03 February 2006

Open Source's Best-Kept Secret

Ajax is short for Asynchronous Javascript + XML; it enables a Web page to be changed in the browser on the fly, without needing to refer back to the original server. This leads to far faster response times, and is behind many of the most interesting developments on the Web today; Gmail is perhaps the most famous example. Essentially it turns the browsers into a lightweight platform able to run small apps independently of the operating system (now where have we heard that before?).

The news of an Open Ajax project that will simplify the creation of such sites is therefore welcome. However, what is most interesting about the announcement is not the luminaries who are lining up behind it - IBM, Oracle, Red Hat and Yahoo amongst others - but the fact that it is yet another Eclipse project.

To which most people would probably say, Who? For Eclipse is open source's best-kept secret. It stands in the same relation to Microsoft's Visual Studio development tools as GNU/Linux does to Windows, and OpenOffice.org to Microsoft Office. Where these address respectively the system software and office suite sectors, Eclipse is aimed at developers. It is another example of IBM's largesse in the wake of its Damascene conversion to open source: the project was created when the company released a large dollop of code under the Eclipse Public License.

What's interesting is how Eclipse has followed a very similar trajectory to GNU/Linux: at first it was ignored by software companies, who preferred to stick with their own proprietary rivals to the Microsoft juggernaut. Later, though, they realised that divided they would certainly fall, and so united around a common open standard. The list of "Strategic Members" and "Add-in Providers" reads like a Who's Who of the world's top software companies (bar one).

This illustrates another huge - and unique - strength of open source: the fact that it represents neutral ground that even rival companies can agree to support together. The mutual benefit derived from doing so outweighs any issues of working with traditional enemies.

Even though Eclipse is relatively little known at the moment, at least in the wider world, it is not a particular bold prediction to see it as becoming the most serious rival to Microsoft's Visual Studio, and the third member of the open source trinity that also includes GNU/Linux and OpenOffice.org.

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

Eclipse is a really good IDE

Anonymous said...

Your a retard! I would say any JAVA developer worth anything knows about Eclipse. Eclipse is probably the "best" JAVA IDE but it still has many issues. First and for most it is a memory hog. It's no secret... Thanks for wasting our time.

vRad said...

I have started using eclipse only recently for some relatively simple Java coding. In the week or so of using it, I have been blown away by its features, polished appearance, and amazing stability. Remarkable to learn that it is open source. Breaks all the stereotypes of open source being clunky, and hard to use.

EclipseTracker said...

Evolution of Eclipse
http://eclipsetracker.blogspot.com/

glyn moody said...

Great site - thanks for the link.

Abdul Mueid said...

"First and for most it is a memory hog."

Are you still using that alpha version of eclipse? Get a life and download what's called a "stable" version.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't aggree more. Eclipse has completely changed how I work. I use it for almost everything now. Java for core coding of course, but also I use plugins for database work, writing Flash/Action Script, Web and XML development and Latex for formal documents, and I can manage, version and share everything with Subversion. Almost all I use is free, open-source and stable, but if I find bugs I can always debug using Eclipse itself! ...And because Eclispe doesn't use the registry its really easy to backup or move the whole platform or just the workspaces. I still use windows but the justification for doing so is less and less. Microsoft should be very worried.

Anonymous said...

Nice if you do Java work on a modern computer. Useless if you want to do C++ on 2 year old machine.

Anonymous said...

IntelliJ IDEA as a Java IDE

Anonymous said...

'Your a retard'?, you're wasting our time.

Enoaelf said...

Anonymous said...

Your a retard! I would say any JAVA developer worth anything knows about Eclipse. Eclipse is probably the "best" JAVA IDE but it still has many issues. First and for most it is a memory hog. It's no secret... Thanks for wasting our time.

Your != You're. For most != foremost. It is and It's two words apart, why? Probably the "best", quotes are not necessary and arguably would be an appropriate replacement for probably in the context of your post. My time was not wasted reading this article as I use several machines not all of which have windows installed.

Anonymous said...

