Eclipse Foundation Launches Open Beta for Web-Based Orion Project

The Eclipse Foundation today unveiled an open beta version of a new hosted implementation of its nascent Orion project. Developers can now sign up for access to OrionHub, a service created to allow developers to get their hands on the Orion platform, experiment with it and start generating feedback to the open source community behind the project.

"We needed to provide developers with a simple way to try out Orion," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation. "The OrionHub lets them go in and kick the tires."

Introduced in January, the Orion project's goal is to define a platform for building and integrating Web development tools. The project summary calls it a "browser-based open tool integration platform which is entirely focused on developing for the Web, in the Web."

"Eclipse is a very successful open source community, best known for building tools for enterprise developers, particularly enterprise Java developers, but historically we've had less appeal among Web developers," Milinkovich told this site in an interview Friday. "So we asked ourselves, what can we do from within the Eclipse community to build a toolset and a tool platform that will resonate with the open Web development community? Our answer is Orion."

By "open Web development," Milinkovich means devs using things like JavaScript, HTML, CSS, he told ADTmag. The early release of Orion, available for download here, provides web developers with an editor for those languages that runs in several browsers, including Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 and 9, Mozilla Firefox 3.6 and 4.0, Google Chrome, and Apple Safari 5. It features a client-side plugin architecture using HTML5, which allows tools written in JavaScript to be integrated into the Orion client. Milinkovich pointed to the JavaScript Code Quality Tool (JSLint) and the JavaScript code reformatter jsbeautify as examples of existing integrations. And it's integrated with the git version control system.  

The core of Orion is an almost entirely new code base, much of it written in JavaScript. But Orion's server-side is currently an OSGi-based Java app using Jetty as its web container. And communication with the client is accomplished through a RESTful interface.

"This is not Eclipse running in the browser," Milinkovich emphasized. "The user interface scenario is entirely Web. It implements the workflows required by Web developers building open Web applications, which are dramatically different from those implemented by existing desktop-based IDEs. It's not an IDE running in a single tab. The links work and can be shared, and you can open a file in a new tab. It's software development for the Web as an entirely Web experience."

The OrionHub is open now to the first 5,000 developers who sign-up. Milinkovich said that he expects additional slots to be added as the Orion community grows. The Orion server is also available for download for developers who want to install Orion on their own computers. 

Orion is a top-level project, currently in the pre-proposal phase. The code is licensed under the Eclipse Public License (EPL).

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].