Last week the Mozilla Labs' guys released a new web-based source code editor (think "editor in the cloud") called Bespin. Nothing I could say here to describe it is as good as their video:
Introducing Bespin from Dion Almaer on Vimeo.
Today I see that Boris Bokowski of the Eclipse project has taken it upon himself to merge a headless Eclipse back-end with a Bespin front-end:
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!
...after two days of development--I love it. There's a couple of important things going on here. First, seeing something like this happen, two experiments being done so quickly and having so much functionality, speaks to how mature these two platforms have become. The fact that Mozilla can build an editor using the open web (canvas, js, et al) that feels like you're sitting at a desktop app is amazing. The fact that Eclipse can roll their stuff into a headless server, throw a RESTful API on top, and have it latch onto a web app is also amazing. How ready is your platform for experimentation like this? If you throw "two days of development" at it, does it respond the same way that the open web and Eclipse did here? If not, maybe you're on the wrong platform.
There's a second thing to look at here. I was mentioning this to Chris, and his comment was, "[Eclipse] could have done a NIH, this is a much better response." Not Invented Here is a common response to innovation from outside. I made that point above that your platform needs to be able to support you doing experiments; but it's also true, and perhaps more so, that your community needs to be open to them as well. My colleague Jordan has been working with the Eclipse community this term, as he leads students to work on bugs and projects with them. I've been impressed with what I've witnessed as an external observer: I know from experience that Mozilla is an open community, and a welcoming place for students and educators, but it's been great to see similar things happening with Eclipse. Boris' work only serves to further impress me.
To the Bespin guys I say that you know you're doing it right when people don't just use your stuff, but use it in order to. Awesome stuff.