It’s had an amazing run, but Apple’s continued emphasis on the iPhone has claimed another victim – the first-ever web server.
That little NeXT Cube, the first-ever web server, eventually became Rhapsody (Mac OS X Server 1.0). Since Rhapsody, Apple has maintained Mac OS X Server – initially as a separate SKU of Mac OS X, and then eventually making it an App Store component in the OS X era.
Now with the macOS, Apple has killed off all first-party support for macOS as a web server. These functionalities were formally deprecated in macOS Sierra, you had to upgrade from Sierra or earlier to have them active in the outgoing macOS High Sierra Server. With Mojave, the lights have gone dark on all, except for the basic functionality needed to host Apple’s Device Management web administration tools.
Granted, most stopped using these long ago. Apps like MAMP made it a one-click affair, at least for now, to launch a simple web server on the Mac. And most powerful users typically defected from Mac for various reasons… largely the Apple Tax on hardware, and the ever-quickening pace of the cloud. Case in point, it has been a solid decade since I last hosted any webpage on a Macintosh.
Sure, there are other web server apps available for Mac that scale. But the writing is on the wall. Apple doesn’t see the future of macOS as a web server. Linux does that well enough. And Apple now hosts iCloud mostly on Google Cloud, except in China, where it apparently uses its own Linux boxes running similar container instances.
As sacrilegious as it might sound, one could see a future where Apple Server becomes a DMD app for device management, running on Linux or purely on iCloud.com. Apps like Xcode can even run from within the walled garden of an ARM runtime. There’s no need for it in the Apple of today.
It’s a sad day. The Mac is quickly becoming a cloud client of streamed Swift apps, no different than an iPhone or an iPad. One wonders if the future iOS’ed ARM-based Mac will even be allowed to run a persistent service that enables web serving. That’s not rhetorical – it’s a serious question – especially with the potential for ARM-based Macs to be like Windows RT, complete with a totally walled garden.
We need an alternative. We need a new discreet, native computing platform for desktop and for mobile. The problem is, most of the players that have the resources to do it – aren’t interested in getting their hands dirty enough to finish the job… and see it through to market… and endure those painful early years when momentum takes time.
It’s a sad day, but it’s an even more depressing future.
(Historians will nit-pick that the NeXT Cube’s first web server and the code that NeXT shipped, are technically not the same – it was rewritten from the ground up a couple of times in-between – but both branch from code contributions that became the backbone of Apache – I just had to point that out in case someone decided to go on a comment rant).