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The first annual Web Innovator Awards
Samir Arora, NetObjects Fusion

Samir Arora, the suave and lanky power behind NetObjects and its flagship Fusion product, sketched his first rough ideas for what would ultimately propel him into the forefront of Web innovation a half-dozen years before there was a World Wide Web. His hand-written notebook, dating back to the summer of 1986, may be one of the earliest places you'll find the word web used in the modern sense.

"I never saw the Web coming," Arora says. "But I always knew that information was a web. And I could see the potential power in being able to work with the structure of information rather than its content."

From that beginning, inspired by his early work helping with Apple Computer's European launch of HyperCard and the 4th Dimension (4D) database product, Arora began focusing on a single issue: structure.

Arora--who spent much of his early career in the music and publishing industries--wondered how to organize information so that content would flow out of structure. "Very early, I noticed that music and documents were focused on the relationship between content-generation and the audience," says Arora, who has a degree in electrical engineering.


Samir Arora
Age: 32
Where: Redwood City, CA
Job: CEO, NetObjects Inc.
Current project: Fusion 3.0, TeamFusion 1.0, ScriptBuilder 2.0, and future product planning
Platform: Windows NT
Web pet peeve: Use of non-standard plug-ins.
Favorite site: NEWS.COM

Structure--of information, of navigation, and of interface--is the hallmark of Fusion, now in its third incarnation. Fusion is a combination Wysiwyg page-layout and site-management tool aimed primarily at higher-end Web builders who need consistent look-and-feel for their sites. The widely used product has drawn the serious financial support of IBM, which last year bought a majority interest in NetObjects.

Fusion is built on the proprietary development environment Solo. Named after the Star Wars hero Han Solo, Solo is a framework for creating object-based navigable spaces.

Arora left Apple to form Rae Technologies, which built applications and tools in Solo, eventually shipping 15 different versions of products in three years. A project taken on by Rae Technology for Wells Fargo Bank was the catalyst for creating NetObjects. "They asked us to build a home-banking solution but wanted to deploy it in [the browser] Mosaic rather than as a Windows application. I'd seen Mosaic and frankly thought it was a toy. It had lots of navigational issues, for example. But they forced the issue and I'm really glad they did."

By the summer of 1995, Arora had "stumbled into" using Wysiwyg layout and HTML for the creation of applications and saw that this process could be embodied in a tool. Rae funded NetObjects rather than taking on the project internally ("We needed a different genetic code for the company," Arora explains). Arora took his brother, Sal, and Rae cofounder Dave Kleinberg with him. They were joined by early Web-design guru Clement Mok and together they set about to design and build what ultimately became Fusion.

Arora promises that future versions of the product will address application development as completely as the first three versions have targeted the publishing process. "It's all in the structure," he says with a grin.

--Dan Shafer

Other team members: Bernard Desarnauts, Clement Mok, Dave Kleinberg, George Chen, Sal Arora, Greg Brown, Marc Escobosa, Martin Frid-Nielsen, Raj Narayan, Susan Kare, Vic Zauderer

Editor's note: this page has been altered from its original version. Please see our corrections page.

See all 18 innovators Brian Behlendorf, Apache

Related links:
 • Related stories: NetObjects eyes eventual IPO, in NEWS.COM
 • NetObjects buys Web tools, in NEWS.COM
 • NetObjects to roll out Fusion 3.0, in NEWS.COM
 • Just In review: NetObjects TeamFusion, in CNET.COM
 • Just In review: Fusion 2.0 for Mac beta, in CNET.COM
 • CNET's 1997 Awards for Internet Excellence (best Web design tool: Fusion 2.0), in CNET.COM
 • Just In review: NetObjects Fusion 2.0, in CNET.COM

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