About a year ago, at EclipseCon, we showed a demo of how the Eclipse IDE could look like if it was browser-based, talking to an Eclipse server "in the cloud". The reactions were lukewarm: "Looks cool, but why would I want to run an IDE in a browser?" "I have yet to see web enabled IDEs as an industry trend".
This industry trend is now starting to happen.
On Thursday, Mozilla and their new developer tools lab launched Bespin, an "experiment proposing an open, extensible web-based framework for code editing". Within a few days, 30,000 people logged into their public server, 400 people joined their discussion group, about 50 bugs were filed, several of them with patches, and many articles, blogs and even a Wikipedia entry were written. Congratulations, Ben and Dion of Mozilla (and Ajaxian fame), on the successful launch!
We looked at Bespin and asked, wouldn't it be great if Eclipse could play in this space too? Wouldn't it be cool if we could implement a Bespin server using Eclipse plug-ins that already exist?
Well... that Eclipse-based Bespin server is available now, after two days of development!
Simon Kaegi and I locked ourselves into a room and just implemented it. Today, we are declaring success, and are sharing the code as part of the e4 project with anyone interested. If you would like to give it a spin, check out this wiki page.
The Eclipse IDE, as you know it, is an OSGi-based application, and is built entirely out of components (called plug-ins or bundles). Many of these components can run headless, on a server, such as the underlying resource model, the incremental Java compiler, etc. Using the headless components, it was very easy to implement the Bespin client-server API. Like Mozilla's Bespin server, our server supports browsing files and folders, and editing files. In addition to that, we implemented extra features such as showing compile errors and warnings, and checking out projects from CVS servers using anonymous CVS.
If you would like to play with the Eclipse Bespin server, or work with us on it, check our wiki page. If there are any questions, hop on IRC, where we can be found on #eclipse-e4/irc.freenode.net or #bespin/irc.mozilla.org as borisb6i and skaegi.
P.S. Mozilla has a cool-looking and fast client, and Eclipse has a lot of experience with IDE features, and good amounts of code that can run headless. Sounds like a great opportunity for collaboration, doesn't it? Well, thanks to Mike and the Eclipse Foundation who organized it, and Dion and Ben who are investing their time and some of Mozilla's travel money, we will have an in-person meeting on Thursday, in Ottawa, to talk about this. These guys are moving fast!