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With last week’s release of OS X 10.8, Mountain Lion, Mac users have been given a lot to digest. True to Apple form, there is a lot of marketing info about the release but not much in the way of specific changes or documentation for power users. Usually not a problem as the Internet does a good job of ferreting out the significant items. But there is one change that slipped under the radar that should have every Web developer who uses a Mac up in arms.

In OS X 10.8, Apple has eliminated Web Sharing. Yep, that’s right. The Sharing System Pref no long has a way to start or stop your Mac’s built-in Apache Web server. If you are a command line guru, you’ll already know how to do this or perhaps this. But most people who use their Macs to develop web pages, test software that works with web servers, or just host a small site for friends, family, or co-workers are out of luck.

What’s worse, Apple clearly didn’t think this through because they really hose people who are upgrading from 10.7 or earlier. Whatever you had Web Sharing set to do under your older O/S version is preserved and that’s what it will do when 10.8 starts up. That means if Web Sharing was enabled under 10.7, it’ll still be running under 10.8. But you will have absolutely no GUI to turn it off, or start it up again if you do. Derp. This little nugget of dumbassery prompted me to file a bug report with Apple ( #11982135 ).

As the long-ago author of the MacHTTP and WebSTAR web servers, I’m quite thrilled that Apple has opened up the market for third party web servers again with this bone-headed move. But I am sure it wasn’t their intent. It seems to be the opposite, actually, where someone in Apple marketing thought that disabling the Web server on the consumer O/S would somehow drive OS X Server sales. In any case, it’s time to dust off the old MacHTTP source code!

In all seriousness, however, one Mac developer has already solved the problem with a replacement preferences pane. So until Apple figures out what a bad mistake they’ve made, this is a reasonable work-around.

I guess the real question is, how can the hundreds of thousands of people who use their Macs as web servers let Apple know they screwed this one up? Not everyone can file bug reports. Suggestions?

  • Laura Fullton

    Any news from your OS X Server product manager friend?

  • Apple Alumni – Retiree

    On the contrary, web sharing did not re-start upon upgrading to 10.8 (or I wouldn’t be on your site). I’m having to restart it, including re-enabling server side includes…

  • http://xeric-front-yard.tumblr.com/ Tim Thomas

    The web is cross-platform and doesn’t allow easy monetization by Apple. It seems very consistant with their long term plans to make it easier to develop IOS apps than webapps.
    I had been getting a bit disallusioned with OSX and this move made the decision easier to head back to Linux.

  • Farski

    I’m not going to comment on whether’s Apple’s decision to change the system preference pane was good or bad, but some of the things you’ve said here are incorrect…

    I think perhaps you need to do some research into what OS X server actually is. It’s a $20 app that you buy through the Mac App Store. It’s in no way “enterprise-grade”. It’s not an operating system. It’s not missing any “standard OS X Client applications”. It is essentially just a GUI for preexisting services that are included with OS X 10.8 (“client” version) out of the box.
    Apple did not take “away the ability to start and stop the internal Web server”. That statement is simply untrue. The ability, as you have said yourself, is still available through the command line.

    OS X 10.7’s (and prior) approach to administering Apache with a GUI (an on/off switch, and only an on/off switch, that starts and stops the apache service with the default configuration) exists in OS X Server for 10.8. There’s an on/off switch that starts and stops the apache service. But in addition to that, it has GUI controls for enabling PHP and Python support independently without needing to edit the apache config file manually. All the other many controls is offers are well outside the needs of anyone who may possibly be affected by the removal of Web Sharing in System Preferences.

    This change does not impact the use of first-party vs. third-party web server in OS X. Apache is a third-party web server. The door has been open since 10.0.

    Those are facts that contradict your statements in this article and your previous comments.

