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Practical Internet Groupware by Jon Udell

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Chapter 11. Membership Services

Groupware requires ways to define users and groups, test for membership in groups, and manage users’ preferences and group affiliations. In this chapter we’ll explore these issues while developing a notification system that alerts a group of subscribers to docbase updates. We’ll also build a family of group membership modules that share a common interface but talk to different data stores.

Internet groupware presents special opportunities and challenges, because it can encompass scopes as narrow as a few individuals and as broad as the entire wired planet. To build groupware applications for these environments, you’ll need various kinds of directory services. A directory can model human resources, such as users and groups, and other resources, such as a computers, printers, networks, and offices. Applications that consult a directory don’t have to create their own directory information or provide their own tools to manage it. And yet the world is full of applications that do just that. Why? Even within companies there has never been a single dominant standard for directory service. Of course, there are plenty of standards, including Unix’s /etc/passwd and /etc/group, NetWare 3’s bindery, NetWare 4’s NetWare Directory Service (NDS), NT’s Security Accounts Manager (SAM) database, the Windows 2000 Active Directory, the VINES StreetTalk service, and many others.

From the perspective of a LAN-based groupware application—cc:Mail, for example—there were ...

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