Mozilla Vision Thing

Tweet

Via Mozillazine, a fascinating post by Brendan Eich, the father of Javascript and Mozilla’s chief architect. This is fiesty stuff. Brendan basically lays out his view of how things are might play out, over the next five years, in the “battle” to control the application development and deployment platform of the future, the two main sides being Microsoft + Longhorn + XAML vs. “Open Source” + Mozilla (Gecko) + XUL.

Mozilla are definately ahead of the field with XUL (see Introducing XUL) having something that “works” now. There’s still some hurdles to overcome though.

As a platform for deployment over the web, XUL still suffers from practical issues – a compromise between security concerns and ease of use has yet to be made and this is preventing, say, PHP coders from churning out XUL based apps the way we can churn out HTML. Neil Deakin summarizes these problems nicely here.

From a strategic angle, Mozilla is also in a grey zone between commerical software and Open Source, thanks to their Netscape / AOL past. It means they don’t have the money to force-feed everyone their technology on the one hand while on the other, are missing a strong following in Open Source circles, being somewhat less of a “movement” than technologies like Linux and PHP. Guido van Rossum (father of Python) made this point well at OSCON this year (but I’ve lost the link). This could change though. Backing from one of Microsofts “rivals”, such as IBM, Novell or Sun might help with promoting Gecko and expanding it’s installed based. Meanwhile, since seperation from Netscape / AOL last July, the independent Mozilla Foundation seems to be gaining more acceptance in Open Source and part of Brendan is saying is how he’s hoping to partner Mozilla with other groups such as Gnome.

Meanwhile Microsoft have all the advantages Microsoft always has. XAML promotion has already begun while still being very much “experimental” in status. When XAML finally hit the streets, it’s likely to be a well rounded technology complete with support in Visual Studio and endless ads and column inches to market it, as we’ve already seen with .NET. But it may not all be plain sailing.

We’re talking at least another two years before Longhorn is ready to roll and likely longer, perhaps even 2008, based on Microsofts past performance. Microsoft are already finding it harder to convince customers of the value in upgrading from older versions of Windows (and Office) and if Longhorn means not just license fees but buying the latest hardware to be able to run it, uptake may be slow even when it is released. That means XAMLs “installed base” may take a long time to grow.

At the same time Linux is gaining mindshare in mainsteam IT, thanks to IBM, which could lead to customers demanding cross platform technologies (which XUL is). And XUL “works” now. If it can gain enough pace before XAML is a reality, it could make stiff competition.

Anyway, enough soothsaying. already.

Free book: Jump Start HTML5 Basics

Grab a free copy of one our latest ebooks! Packed with hints and tips on HTML5's most powerful new features.

  • http://www.phppatterns.com HarryF

    If a large enough audience adopts Mozilla and its sister tools (Firefox et al) developers will have the environment in which to slowly start building apps centered on the technology and address these security measures and concerns.

    Very true. In fact Firefox is already an example of what Gecko makes possible. If anyone want’s a way to waste an afternoon but at the same time being repeatedly amazed, head to http://texturizer.net/firefox/ in particular the huge collection of extensions which are almost all XUL + Javascript extensions to Firefox. For example one very handy add ons is Scribe (allows you to save the contents of a form you are completing to your disk and reload it later, straight from the Firefox file menu). IMO Firefox is able to outpace any other browser around today, in terms of implementing new features, thanks to XUL.

  • Dan Kuykendall
  • sleepeasy

    A great example of what can be done using XUL is the Mozilla Amazon Browser. Take a look if you’re wondering what XUL can do.

  • Joe McLoughlin

    Instead of just adapting Mozilla (and calling it the IBM Web Browser), IBM should have got behind Mozilla and XUL as their cross-platform development environment. They kinda did this with Sash (for Win32 and Linux) then left it high and dry.
    (Almost) No-one takes Java seriously for desktop apps. Mozilla have done a fantastic job in architecting XUL. Apple was stupid to adopt Safari instead of Mozilla (Apple will be strung out if MS does take over the internet application space and can coerce the standards so that they are MS only).

  • Jeremy

    Interesting how Microsoft has decided to take so long with their next operating system. In one sense, it’s strategically bad because it gives linux a chance to gain ground. In another sense it is even good for them because people will be thinking about replacing their systems at that point…not just upgrading their OS, especially if the new system fits in with their Microsoft entertainment center based on XP Media Center that they’ve had for a while. So when they actually BUY a new computer, it will likely come with Longhorn.
    Just a thought.

  • sleepeasy

    going a bit off topic here…

    In one sense, it’s strategically bad because it gives linux a chance to gain ground

    Yup. I’ve used Mandrake Linux as my primary OS since version 8, and its progress has been great. By the time Longhorn is released Mandrake will probably reach version 12.

    But what I’ve found even more impressive is the progress of the GNOME project. GNOME 2.8 will be killer as it will contain a host of multimedia apps such as Rhythmbox which already is much easier to use than Windows Media Player and Apple’s iTunes. I’m not very good at explaining so I point anyone interested to this article: http://www.nearwildheaven.com/GNOME/

  • David Marx

    The bast solution to the Longhorn “problem” is available now. Laszlosystems uses an ECMA script + XML programming language (LZX) to build client applications that run inside a browser.

  • libdave
  • http://www.phppatterns.com HarryF

    http://blather.newdream.net/d/definately.html
    Spelling gnit

    I absolootly agree ;)

  • http://www.camdaniel.com/ Cam

    In your Introducing XUL article, you were saying that XUL supports “code-behinds” (term used loosely) but PHP wasn’t supported yet. Has this front changed at all and if not, any idea when it will?

  • http://www.phppatterns.com HarryF

    In your Introducing XUL article, you were saying that XUL supports “code-behinds” (term used loosely) but PHP wasn’t supported yet. Has this front changed at all and if not, any idea when it will?

    When referring to “code behind” was trying to relate to a concept many will perhaps understand. Being precise, you can add to the XPCOM library using C++, Python, Perl or Ruby (the latter two make not be robust implementations) – you might add a component to XPCOM, written in Python, for fetching from Sitepoint’s RSS feed. This becomes available to the Javascript in your XUL app, allowing you to use it in some way as an object.

    I doubt PHP will get supported here being a web specific solution and not well architectured for this kind of use – could be wrong though. Python is easy to pick up though, if you know PHP…

  • http://www.dougerkkila.com DougErkkila

    I’ve been considering playing with XUL for a while now, but after reading this I think it’s something I should look at even more and delve into it over summer break! Thanks for reminding me about XUL.

  • http://www.practicalapplications.net bwarrene

    Excellent coverage of this issue. One advantage the Mozilla platform has is a cross-platform solution running on Linux/Mac/Windows, with a growing group of non-technical users adopting the browser and tools based on conveniences like tabbed browsing, built in security and privacy tools and the search bar on the browser (those of us on Safari on OS X like seeing this on Windows as well).

    If a large enough audience adopts Mozilla and its sister tools (Firefox et al) developers will have the environment in which to slowly start building apps centered on the technology and address these security measures and concerns.

    It amazes me that IE would not follow suit with tabbed browsing at least – as this is one of the most significant features to the non-technical end users group.

    While the end user is only one small piece of the issues you address – the fact that their adoption rate is growing can only help as it is often the first open source tool an end user sees in production on their machine.