Yesterday, Susan Kitchens started thinking about how ubiquitous the web-based administration control panel has become — these days, we configure our wireless access points, webservers, printers, weblogs, and a whole host of other devices by plugging their addresses into our web browsers. Susan surmised that Cobalt’s Qube may have had one of the first web-based administration interfaces, and got me thinking when she asked if anyone knew of any others that preceded it.
The first thing that came to mind was Webmin, the Unix administration project which launched on October 5, 1997, five months before the first Qube shipped on March 12, 1998. But thinking back further, I swore that I could remember using a similar interface to administer the first version of Oracle’s application server, and a little digging came up with the 1995 manual for Oracle WebServer 1.0, which was released in December 1995 complete with web-based administration. Note that last link, in which the screenshot shows NCSA Mosaic as the browser being used; this is important, since version 2.0 of Mosaic was the first major browser which supported HTML forms (including boxes to type text into, checkboxes, submit buttons, and the like), all elements that most people would concede are necessary components of any web-based administration interface. (Here’s a screenshot of HTML forms in use in Oracle’s WebServer interface.)
NCSA Mosaic 2.0 went into alpha in January of 1994, and didn’t become publicly available until October of 1995. I’d bet that there weren’t many people developing administration interfaces requiring a web browser until that version (or some other browser which supported HTML forms) gained a little traction, so it wouldn’t surprise me too much if Oracle’s December 1995 offering wasn’t one of the first. Can anyone else point to a web-based administration interface that predated Oracle WebServer 1.0?