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Mozilla 'cloud' code editor breaks with Lando Calrissian

Skywriter goes Javascript

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Mozilla's Bespin project – an open source effort to build a web-based code editor – has been rechristened Skywriter, and its official repository has been moved to GitHub so that developers can more easily fork the project.

As the project approaches its 1.0 release, Mozilla is also working to move its entire architecture to Javascript.

Bespin began life in February 2009 as a so-called "coding in the cloud" experiment where users did all their editing on distant servers run by Mozilla (bespin.mozillalabs.com). The idea was to provide more of shared environment where developers could easily collaborate – no matter where they were located. The name was meant to evoke this web-based set-tup. Bespin is that gaseous planet where Lando Calrissian's Cloud City hovers in The Empire Strikes Back.

With the project's name change, the cloud reference remains. But the nod to Star Wars does not. "As we approach a 1.0 release, it was clear that it was time to shed Bespin’s code name and give it a real, lasting project name," reads a blog post from Mozilla man Kevin Dangoor. "I think that Mozilla Skywriter fits the 'coding in the cloud' theme very well indeed."

Over the past year and a half, the project evolved to offer code editing not only on Mozilla's servers but also on your own website. Bespin Embedded – now known as Skywriter Embedded – has become the center of the project, and according to Dangoor, one of Mozilla's developer tools managers, the project is set to evolve again, so that users can embed Skywriter in their applications, use Skywriter to edit files on their desktop machines, and set up their own Skywriter servers so that users "code in the cloud" via domain's other than Mozilla's.

The original server code was written in Python, and this is now being converted to Javascript, so that the project can use Javascript from end-to-end. "The Skywriter code that runs in the browser will be able to share architecture and code with the server," he tells The Reg. "Someone who learns how to extend the Skywriter editor will have a short learning curve to be able to extend the server."

Meanwhile, Mozilla has moved the project's code repository to GitHub at the request of users. The project was previously hosted using Mercurial. "Many people who have worked on Skywriter have expressed a desire to fork it on GitHub," Dangoor said in his blog post. "There have been unofficial mirrors and plenty of people installing Mercurial just to use Bespin. In order to make things easier for our community, we’re moving the official repository for Skywriter over to GitHub." You can find the new repository at github.com/mozilla/skywriter.

The GitHub repository houses the new all-Javascript version of Skywriter. The old Mercurial repository will remain here. It amounts to a branch of the project prior to the switch to Javascript. "For the most part, we should be able to migrate changes made to that repository over to the new Skywriter repository pretty easily," Dangor said. "We’re just changing the tooling to JavaScript, we’re not really changing Bespin’s core plugins at all."

Bespin is the basis for Mozilla's new Add-on Builder. Or , rather, Skywriter is the basis for Mozilla's new Add-on Builder. We're sad to see the old name go. Apparently, some people didn't like it. "We’ve had many compliments and complaints about the 'Bespin' codename ever since we first introduced the project," Dangoor writes. "You can’t please everyone, especially when it comes to naming." ®

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