Mozilla Bespin tries taking coding to the cloud

Cloud computing gets another twist from the organization behind Firefox: the browser-based Bespin programming environment.

Mozilla Labs on Thursday unveiled a new open-source project called Bespin, a Web-based programming environment its developers hope will combine the speed and power of desktop-based development with the collaborative benefits of cloud computing.

Bespin 0.1 is only an "initial prototype framework that includes support for basic editing features," according to the site, but Mozilla has high hopes for the project. "We're particularly excited by the prospect of empowering Web developers to hack on the editor itself and make it their own," said Ben Galbraith and Dion Almaer in Mozilla's Bespin announcement.

Generally speaking, cloud computing moves tasks that once were on machines directly in front of a person to the Internet. Among the advantages for cloud-based applications are a more naturally shared environment and data that can be accessed from any networked machine. However, Web-based applications typically lack the responsiveness, polished user interfaces, and performance possible with local applications.

There are some intriguing possibilities here beyond the obvious ideas about a browser-based programming application. For example, what about integration with open-source software repositories? If it's flexible enough, Bespin could essentially act as a source code viewer that repositories such as SourceForge or Google Code could employ.

Mozilla set the following goals for Bespin:


• Ease of Use -- the editor experience should not be intimidating and should facilitate quickly getting straight into the code br>
• Real-time Collaboration -- sharing live coding sessions with colleagues should be easy and collaboratively coding with one or more partners should Just Work br>
• Integrated Command-Line -- tools like vi and Emacs have demonstrated the power of integrating command-lines into editors; Bespin needs one, too br>
• Extensible and Self-Hosted -- the interface and capabilities of Bespin should be highly extensible and easily accessible to users through Ubiquity-like commands or via the plug-in API br>
• Wicked Fast -- the editor is just a toy unless it stays smooth and responsive editing files of very large sizes br>
• Accessible from Anywhere -- the code editor should work from anywhere, and from any device, using any modern standards-compliant browser br>
A screenshot of Bespin in action.
A screenshot of Bespin in action. Mozilla
About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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