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Opera cuts cord on first open-source baby

Dragonfly set free

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Opera has freed its first open source project, moving code for its Dragonfly debug tool onto the popular BitBucket hosting service.

Dragonfly - a website debug tool similar to Mozilla's Firebug - was always intended as an open source project. From its inception in 2008, it carried an open source BSD license. But until this month, the code repository sat on Opera servers. As of February 10, it's a fully open source project hosted on BitBucket.

In announcing the move to BitBucket, David Storey - who leads the company's Open the Web initiative - said that Opera has also revamped the code since its previous release. Opera has replaced the existing architecture with an improved version of the Scope Protocol - aka STP-1 - an Opera-designed protocol that provides communication between the debug tool and the company's browser.

Dragonfly runs inside the Opera browser - and only the Opera browser.

"Opera Dragonfly has been rewritten to use this faster and more efficient version of Scope," Storey wrote. "Now that we believe that the underlying protocol is stable and performant, and a public desktop build has been released with this included, it is time to put Opera Dragonfly on a public Mercurial repository."

Using a Mercurial client, you can check out the source code here, and documentation is provided here.

This being Opera's first go at an open-source project, Storey urged the world to cut the company some slack. "We ask you to bear with us while we get everything up and running and policies in place," he said. "Coming from a closed-source background there are some hurdles to overcome, such as the current bug-tracking system being on a closed server. We hope to migrate to an open bug tracking system as the project gets on its feet."

This past summer, when we asked Opera founder Jon von Tetzchner if the company would ever open source the browser itself, he gave an immediate "no." Because Opera is juggling browsers for so many devices, he argued, it can't lose control of the source code.

"I don't think that would do very much for us," he said. "The reason to do open source is for marketing purposes. But with the complexity of what we're dealing with, it's not a good idea.

"Mozilla is more or less focusing on desktop browsers and that's complex enough. We are, at any given time, dealing with more than a hundred different deliveries, because we're not only doing desktops. We're doing mobile phones. We're doing set-top boxes. We're doing cars. We're doing game consoles. We're doing all these things. And handling that complexity is extremely hard. And I think that requires fairly good control over the piece of code."

Mozilla has since launched its first mobile browser, officially releasing a version of Firefox Nokia's Maemo 5 platform.

Mirroring Mozilla's open source Firebug, Dragonfly lets you debug the JavaScript, CSS, DOM, and HTML code of a webpage running inside Opera's browser. It's included in Opera 9.5 and later versions, and it can remotely connect to any non-PC devices running version 2.1 of Opera's Presto rendering engine or later. You can use your desktop keyboard and display, for instance, to debug a site running on Opera Mobile 9.5 for Windows Mobile. ®

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