The Bespin Think Tank
February 20, 2009

I recently discovered a new Mozilla Labs project called Bespin. From the release announcement:

Just as Mozilla enables massive innovation by making Firefox open on many levels, we hope to do the same with Bespin by developing an extensible framework for Open Web development. We’re particularly excited by the prospect of empowering Web developers to hack on the editor itself and make it their own.

I encourage you to check out this project. It’s in a very early stage of development, so don’t expect to switch IDE’s any time soon, but based on the amount of interest it has already generated the project is going to evolve quickly.

If you want to see what is being talked about in terms of features and opportunities take a look at the Bespin Think Tank. That is what I am calling the mailing list for now as it seems to be one massive flow of brainstorming rather than action oriented messages.

Exciting to me is that several other notable projects are already talking with the folks at Bespin to see how they can work together. One is the Firebug Working Group with the aim of integrating Firebug with Bespin, the other is the E4 Eclipse Project which is a community effort for building the next generation of the Eclipse Platform. There is already an experimental e4 Bespin server which was announced by Boris Bokowski and a cross-country in-person meeting has been setup between the projects to discuss further collaboration.

My Take on Bespin

I think the whole idea of an extensible framework for Open Web development is great. A major hurdle to IDE innovation is the barrier to entry experienced by developers wanting to add features to existing IDE’s. To add features to Eclipse for example you need to be a Java developer which limits the amount of people who would even consider writing plugins. If Eclipse plugins can be written in JavaScript using a powerful and intuitive plugin development environment Eclipse could experience the same kind of extension explosion as Firefox.

Since my last post about an AJAX-based Eclipse Project Explorer I have started communicating with the E4 project team. My interest is in building a plugin framework that enables developers to build and publish JavaScript-based UI Widgets using Firefox/Firebug and then be able to run them in any web page, browser extension and IDE staring with Eclipse.

The focus of my effort is not on just re-implementing existing IDE functionality in JavaScript but rather linking Eclipse Views such as the project explorer to the web so that data available locally may be augmented with data available from web services. Once you can build Eclipse Views using JavaScript and feed these with local and remote data I think we can speed-up innovation of IDE’s and link them much closer to the cloud where it makes sense.

FirePHP and Beyond

If you are using and like FirePHP you are going to love what I am working on as the next evolution of my concept of web-based developer tools. I’ll be posting more information on my blog in the coming months. I encourage you to subscribe if you want to see what I am up to and provide your feedback early-on.

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