Except having said that ^ (last comment) eclipse runs on Windows aswell. If you use Java Eclipse is pretty well known but nice article none the less.

Anonymous said...

If you're developing in Java nothing compares with Netbeans! It's a lot more intuitive upon the first use compared with Eclipse.

Anonymous said...

"without needing to refer back to the original server. " Not just a quote from the first paragraph, but a gleaming example of how credibility can be destroyed with a single sentence. I shouldn't need to go into why that is such a stupid assesment of AJAX, you're a developer. You figure it out.

Jamie Flournoy said...

The reason it's a "secret", at least to the non-Java world, is probably because of the licensing roadblock that Java brings to the table. Java is not open source and redistribution is limited, so the experience of just picking a package from an open source package manager and having all the dependencies downloaded and installed for you is broken. Basically you have to already be committed to Java to find out that there's this nice IDE that you can use to do non-Java stuff. That's why Java developers say they already knew all about it but the general public, especially the open source folks who don't like Sun's license terms, are oblivious.

glyn moody said...

That's a very good point - thanks for the comment.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up. I've heard good things about this for mobile comms dev too. Though I've always considered anything Java-based to be a bloated resource hog.

BTW I know to skip a feedback comment when some bozo begins by splurting out "Your a retard" (His poor grammar probably says it all). Would be nice if people could do blogs and share what they know without idiots jumping over it.

Anonymous said...

Not really a secret have known about it for a few years now. And if you use coldfusion you can download the CFEclipse plugin

glyn moody said...

Certainly, programmers have known about it - especially Java programmers - for years, but it is surprisingly little-known among those who have known about GNU/Linux, OpenOffice.org and the rest for some time.

Given the wide support it now has among major computer companies, it seemed to me that it is now at a stage where it deserves to join the club of famous free software.

Anonymous said...

I can understand you not posting my first comment, after all I did disagree with you . But you should at least fix your ignorant statement about ajax at the very begining of article. The whole point of AJAX is that the current page doesn't have to be completely reloaded, because individual scripts on the page communicate back and forth with scripts on the server. Go look at one of the hundreds of beginner tutorials that even have pictures for those of us who aren't quite so good at that whole reading comprehension thing.

glyn moody said...

My apologies to anonymous for not posting your two comments about Ajax: for some reason they slipped through the moderation net until just now.

As to your point that, with Ajax, "the current page doesn't have to be completely reloaded, because individual scripts on the page communicate back and forth with scripts on the server", this is what I meant when I said "it enables a Web page to be changed in the browser on the fly, without needing to refer back to the original server."

That is, it doesn't *need* to refer to the server, but obviously it can when it wants to (otherwise it would be a pretty pointless Web page). But, equally, if Ajax were just about scripts talking to each other it would hardly offer any great advance over ordinary Web pages.

Mase Browne said...

I do Web App design for a company, and all we use is Eclipse (except for one person, who is in love with her jEdit). It's just kind of a "no-duh" solution for anything doing programming of almost any kind. At home, I use it for Ruby, C, Lisp - the list goes on. Chances are if a language is popular, an Eclipse plugin exists for it.

Anonymous said...

Written in Java = automatic failure.

Anything written in Java is a resource hog, and the language's only arguable advantage is portability, otherwise it's purely a joke. I'm not promoting other languages, however. Just pointing out that Eclipse is pure crap since it's written in Java.

Anonymous said...

"Your a retard" is a mime, of sorts. They are putting it on T-shirts now.

Murty said...

The sparks raised about this article deviating towards personal comments which is losing essence of enabling comments on such a technical issue. Instead of keeping anonymous and throwing personal comments on a blogger it is better to add some valuable supplementary material so that laymen like us will gain some knowledge out of these instead of scrolling through all wasted comments like searching a needle in a haystock.

Anonymous said...

About setting up eclipse: it can be challenging if you do it "from scratch". But there's another way:

http://www.easyeclipse.org

Eclipse rocks.

(I'm not affiliated with eclipse or easyeclipse.org, except that I go around telling people that it rocks.)

glyn moody said...

Thanks for the link.