How has Morfik morphed? A brief history

Morfik was officially launched at the Web 2.0 Conference, San Francisco, in October 2005. It was however several years prior to that event that the technology was conceptualised and the journey began. I have been fortunate to have shared the Morfik journey from the beginning and have had the unique opportunity to see its evolution from a mere thought to a software product that now is over 1,000,000 lines of code! What follows is how Morfik has evolved.

In the beginning . . .

In the late 90’s, Aram and I worked at Altium (previously known as Protel), an international software company that provides PC-based electronics design software for engineers. Following the successful initial public offering of Altium, we began looking for our next challenge.

Being fascinated with the web and the rise of the .com phenomenon, we pondered the concept of establishing websites that could provide a whole range of services to end users over the internet. Coming from a desktop application development background, we thought we could put our experience to use in developing dynamic websites. However, we were in for a surprise.

Right from the outset we realised that websites were developed using primitive tools. Coming from a CAD background it shocked us to discover that the use of text editors was on the rise amongst Web developers for coding HTML tags. Moreover, we were amazed (and frustrated) that it was necessary to learn so many elemental technologies (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, XML, WSDL) in order to get anything running on the browser. This setback and awakening, led to us rolling up our sleeves and tackling this challenge head on. Thus we entered the first phase of Morfik which was pure research and development.

Our vision was to develop a solution for creating intelligent websites that would allow desktop application developers like ourselves to leverage their experience in producing dynamic web solutions.

We spent our first year in Sydney and then relocated to Hobart, Tasmania to be closer to our families. This location provided a haven for research and development, with little distraction, away from competing demands.

From concept to the tangible . . .

We set about developing the technology; converting our ideas and research into something concrete. Early in the piece, we realised that to do this properly we needed a compiler that could work with a high abstraction view of a website. So, one of the first things that we started working on was a compiler which compiled high-level code and built a complete semantic map of a website.

In the ensuing years, informed by continual investigation and research on existing technologies that were suitable and could be integrated into a design tool, the concept was further expanded until we got to a point where the compiler could generate the required JavaScript, HTML and server code to realise a fully functional website.

The road less travelled . . .

We staunchly stood by our commitment to build a tool that was going to help software developers move onto the web. At that time, other development tools were investing in server-side technologies and were treating end user machines as a dumb terminal. In contrast our approach was very much browser-centric and relied on the power of its Document Object Model (DOM) as implemented in the latest versions of the browsers of the time (Netscape 4 and IE 4/5).

Taking this contrary approach, we faced many challenges. Browsers at the time were most inefficient in running JavaScript and were only expected to run a handful of JavaScript lines.

This old post (Jun, 2000) by Aram on microsoft.public.scripting.jscript USENET group asking about ways of optimizing JavaScript provides a great deal of insight about the sort of things that we were trying. We were not entirely sure how people would respond to a browser-centric model with these deficiencies. But, we forged ahead nonetheless, confident in our belief. We had drawn a line in the sand and were determined to fully pursue our vision, no matter how difficult the challenge.

Validation – getting Ajaxed . . .

In March 2005 we came across a fascinating article by Jesse James Garrett, “Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications” in which the term Ajax was coined. (http://www.adaptivepath.com/ideas/essays/archives/000385.php) It is a day etched into our memory! His article had taken the web application design world by storm – and the methodologies discussed in the article were exactly the same as Morfik’s approach! It was a momentous moment for us. We felt that the time was right to show the world what we had created so we started preparing for the Web 2.0 conference.

Web 2.0 accolades . . .

A pre-release version of Morfik was finally ready, and we launched it at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco in October 2005. To showcase the capabilities of Morfik, we created an implementation of Gmail that worked offline. A demo business solution also demonstrated the power of solutions based on Ajax technologies. Our new tool created a lot of buzz amongst conference attendees and caught the attention of both Microsoft and Google.

Microsoft’s Ray Ozzie spent almost an hour at our booth, thoroughly looking over our software. There were also hours of gruelling sessions with Google developers. Sergey Brin paid a surprise visit and received a 20 minute demo about our JavaScript compiler!

The conference was a huge success for us, leaving us breathless at the unprecedented attention – Morfik had emerged from its shell. Following the conference we were approached by a number of leaders in the software development world, some with serious acquisition offers. But, choosing the road less travelled, we decided to do it the hard way, not to sell out to more powerful players and to stay true to our vision. Instead, we bunkered down to complete the task of turning the technology into a real product.

Turning technology into product . . .

We spent several years doggedly working on the software. Starting from Morfik 0.8 alpha release in Dec 2005 we went through a number of releases leading to the release of Morfik 2.0 in November 2008 and subsequent releases of three service packs in 2009. With the latest release of Morfik we now feel we have reached a level of product strength where we are confident to enter the next phase – offering Morfik as a complete and quality product to mainstream software developers.

2 Responses to “How has Morfik morphed? A brief history”

August 22nd, 2017
Didier says:

Your vision and focus are impressive.
Let’s now bring Morfik to the lights and flash as it deserves it!

Darryl Strickland says:

I like seeing all the blogs from the Morfik team. Please keep them coming.

Thanks much.

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