Mice or Raccoons: IDEs and the Web

Google's acquisition of Writely last week got me thinking again. For those of you who've been living under a rock for the past year, Writely is an AJAX-based word processor built on ASP.NET. It's not as fully functional as Word and it has some quirks. That said, like the talking dog, it may not talk well, but it talks.

The acquisition got me thinking again about development tools and the potential of creating a very interesting, lightweight, modular development tool delivered over the Web. Such a product would be very different from the mainstream IDEs in use today -- Microsoft, Macromedia, Borland, Eclipse, Powerbuilder -- you name the IDE, and it's probably a client app with a substantial client footprint and lots of bells and whistles.

Everybody's doing it, so clearly, this is the right way to build IDEs, right? Nobody's using Writely, and even if they were, an AJAX-based word processor isn't a development tool – developers need the power of a full client application.


The technology may not be there, but overcoming the delivery challenges created by what I'll call the "blow 640MB onto a CD and install it with setup.exe" mentality is huge. When was the last time you bought (with your own money) an app that required a CD for installation? Wouldn't you rather have just gone to some URI? Why are IDEs immune?

All the IDE creators seem to be happily building a better mousetrap. But are the mice taken care of? Are we now looking at what to do about raccoons? If so, who’s building the raccoon trap?

Comments (5)

  1. Xepol says:

    Perform all my development on a third party owned and operated, unsecure by design machine?

    Thanks, would you like all my source code on CD instead?  Why don’t I just hook right up to the internet and open up my fileshares to the world?

    This is worse than how easy dotNet apps can decompile right back to source code with almost zero effort. (the hard part is downloading the easily available app that is available freely)

    Could you see MS doing their development this way on a machine hosted by SUN?  No, and there is no way anyone else in their right mind would do it that way either.

    The linux people might like it tho.

  2. Yeah yeah I know it seems like I pitch blogs as a universal panacea. I have cited them as an essential recruiting tool before.But after reading this post from John Montgomery, where he asks how to interview a developer, I couldnt

  3. johnmont says:

    James, I think you posted to the wrong article.

    Xepol, fair point, but people are surprisingly willing to give up lots of information online — search engines, online stories, online auctions, now online word processors and online calendars. Why not go the next step? At what point will people get comfortable with the idea?

  4. James sent over a post from John Montgomery wondering out-loud what a web based IDE would look like, or if it’s even possible and/or desirable. I know: it sounds crazy to all us developer types out there. The web is…

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