I recently discovered that Marc Andreessen (yes, that Marc Andreessen) started blogging earlier this month. He's been on an amazing tear. Pretty much every single blog entry is worth reading from start to finish back to back. Based purely on his writing, I think it would be really fascinating to meet Marc in person.
One of the things that really interests me in Marc's blog entries is that I will learn stuff about the startup world (which I have little experience with) and at the same time identify with something he mentions in passing. That very thing happened with a small piece of Marc's latest posting (at 2:28 AM).
However, every once in a while, you get a new technology that will march, more or less predictably, through the following stages: alpha; beta; pre-adolescent general release where it is adopted, picked apart by, and then dismissed by the inside baseball crowd; silence while it's tweaked and tuned and enhanced to have broader appeal; adoption by a new wave of pragmatic early adopters who have a real use for it in their daily lives; adoption by those early adopters' friends and relatives and colleagues based on enthusiastic word of mouth; and then a gradual spiralling of uptake into the mass market, ultimately resulting in whatever level of millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or billions of users for whom the technology is truly appropriate.
I think we're also crossing into the next phase of community where the second phase of adopters are picking up the toolset. The early adopters are usually very technically savvy and willing to put up with a certain amount of pain to check out something cool. The second wave of users are usually less impressed with the technology for technology's sake and want more things "to just work". I believe satisfying the needs of that second wave of users is what pushes a technology to the next level of adoption. It's going to take us a good long while to get there with WiX v3 but we'll keep expanding the foundation and trying to make everything easier...
There was a lot of buzz about WiX in the middle of 2004. Admittedly, the buzz was more about Open Source at Microsoft than it was the core toolset but the attention had the same effect (something like 180,000 downloads in the first couple days then down to 1,000 downloads per month, IIRC). Over the last few years we've slowly marched to stability in WiX v2 and now we are tackling ease of use features and more polish in WiX v3. It feels very much like what Marc describes above, except at an order of magnitude or three smaller since we're targeting developers not the massive consumer market.
What I find most interesting is that this whole process feels very much like the way that WiX v1 (never released externally) and later WiX v2 was adopted inside Microsoft. Things are a bit different now (being Open Source and outside the Microsoft firewall) but still very familiar. I also know what happens next. A lot of hard work.
Keep coding, you know I am.