Column writing is a lonely task. One fires out canon balls but there are no indications as to where they land. So it is really appreciated when an e-mail pops up from someone who has actually been moved by such missives.

I refer to a Yuri Chestopalov who lives and works in Willowdale, Ont. After receiving his e-mail I actually went to Toronto to meet him. This is because his experience and qualifications are most impressive, including a PhD from the Moscow Physical Technology Institute together with words of commendation from Canadian organizations.

Yuri and his four colleagues form SegmentSoft Inc. and have developed a suite of programs which they claim make interactive Web application creation easier and faster.

It places particular emphasis on separation of the data processing portion of Internet applications from the Internet-specific presentation. It allows a wide variety of non-Internet development environments to be folded into sophisticated Internet applications.

As I have only a shallow knowledge of such programming aids I cannot comment on their product, so this column is neither a recommendation nor a condemnation.

True to current industrial flavour, Yuri is experiencing the strange syndrome whereby a product is overshadowed by commercialization. In other words people are not buying copies in the quantities Yuri had hoped, probably because SegmentSoft has no image in the market.

Had the name Microsoft appeared on its packaging, the sales may have been in the millions.

In today’s sordid computer market putting a big name on a package means instant sales even if the package is rubbish.

But Yuri has great enthusiasm and better still he actually listens to advice with care and consideration. I told him of the pitfalls of such a venture and strongly advised him not to butt heads with his big-named competition but rather offer an enhancement package to their products.

As it turns out, another product, WebDev Charger, allows this route to be taken. Yuri emphasized that users of such software as Microsoft FrontPage and other Web authoring tools could well improve productivity and provide enhanced interactivity by using his package as an extra facility. Money is always a problem with such ventures, but Yuri told me that SegmentSoft stands well financially because they do a fair bit of development work.

SegmentSoft would love to be financed, so I investigated one source for him that I knew had interest in Internet products. The result was quite amusing as the source’s requirements for funding demanded qualifications that would probably only fit Microsoft.

It seems that to finance a start-up, one has to have not only a great product but have everything else as well – this ranges from expert executives with personal wealth to a product with virtually no competition. The funding organization seemed to want to be on a sure bet without any risks, but with a great return on investment. Now where have we heard that before?

So, to the point of this article. While not endorsing it, or even commenting on its performance, I am asking that those in the Web application construction arena should at least look at the product. If your company is using FrontPage or similar Web authoring tools and develops interactive Web applications, why not give it a try? You can get a free copy of the program by calling SegmentSoft, or download from their Web site. If it is not of use at least you looked at a Canadian product.

Unless we, as members of the Canadian economy, try our own home grown products there will be no march down the road to technical excellence and no increase in technical economic strength. We should try to make up the losses of our technical ownership (Goodbye Corel. Good morning Mr. Gates). But without individuals making an effort this will never happen.

Robinson has been involved with high-tech Canadian star-up companies – including Cisco, Sytek and Comten – for more than 30 years. He can be reached at