Gears as a prototype platform

So the blog has been silent for a week.  I was hoping to not let that happen so early on, but I only have so much free time, and I have to divide it between getting things done and talking about getting things done. So here’s the scoop on what I’ve been working on:

I’ve been researching a lot of different areas to at least get some goals and rudimentary plans together.  In general, I’ve been trying to find all of the areas that can be used in some way to prototype the behavior I’m looking for.  The main code bases that I’m looking into are Gears and Webkit.  I’ve also been spending a lot of time with HTML5 and SVG.  At this point, I’m just a little overwhelmed.  The scope is obviously huge and I’m not sure where to start, but I think I’ve got some good ideas.

The First Step

As only one guy for now, I just want to get the minimum effort going that is required to get the project off of the ground.  I think the easiest way to start is to begin with javascript language improvements.  The easiest way to begin that is to build a translator.  So here’s the plan: I’m mostly a Java/JavaScript programmer and the easiest tool for me to use is ANTLR. It’s extremely fast to build grammars with and I think translating to existing JavaScript a la GWT will be a very fast approach.  Aspects of the new javascript such as actor style concurrency can be simulated using the Gears worker pool.

At first, I will just translate on the server, but the next step can be to create a new Gears module that will perform the translation on the client.  When a good working model is established the next steps can be decided from there.

Future steps

At some point in the future, a visual component of the plugin will be required.  Gears has nothing of the kind right now.  This will be a much bigger challenge than just having another language runtime.

While I don’t want to just settle for what is available, I do think that building off of existing technologies is much more realistic than starting completely from scratch.  I think that SVG could be a very good building block for the next evolution of the open web.  HMTL5 is currently planning on directly including it, so its support should increase dramatically over the coming months.  What we need is a better way of leveraging it.  sXBL is a start at componentization, but I think we need a more cohesive approach.

Starting from scratch would be extremely silly.  At the moment, I think that webkit has a very good base. It’s been proposed half-jokingly before, but I am saying non-jokingly now – I think some form of webkit as a plugin could work.  That is for a later date, though…


I don’t really expect anyone to pour time into some crazy scheme with no code to show for it yet, but if are interested and want to help, check out the group.  When I scrape some code together I’ll start a google code project.


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