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Eclipse sings open-web tune: No framework, no problem

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"For large part, the value proposition for Orion is to use it as an integrated platform for existing and future tools," Milinkovich said. "Today... there's no single platform that provides developers with the ability to unify them into a single workflow or user experience - that's the gap Orion is trying to fill.

"If you've got an exiting web based tool you can integrate it with Orion very simply - all you need is a URL to write glue code so it appears on the Orion toolbar immediately."

So why is Eclipse embracing web development and leaving the enterprise and the framework that made it both feared and loved in enterprise circles behind?

According to Milinkovich, it's about bringing tools for the open web together.

"We hope that the availability of tools like Orion will help make the momentum around the open web much more rapid than it is today. One of the competition points between the closed web and the open web is having the tooling in HTML and JavaScript," Milinkovich said.

There's been a big debate recently about the open web. Web daddy Tim Berners-Lee reckons the ubiquitous web he helped found is dying thanks to closed-off sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. These sites - and you can throw Apple's App Store in there too, although Berners-Lee didn't mention it - might use HTML or JavaScript on the web layer but they are keeping data, the crown jewels of their services, behind a fence of closed APIs.

This means the data cannot be easily withdrawn, say by a user looking to move on from their service, nor can it be accessed by rival service providers. That data might be somebody's personal contact details, photos they've uploaded, status updates or it might just be music files.

Milinkovich said he doesn't see any contraction in building the web using APIs and HTML5 - you can support HTML5 and still think APIs are important. "But I think standard APIs are going to be an important part because it's been an important part of every wave of technology. Without interoperability that well known APIs provide, you don't have an industry platform, you don't have a foundation that the industry can grow on," he said.

Why is Eclipse jumping into the free-web debate now?

Just like Eclipse before it, Orion was kick-started by a donation of code by IBM - still the Foundation's biggest single backer after all these years in terms of engineers on projects.

IBM again

In December, IBM donated initial code for Orion's JavaScript, HTML and CSS editor, for the integration with Git, and an architecture to integrate with other JavaScript tools an support for the various browsers. Asked why IBM's getting fired up over the open web, Eclipse won't speculate. Milinkovich wants to make sure IBM doesn't dominate this time, and there has been participation in early meetings from Mozilla, Motorola, GitHub, and others. The first planning summit was held last week to establish Orion's scope and roadmap.

Time will tell whether Eclipse can move outside of IBM's shadow on the open web.

Also, whether the philosophy of Orion can attract a development community that partly differentiates itself against the kind of place where Eclipse is coming from - the enterprise, server-side Java and C++ development.

While Orion is not the same Eclipse technology, which has grown spaghetti like over the last decade, Milinkovich feels Eclipse has much to offer in building a community and ecosystem.

He'll certainly need that experience if Orion is to follow in the footsteps of its bigger, disruptive twin. Milinkovich hope is for an ecosystem will spring up around the server that implements the Restful APIs, with servers for PHP or node.JS. He's also looking for editors in other languages outside JavaScript, HTML5 and CSS - such as PHP, Perl, and Ruby.

"That's something where we need the community to step up. We are starting with JavaScript," he said. ®

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