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Next Eclipse platform in two years

Abandonment issues for 3.x

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EclipseCon A web-friendly and easy to maintain version of Eclipse has been penciled in for delivery two years from now.

E4, as it's being called, has been pegged for 2010, with a working concept prototype ready for next year's EclipseCon.

Early e4 committers, though, pledged the current Eclipse platform, version 3.x that's moving towards release 3.4 this summer, would not be abandoned. Continued development was promised for another five years with some e4 features showing up in Eclipse 3.x.

Two big goals for e4 are to improve the architecture and interface for the desktop and the web. Organizers were at pains to say, though, there’d be no attempt to simply replicate the Eclipse experience online or to "try to take over" the web.

E4 is already a touchy subject. Eclipse members are concerned IBM is driving the agenda on e4 as the majority of those submitting early code are IBM employees. IBM employees dominate the current Eclipse platform project.

Referring to last week's controversy, Code 9 president Jeff McAffer - an early e4 committer, lead on numerous Eclipse projects, and a former IBM employee - said the initial code submission was "intended to start discussion". "That was not finished code," he said.

Ironically, the fervent hope - or at least the Eclipse party line - is that the e4 codebase will invite a broad cross section of participants, helping overcome that preponderance towards IBM. IBM will also welcome that, as it'll be able to reduce the number of paid staff not engaged on product work, who are also helping initiatives that compete with its Rational suite.

Among the e4 goals are improvements to scripting through work with organizations like OpenAJAX and tools to help Java programmers build plug ins.

Improved separation between the interface and data is also on the agenda through a DOM, to simplify customization of Eclipse. Committers imagine this could lead to a scripting engine and support for Cascading Style Sheets. Discussions are also centering on a "well described set of services" delivered using a RESTful architecture.

Backwards compatibility with previous versions of Eclipse is also promised.

Underpinning all this, though, is an attempt to escape the "baroque" 3.x codebase for something that's simple, clean and modular. That means eliminating repetition in code and interdependencies found in the monolithic 3.x.

"It's getting to the point where it's difficult to reach in and fix a bug without impacting lots of other things," one e4 committer told EclipseCon.

An e4 mailing list has been created here

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