inessential by Brent Simmons

More about Spotlight

In reading John Gruber’s Spotlight on Spotlight today, I was struck by something interesting:

One implication of Spotlight’s file-centricity is that its ability to search “email” might not apply to clients other than Apple Mail — it’s the fact that the new Tiger version of Mail stores each message as a separate file that allows Spotlight to effectively return individual mail messages as search results. No other major mail client uses a one-message-per-file storage format.

I haven’t looked into Spotlight in any depth (and, if I had, I couldn’t talk about it). But, if it’s true that Spotlight only looks at files, then this creates an interesting dilemma for all the developers whose apps don’t use individual files.

NetNewsWire, for instance, does not use a separate file for each individual news item. And NetNewsWire isn’t alone, of course—in fact, I think there’s a trend toward more and more apps like this, apps that store chunks smaller than most web pages and files. (What Anil Dash calls a Microcontent Client.)

And now for some trivia...

Little-known fact—years ago, back in 1996 (I think), Ranchero Software had a product named Spotlight. It was a search engine for websites: it used Frontier (which was freeware then) and Filemaker Pro and ran behind WebSTAR and similar HTTP servers.

Spotlight cost $99, and it didn’t have the success that, say, NetNewsWire has—but we did get an “It Shipped!” plaque from Apple, signed by Heidi Roizen. (I think. My memory may not be completely accurate on some details.)

Which is to say nothing in particular, except that the name Spotlight is pretty good for search technology. (And I highly doubt that we were the first ones to use it.)

old logo

At the time our company may still have been known as World Wide Power & Light. (Another piece of trivia.) We stopped using that name because it was way too long and because someone else was using it too. (Oops.) (We had a weird domain name: One of those domain names that takes a half-hour to explain out loud.)

Here’s an old logo we never used:

old logo