What is WebTen?
WebTen is a robust, high-performance web server based on Apache. Because Apache is
native to Mac OS X, WebTen is a good introduction to Apache. The browser-based interface
shields Macintosh webmasters from the intricacies of Apache UNIX-style configuration
files and obscure Apache directives, but under-the-floorboard WebTen creates the
same configuration files that a UNIX Apache administrator would create. So in addition
to being a powerful web server, WebTen can also be a learning tool for future Apache
WebTen is a pure Macintosh application with the networking strength and performance
of UNIX. Using the Web browser interface, you can manage virtual hosts, access permissions,
MIME translations and logging records from your desktop. Configuring WebTen is as
easy as clicking a mouse. WebTen's blistering speed puts Macintosh squarely on the
field against the fastest NT and UNIX boxes, affirming Tenon's absolute commitment
to making the Macintosh a world-class Web server - unbeatable in speed and unmatched
Despite being easier than UNIX, setting up WebTen to make it do exactly what I wanted
was the most difficult aspect of the software. In fact, after working with technical
support, I still was unable to get the software to behave the way I needed it to
behave. I was very specific in my needs, both in terms of an HTTP server and as an
FTP server. The FTP server I was able to setup okay, albeit there was some confusion
during the process. Setting up the HTTP server to do exactly what I wanted proved
to be a much more difficult task. For basic needs, it is not so complicated, but
if you want full control over every aspect of your server (such is the nature of
a Mac user), prepare to dive into some deep waters (lots of reading, experimenting,
For UNIX administrators, the setup process is probably easier with WebTen than with
Apache on UNIX. However, for us "spoiled" Mac users, there's still a lot
of work that needs to be done with WebTen to bring in par with user-friendly Mac
Creating users and groups is pretty straightforward, as is assigning file and folder
access (by user names, group membership, or host name and IP address). WebTen also
supports setting up virtual hosts (enter the new host name and click the Add Virtual
Host button). WebTen automatically determines what type of virtual host is required,
creates the root directory if necessary, and causes all the host settings to be inherited
from the general system configuration. Individual settings can then be overridden
Administrators use a Web browser to customize WebTen's configuration, as well as
the plug-ins (such as FTP, DNS, cache, proxy, and security). WebTen's interface is
crudely designed and can be confusing, and, as is generally the case with browser-based
management, it is not as dynamic or powerful as a standalone application (limitations
of HTML become limitations of configuration management).
Once the server was up and running, that's where the strength of the server shines.
As touted, the software is based upon Apache, and it shows. For static HTML page
serving, WebTen's performance is the best I've seen (with WebStar and MacHTTP a distant
second, and Apple's Web Sharing trailing far, far behind).
WebTen supports its own variety of plug-ins (WEBmail, Squid, DNS, etc.), and it also
supports WebStar modules, Apache modules and the perl scripting language. It's extensibility
makes it a great server package, providing options that support a wide range of needs.
The downside of being based upon Apache, however, is apparent when booting up the
server. No application I've seen takes as long to boot up as WebTen. This is because
Tenon is in effect starting a UNIX operating system in order to layer the server
on top of it.
This would not be a big problem, except that I also experienced stability problems.
The server was crashing every few days, causing me to reboot enough times to really
feel the hit on the the long startup times. This particular server also runs EIMS,
AutoShare, and Hotline, which may have been the cause of the instability. WebTen
is intended for a dedicated production web server. WebTen does not support Hotline
serving, though it does have a mail server plug-in (WEBmail). WebTen's mail serving
functionality, however, did not suit my needs; hence, having EIMS, Autoshare and
Hotline running along side it. If you have no need for Hotline, and can use WebTen's
mail server, you'll most likely not experience the stability issues.
One feature of Apple's Web Sharing (AWS) that I wanted in WebTen was viewing a directory.
Using AWS, if you select a folder path in a URL, and there is no index.html in the
folder, it automatically displays the files in the folder in a nice column format.
It also makes the column headings links, such that if you click on any of them, the
file list gets sorted by that column (such as name, size, or date). In WebTen, you
get a File Not Found error by default. The work around is to have a batch script
scheduled to create your index.html file listings in folders where you want this
behavior to occur.
Most administration questions can be answered with WebTen's extensive documentation.
The documentation comes in three forms: a manual, an Adobe Acrobat file, and a compilation
of HTML pages linked directly to commands in the administration screens. Although
the documentation is extensive, it was not the easiest to understand (I found myself
wrestling with the terminology).
Features at a Glance
- Web-based Administration
- UNIX-strength HTTP server
- WEBmail ("Hot-mail" style
e-mail client and server)
- SSL 3.1 security
- Squid cache (web site caching)
- FTP server
- DNS server
- ht://dig, a high-performance search
- Extensive plug-in support (Applescript,
Perl, shell CGIs, WebTen Plug-ins, WebTen modules, and Apache modules)
- PHP support
- Access controls (over users and
Under the hood, WebTen is the most powerful
HTTP server I've seen on the Mac. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most difficult
engines to "tune-up" and configure. It's extensive plug-in support makes
it a server package that should be considered, but be prepare for a steep learning
curve. Although the server did not meet all of my expectations, depending upon your
needs, it may be just the server package you are looking for. Be sure that the product
meets your needs as-is before purchasing, because technical support informed me that
there are no planned upgrades.
- Best Mac performance seen in an HTTP server
- Highly extensible with vast plug-in support
- Web-based administration easier than UNIX-style
- Complex and cumbersome setup and administration
- Steep learning curve
- No planned upgrades
3 out of 5 Mice