JDJ: What has Flashline been up to since JavaOne?
Stack: We've been enhancing our marketplace and still offer several hundred software components for resale, primarily JavaBeans. Now we also have some Enterprise JavaBeans available. We expect to add a significant number of those in the next three months. People can come to our site, look over the available components, pick the ones they want and get them downloaded directly to their PC.
JDJ: You were one of the good
reference sites for JavaServer pages.
Stack: Yes, we're like a poster child for JavaServer Pages.
JDJ: And how's that going?
Stack: Very well. We built the entire site using JavaServer Pages. It's a very sophisticated e-commerce site with real-time credit card authorizations and the multiple back ends. People can enter coupons and get discounts. The vendors can post their own products, look at real-time sales information, get instant registrations from purchases, instant registrations from downloads and look at sales charts. They can do bundling on their own. The JavaServer Pages' architecture has been very flexible for us.
JDJ: Now you're the man who will really tell us what's selling.
Stack: We've seen significant growth quarter to quarter, in excess of 50% a quarter, so that's a good sign. I think the big market is server-side components, which is still developing. As I said, we have some Enterprise JavaBeans now. We'll probably quintuple that number in the next 60 days. I think the server-side market, if you look at the user interface market, is probably just a fraction of what the server-side market is going to be, because frankly, how many drop-down boxes do you need?
JDJ: Can a normal developer come along and submit a bean for you to distribute
Stack: We have two excellent programs specifically targeted for developers that aren't quite developing commercial quality, off-the-shelf components. We have a components-by-design service. We have about 1,200 developers registered for that, and people who are looking for specific components can come in and post requests, and at that point it kind of functions like a cross between natch.com and eBay dating for developers, except you get an auction model thrown in there. People post requests including UML diagrams, raw interface specifications and extremely detailed RFPs. And then an e-mail goes out to the developers in their areas and they can come in. Then there's an interactive question-and-answer time frame where people can post questions and further refine the actual deliverable. At some point, after the questions and answers close, the products or the requests are tightly defined, the developers bid on that project and the requester looks at their qualifications, the price, the work they've done, the feedback that has come in on their performance in the past, and selects a winning developer. It's an excellent program for somebody who doesn't have commercial components but still wants to do Java development.
JDJ: And who pays for that?
Stack: We currently charge a nominal fee for the request. It's $100 per request. Other than that, it's a completely free service.
JDJ: The developer doesn't pay
Stack: There's no fee to the developer at all.
JDJ: That's really nothing for a
finder's fee, isn't it?
Stack: The $100 is there to make sure that people take the quality of the requests and the quality of what people are looking for seriously. We also have a program called BetaBeans, a free third-party service where developers who don't quite have commercial quality components can post them on our site and get them exposed to the thousands of daily visitors who can then download them for free and test them out. We have a built-in feedback mechanism where they can post requests for enhancements or bug reports that the developer can respond to and bring the quality of their components up to a commercial quality that could then go into the marketplace. Both of those programs are really designed to create more components.
JDJ: How do you, from Flashline's point of view, make sure that a
component is up to a commercial standard?
Stack: We're in the process right now of developing certification standards, and we're going to proceed on two fronts. The first one is cross-application server compatibility testing, because in surveying our customers, the number one thing they wanted to know was that if they bought a component, it would work on this application server, and that application server wouldn't have to be wedded or bound to a particular product. The second aspect of the certification is more along the lines of what you're asking about. It's a certification program where we'll go into the component and validate that it meets certain minimum documentation standards. Part of that documentation will be performance testing metrics and UML diagrams to document that the component is of commercial quality. What we're not going to do in the near term is actually say this is good or this is bad. That's a pretty subjective area that, at least for now, we're going to stay out of. But we'll guarantee that it has a certain minimum level of documentation and will run on X number of applications.
JDJ: Can we go to www.flashline.com for more information about everything you've just said today?
Stack: Yes. There's one more thing we announced today. It's an XML version of Javadoc called JavaDox. If you've ever used Javadoc, you know it spins out a large number of little files in an HTML format. We've modified the Javadoc programmer, actually enhanced it, with a doclet that spins out a single XML file for the Javadoc communication. This vastly improves the utility of Javadoc because you have a single file that's much more portable because it's a single file. It's searchable because it's in XML, and you can use stylesheets to re-form it into any particular documentation standard you need for any purpose. And that's free. It's a Java doclet that's available at our site. Actually, it's at www.component-registry.com and there's a JavaDox program there.