This must have been one of the longest running tragedies in recent computing history. The short story is that WO (as WebObjects is known by its afficinados) is an outstanding piece of software if ever there was one, but never got off the ground commercially, was copied by Open-Source programmers, dropped its price from 50k to 600USD (IIRC) to free, and finally will be released into the open.
Parts of it (the Enterprise Object Framework) stem from the client-server time before the web as we know it was born. Apple (who bought it with its aquisition of NeXT) is using it to build their Web 2.0 suite of apps like .Mac or the iTunes music store, so the capability of it is proven beyond doubt. A couple of years ago I compiled a list of companies using it, and just about every major bank was on that list.
Alas, somehow WO never took off. Other frameworks copied the concepts or even the API. Just a view days ago, jope 1.0 was announced, which might have played a part in the decision to finally open-source WebObjects.
For me, this is several years too late. Would WO have been open-source in 2003, we might have used it to build Magnolia. Today, we are rewriting one of my last remaining apps of that time – an associative web shop that I wrote for the Kunstmuseum Basel – to Magnolia.
Congrats to Apple (and specifically Steve Jobs, who apparently wanted to open-source WO back in 2004) for finally doing it. I hope it picks up speed!