54AM (#19001965) Homepage
    Personally I always found Digg to be *very* OK, nothing special, mainly shovelware stories. Perhaps it's because I discovered it around September 2006.

    Unfortunately, after the whole HD-DVD key revolt, I decided Digg was just far too childish to bother with anymore. Sure, at one point Digg was probably very good, but after 1st May 2007, it died (for me anyway).

    As with every piece of software, it'd be perfect if it wasn't for the users.
    • "As with every piece of software, it'd be perfect if it wasn't for the users."

      That's the wrong attitude to take when considering software. The user is a fundamental part of the software. Without considering your audience, you cannot write good software. If Digg doesn't match its audience, which it apparently can't when taken to the extreme, then it is not good software. A lot of people criticize Windows but you have to give them credit for who they target as their audience. Likewise for Linux. It's gr
    • by ceeam ( 39911 )
      reddit ( will kill your productivity far better than slashdot and digg combined.
  • by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @11:59AM (#19002001)
    How else do you think Al Gore was able to design all the tubes that several of the internets run on!
    • Synergy2 (Score:2, Insightful)

      I love this software more every day. [] Control many comps with a single keyboard/mouse over your local lan. All they need is bidirectional support... Most of the software on that top ten list has annoyed me at one point in time. Synergy is the complete opposite.
  • I personally think that the web browser is the best web application. What exactly would we be doing without it? Telnet? Not sure if it falls into their criteria, but it's a damn good invention.
  • by JonasH ( 183422 )
    Single page version of the story [].
  • I cannot see any useful purpose for such an ambiguous list as this. What could it possibly tell you that would be helpful to you?

    Lists of things like this need to be more categorised to be of any real use.
  • by theodp ( 442580 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @12:55PM (#19002395)
    No Napster [] = No DSL/Cable, No YouTube, No ...
    • But Napster wasn't technically a web application...

      My vote for truly the best web software ever was the Zippy Filter []. It's the only thing that made most of the web bearable and it is sorely missed. As one of the comments suggested, "This is almost certainly the finest thing I have seen on the Web. When you figure out how to apply this filter to the rest of the universe, don't tell me about it. Just do it."
  • The winner then was BSD 4.3.
  • Mosaic! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )
    Mosaic is what "triggered" the popularity of the Web. Apache simply built up on an existing concept and would have happened in some form anyhow because it was driven by a known need. Without Mosaic, the web may never have happened, letting commercial networks such as Compuserve and Prodigy come to dominate instead. Same with search engines: they existed in various forms and AltaVista and Google simply improved them. (One could argue that Gopher preceded Mosiac, but Gopher itself wasn't widely accepted.)
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:26PM (#19002591)
    Google Spreadsheets is the most technically impressive web app I've seen.
  • (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Plutonite ( 999141 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @01:29PM (#19002623)
    The server side scripts and all related software running behind the engine is probably the greatest package of web software ever put together, in terms of usefulness. My 2 cents.

  • Well, hello! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nocynic ( 907095 )
    What about SourceForge? I mean the concept is neat right? Write your own code, share it around get people involved. Most of the popular applications are available off sourceforge and are active till date!

    Social Networking sites may be the talk of the town, but from a developers perspective (behind the scene) I would have to say SourceForge is one of the best things that happened!
  • by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Saturday May 05, 2007 @02:22PM (#19003183)
    The winner then was BSD 4.3.

    Of course, he means 4.3BSD.

    [Now get offa my lawn youngster!]

  • Come on, 100 comments in and nobody has made a pr0n joke? What is slashdot coming to these days?
  • Say what you want about Theo and the obscure license policies of OpenBSD, but OpenSSH is in my opinion one piece of software which is simply better than sliced bread ( server as well as client). Since I was introduced to it I use it on a daily basis and it has been rock solid since the first login. It's the kind of software that inspires you to write software yourself. Two thumbs up.
  • I skimmed through the hundred plus comments looking for the list, yet nobody posted it? Where are all the Karma Whores? What do you people expect us to do, read the fancy article?
  • Please learn to use an em dash []. Hint: it does not go between the subject and the verb of a clause.

    I'm not trying to be a grammar nazi, but you, the Slashdot editors, aren't trying either. You're not trying in the sense that you aren't making an effort. You are editors of a publication, and you don't do any editing. You ought to learn the English language if only to maintain your own dignity, since it is your job.

  • The web architecture is one of the most terrible accidents of computing history, and I truly hope we finish this terrible software design phase soon. I am pretty sure that we'll all look back and see how terrible this all was, but as of now, only a few of us seem to notice how terrible the web really is.

    Reasons for why the web is terrible (and thus no web apps can be contenders for "the best apps ever"):
    • It makes the communication medium a decisive factor in the application design. Whether my application r

BLISS is ignorance.