Saturday, February 14, 2009

IDE-as-a-service: Bespin is only the beginning

Introducing Bespin from Dion Almaer on Vimeo. [ you should see a video here, but if you don't, I apologize ]

By now, news of Mozilla Labs' Bespin online code editor is all over the Web. I don't think anyone seriously doubts that it's an idea whose time has come. In fact, the timing was rather serendipitous for me, because just a couple of days before the Bespin announcement hit, I had spent a morning talking with a friend (the CTO of a well-known software company) about a range of development issues, and one of the topics we spent quite a bit of time talking about was remote development.

You can do remote development and debugging right now, of course (with things like Eclipse over RMI-IIOP, if you're crazy enough to want to do it that way). But what my friend and I were discussing was an AJAX-based emulation of Eclipse in the browser. Not actual Eclipse with all its features, but a kind of Eclipse-Light facade over a reasonably powerful set of online dev tools, which would of course include an editor with typeahead and all the rest. But that would just be the start.

We talked about things like:
  • Static analysis as a service
  • Compilation as a service
  • Import-latest-packages as a service
  • JAR-it-all-up as a service
  • Sanity checking as a service
  • Wrap-my-crappy-Javascript-code-blocks in try/catches as a service
  • Format my fugly code as a service
  • Help me oh dear God create OSGi bundles as a service
  • Translate my Java code to some-other-language as a service
  • Give me expanded tooltip help for Dojo [or other library] as a service
  • Infinite Undo as a service
And so on. (Well, maybe we didn't discuss every one of those ideas. But we should have!)

Maybe the Bespin guys can add to that list. Or better yet, implement some of it. In any case, let's don't stop with just a code editor. That's way too simple. We need more than that. Lots more.