pmuellr is Patrick Mueller

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

on bespin

Could you have possibly missed the news on Bespin, a project from Mozilla Labs? Don't see how. But read up if you haven't.

Bunch of rambling thoughts here:

  • Also check out Sun's Lively Kernel. In particular, make sure you click on the "Development Tools" link (blue globe/basketball thing) after you "Enter the Lively Kernel" to see their take on Smalltalk-like browsers for JS.

  • Bespin works it's magic with HTML Canvas, Lively Kernel uses SVG. Interesting, because these are two completely different low-level programming models, though perhaps we'll end up seeing widget toolkits built with both.

  • Implementing text editors with HTML Canvas and SVG leads you into the Uncanny Valley, as such low-level things as clipboard operations, cursor movement, etc all have to be implemented with user-land code. Doesn't sound like a great proposition, it's at least a crap-load of work to get all the expected text editing behaviors implemented.

  • But you know what, I think Uncanny Valley may not really apply to text editors. I use a large number of text editors in my day-to-day computer usage, and almost none of them are using any kind of a common "text editor component". Eclipse, TextMate, Notes, vi, etc. You just have to get used to them. There are certainly programs I use that DO use a "system-level" common text editor - in my case, the one Mac OS X provides. Forms within Safari, Twitterific, other apps presenting text areas, etc, all use the baked in text editor control, which is nice, because I get the same kind of spell checking, cursor movement, etc. I think extending the usage out to "code" editing (eg, syntax highlighting) just isn't going to work though. Or let's say it hasn't happened yet.

  • Although most of the focus on Bespin is on the browser bits, the impacts/opportunities for server bits isn't lost on some people. In fact, this may well be a more interesting piece; if you imagine an interesting set of back-end "IDE services" being defined for Bespin, why couldn't desktop editors also take advantage of them?

May you live in exciting times.