    You also seem to think that more than 50% of people who use a web server on their Mac (“most people who use their Macs to develop web pages…are out of luck”) have the need to turn off their web server and are unable to do that through the command line or any of the other methods that currently exist. I don’t know how you arrived at that statistic, but I suspect it’s incorrect. If you have numbers to back up the market size of users who use web sharing but find one line in the terminal to be an insurmountable task, I would actually be very interested in those numbers. I would also like to know what portion of them wouldn’t think $20 is worth it to keep their site running, even if that one button is the only feature of OS X Server they ever touch.

    Just because it’s not there out of the box does not mean they are “out of luck”. One cannot edit Excel documents in OS X out of the box, but that does not mean everyone with that need is “out of luck”.

    If you want the title of this article to be a question, make it a question. If you want to speak on behalf of “hundreds of thousands” of other people, make sure those people actually exist first. If you want to be taken seriously, I suggest you fact check your articles, or compose them more clearly and less ambiguously.

  • Matt

    Did you try going in to the command line and running apachectl? As if you had done, you’d realise that Apache and PHP are still there, and if you had them running on Lion before an upgrade, they’d even still be running in Mountain Lion. I’d imagine that it made sense to remove Web Sharing from System Preferences to stop people who didn’t know what it did turning it on and sharing their Sites directory without knowing, especially as people don’t really “share” their web documents anymore, but developers who actually know what they’re doing find it fairly easy to go to the command line and turn it on.

  • http://twitter.com/cshotton Chuck Shotton

    No. But can you read? Because if you can, and if you read what I posted, you’ll realize that the title is a question, not an assertion. But there is lots of bad behavior on Apple’s part that would indicate that there is merit in the assumption.

    And in any case, what have you done for the Internet lately that would make me care what you think? I wrote the original web server for the Mac that Apple bundled on their platform for many years. I’m intimately familiar with this problem, the personalities involved, and the failed engineering processes that led to this mess.So other than an ad hominem attack, what do YOU have to offer the community on the subject?

  • http://twitter.com/cshotton Chuck Shotton

    That’s a pretty narrow-minded way to look at it. And a bit uninformed. OS X Server is an enterprise-grade platform for hosting small workgroups, with email, DNS, file sharing, Wikis, blogs, etc. It’s NOT what an individual user needs to run a Web server. It is also missing a lot of the standard OS X Client applications and ease of use features.

    Don’t berate me for complaining about a poor design decision Apple made. They took away the ability to start and stop the internal Web server that is part of Mac OS X 10.8. And by doing so, they created a problem for LOTS of users that need to stop and start the server through the GUI they have had available for the past 10 years. 

    The problem is not solved by deploying OS X Server. The two operating systems have radically different approaches to administering Apache and they are incompatible.

  • http://twitter.com/cshotton Chuck Shotton

    That’s true for traditional Web development with desktop browsers (to an extent.) But if you are doing development for mobile devices, you have to serve the content from a server. And if you are doing anything with Ajax, etc., you really need to serve it from a server to get the proper behavior. Most browsers won’t execute an Ajax style request against a file in the file system (Chrome is an exception if you launch it with a command line argument telling it to ignore the security risk.)

  • http://twitter.com/snookasnoo Idon’t Know

    What an idiotic title and posting.  Are you 12?

  • Martin_chalifoux

    If it is in os x server why do you complain. Never want to pay for what you use ? Consumers don’t give a damn about running a web server. Techies that want that should buy the server add-on. This is fair.

  • Is

    You only need a web server if you’re doing dev work with PHP or a similar language. Using the command line to start/stop the web server is trivial and quicker than using a pref pane – I do it every day. If you’re doing dev work and don’t know how to use the command line, you suck and the world is better off without your code.

  • maxw3st

    Looks like Apple devs may have found a new use for Twitter; bombarding Apple with requests to bring back the web sharing function. 

  • http://twitter.com/cshotton Chuck Shotton

    FWIW, I mailed the product manager of OS X Server, who is a long time friend from WebSTAR days, and asked if he had any more details. We’ll see.