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7/9/2012
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Google Collide Dims Hope For Brightly IDE

Google won't say whether Brightly is dead, but the release of an open-source Web IDE called Collide suggests the company is no longer planning to enter the collaborative coding market.

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Google has been developing a Web-based editor for computer code--what's known as an integrated development environment, or IDE--for several years now. Mark S. Miller, an engineer for the company, revealed the existence of the project, known as Brightly, in a post to a mailing list in November 2010 about Google's Dart programming language.

But Brightly's prospects have darkened. Google last week released an incomplete Web-based IDE called Collide, not as a Google service but as an open-source project. The release coincides with the reduction of engineering operations at Google's Atlanta office, a move prompted by the departure of Bruce Johnson, who oversaw Google's engineering operations in Atlanta.

"Our Atlanta engineering lead decided to leave Google to set up his own company and we have also made some internal changes on the technical side," a Google spokesman explained via email.

[ Read Google Plans End Of iGoogle. ]

The Atlanta engineering team worked on, among other things, Google Web Toolkit (GWT); Dart, a programming language that Google introduced last year as an alternative to JavaScript; and presumably also Brightly.

Asked specifically about the fate of Brightly, Google's spokesman declined to comment.

Last week, Google engineer Scott Blum, in a Google+ post announcing his departure from the company, introduced Collide, a Web-based IDE designed for collaborative coding. "What we pushed out is extremely stripped down right now, but the most interesting tech stuff around collaborative editing is all there," Blum said in his post. "Long term, we hope it will serve as a catalyst for improving the state of Web-based IDEs."

Another engineer who helped develop Collide, Jaime Yap, praised the team that worked on "[t]he bigger project that Collide used to be..." If that was Brightly, then Yap's reference to the project in the past tense is telling. Perhaps Brightly fell victim to undisclosed "spring cleaning," or perhaps the loss of engineering talent in Atlanta assured its demise.

Mozilla's Bespin was among the first browser-based IDEs. It has since been renamed Skywriter and its open source code has been used to enhance Cloud9, a leading Web IDE. Other cloud-based code editors include commercial services such as Exo Cloud IDE, Kodingden, and CodeRun Studio, as well as open-source projects such as Eclipse Orion and Adobe Brackets.

What makes Web-based IDEs appealing is the ability to deploy code directly to a cloud service, where it's immediately available and functional, and the ability to collaborate together with other programmers in real time.

Collide provides real-time editing capabilities using its own more-scalable variant of the operational transform framework used in Google Wave, the company's abandoned real-time communication application, and some Wave libraries.

Other Web IDEs, such as Cloud9, provide similar real-time collaboration and editing capabilities. But Google's goals in open sourcing Collide go beyond promoting cloud collaboration. The company hopes to improve mechanisms for code quality control and version control in collaborative environments. Version control systems such as Git work with Web IDEs, but not as elegantly as they could.

"Just realtime collaboration alone is not advancing the state of the art," explained Yap in his Google+ post. "But what was open sourced is actually the kernel of something much broader and game changing than just real-time text editing. There are some pretty gnarly ideas around code review and version-control workflows floating around (not enabled) in some of the client code in Collide that we hope will see the light of day soon."

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