Gears has been “dead” for a long time, it’s OK, but a shame Chrome Extensions and webOS Applications look quite similar
Dec 09

Out of the page and into the runtime; Extensions move the Web development model further

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The Chrome Extensions team had a press event tonight to go over their extensions beta launch that I unfortunately couldn’t make at the last minute. I wanted to be there to see old friends and the good work they have been doing, and support them.

Aaron, Erik, and the team have done a pretty great job with their extension model. They wanted to allow Web developers to develop extensions. Who better to do that than folks who are a) Web developers and b) have written extensions (e.g. Aaron is an old time JS hacker, author of Greasemonkey, and much more since then [Gears etc]).

Of course, over at Mozilla the same idea had been hatched with Jetpack and other equally talented folk are working on that (Aza and Atul and more).

Some of our best Web engineers are on the case, which is great.

Before these new age extension models the world of extensions was tough. On IE you would be mainly a C++ hacker to do anything. Mozilla really raised the bar with its original Add-Ons but even though you could do a lot in JavaScript, there was still a lot of XPCOM and a huge API set since you basically were given the entire Mozilla platform to work with. This was great from a “you can do whatever the crap you want to do” perspective, but it was awfully hard to dive in and get productive.

Thus, most Web developers stayed inside the browser window. We develop applications in our area, and others do the extension thing.

That has changed and we are now breaking out of the browser sandbox in many ways. This is one of them. When we think about delivering experiences to our users we can think of out of the window. What would our users like to be able to do when not on our web site? How can we package our value adds in a way that they can do their thing at any point? How do we interact with the runtime? What can we do if we have more permissions to do interesting things?

We have only just seen the beginning with Jetpack and Chrome Extensions. They are many more APIs to write and for us to then consume. I personally think that Chrome is too restrictive on what you can do in the browser chrome for example. I would love to play around and have my browser morph in interesting ways. If I am on a particular site, new features and functionality could appear if I want them too.

It feels like we are touching the surface on what the Web platform and runtime is versus what a “browser” is as we have envisioned it until now.

2010 will be an exciting year for Web developers as they add extensions to their toolbox in a nice clean way.

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