Mozilla's Bespin Delivers Open, Collaborative Cloud App Development

by Ostatic Staff - Feb. 13, 2009

Mozilla Labs is out with a new project, dubbed Bespin, aimed at allowing collaborative programming, HTML coding, and development out in the cloud. Mozilla is calling it "an open, extensible web-based framework for code editing," and it's released under the Mozilla Public License. Bespin is only an initial prototype at this point, but it's part of a growing effort to deliver open source cloud infrastructure tools.  Many cloud applications depend on their online hosted status to attract users to collaborate, so why shouldn't development of cloud applications be collaborative and online as well? Open source tools for the cloud may play an important part in obstructing lock-in strategies from cloud service providers.

Matt Asay has an interesting post up called "Open data is the antidote to closed clouds," where he quotes Greg Papadopoulos, CTO and EVP of research and development at Sun Microsystems. Papadopoulos makes the point that many cloud service providers are drifting toward data lock-in strategies, and he points to open services as a solution:

"The antidote is simple: demand open services. If you can't move your data to another service, easily and cost effectively, don't put it in. Take an activist position. Encourage your cloud operators to use open source software, with no gratuitous incompatibilities. Ask them to pledge their standards and intellectual property to OASIS or other open standards group. Ultimately, if you demand open services, it will force cloud operators to compete on the basis of bringing innovation to market, rather than competing by lock-in."

Mozilla's Bespin project, along with open source cloud infrastructure projects such as Eucalyptus, are interesting and could become important alternatives to the many proprietary development and infrastructure tools that cloud service providers are pushing. This trend isn't getting enough notice. For example, I noticed that in this seemingly exhaustive think-tank piece on cloud computing from U.C. Berkeley (PDF), the term open source only appears twice, and appears to be totally irrelevant to the researchers. 

Bespin is designed to be extensible, is designed to promote collaborative, open web application coding, and takes advantage of HTML 5 technologies (particularly good for delivering audio and video on the web). I agree with CNet that a good next step for Bespin would be to integrate it with open source code repositories, so developers can see and work with applications, components and source code online.

You can learn more about Bespin in Mozilla Labs' video here. There is also a Bespin Google User Group. The initial prototype includes support for basic editing features, such as syntax highlighting, large file sizes, undo/redo, previewing files in the browser, importing/exporting projects, and more. The question is: Will developers working on online hosted applications take to the idea of developing directly out in the cloud? I don't really see the concept as being very different from the HTML I do online for blog posts everyday, where others are doing the same thing in the same online blog editor with me, but we'll see.