Eclipse Orion Interview

Eclipse Orion: The New IDE Paradigm

Jessica Thornsby

The vision is to move software development to the web as a web experience.

Earlier this month, Mike Milinkovich announced a “brand new adventure for Eclipse;” a new,
browser-based open tool integration platform focusing on web
development. Although Orion is in the pre-proposal stage, the
project has already captured the community’s imagination, with
Gartner blogging that Orion could become “Eclipse
the next generation
,” if the community gets behind this
project. JAXenter caught up with Eclipse Platform UI lead Boris
Bokowski, to find out more about this new project……

JAXenter: What is the Orion project?

Boris Bokowski: Orion’s goal is to become an
open tool integration platform for web-based software development.
The vision is to move software development to the web as a web
experience, as opposed to just cloning the desktop IDE experience
in a browser. For now, Orion is a code contribution to the Eclipse
e4 incubator by IBM. With other interested participants, we are
planning to start a proper project within the next few

JAXenter: What are the benefits of bringing the
development infrastructure to the web?

Boris Bokowski: More and more software and
infrastructure is moving to the web and adopting web technologies.
The same reasons apply to software development tooling:

  • zero install on the client
  • lower TCO
  • scalable computing power
  • simple connectivity — links
  • trivial update mechanism (i.e. refresh the page)
  • powerful rendering engine — browsers
  • very large and active community

JAXenter: What is the current status of the

Boris Bokowski: The current code base has been
developed by a handful of developers over a few months. Orion has a
fast and scalable code editor that runs on all major desktop
browsers. There is a way to navigate files and folders and to
search, and work has begun to integrate with Git. For the debugger
part, the plan is to integrate well with Firebug and/or WebKit

JAXenter: A web-based IDE was originally
announced as part of the e4 effort. How do these early
announcements relate to what is currently available in the Orion

Boris Bokowski: At EclipseCon 2008, almost
three years ago, we demoed a prototype of a web-based Eclipse. We
decided back then that we were too early and did not continue
working on the prototype. The Orion code base is a completely new
implementation, focused on web technologies and principles. The
idea is to make the web itself the development environment, instead
of trying to bring existing desktop IDE concepts to the

JAXenter: Which technologies are running behind
the scenes of the Orion project?

Boris Bokowski: To realize our vision of
embracing the web, the important technologies will be RESTful HTTP,
HTML, JavaScript, CSS, JSON, Atom, OpenID, OAuth, etc. Our goal is
to enable linking between Orion and other web-based tools such as
bug tracking systems like Bugzilla, build monitoring tools like
Hudson, code review tools like Gerrit, versioning repositories like
GitHub, and so on. By comparison, the concrete technologies used
for our current implementation are not as important to us, but
since you asked, we used pure HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Dojo on
the client, and Java with Equinox, Jetty, and JGit on the

JAXenter: Orion is not based on the old Eclipse
codebase, so how does the Orion code relate to the “old” Eclipse
platform code and the other existing Eclipse projects?

Boris Bokowski: We are using code from the
Eclipse Runtime project for our server. On the client side, we are
working on UI components that are fully web based. To the extent
possible, we want to make it possible to use these web UI
components in the existing desktop Eclipse, for example as views or
editors. But the codebases will be separate. We are only starting
with Orion, and are at a very early stage. The desktop Eclipse IDE
is not going to go away, and is going to be actively developed and
maintained for many years to come.

JAXenter: Is Orion limited to providing a
development infrastructure, or is it conceivable to use the Orion
code for other purposes, in a similar way the Eclipse code was used
for RCP and Runtime Projects?

Boris Bokowski: This is definitely conceivable,
but not our current focus. We will definitely be thinking about
this constantly as we are developing Orion further.

JAXenter: What are the next steps for

Boris Bokowski: We are planning a summit in
Ottawa in the beginning of March, to bring interested committers
from various companies together for a face to face kick-off
meeting. The goal of the meeting is to let those who participate
set the direction for Orion, and produce a formal project proposal
for Orion. In parallel, we will be improving the current code base
based on our own needs, since we are already self-hosting – i.e.
using Orion itself to work on the client side of Orion.

We are also planning to make a hosted version of Orion available
at so that those who would like to try it can do so
with minimal effort. There is going to be a period where this will
be a beta program and by invitation only, but we hope to be able to
open a demo server for anybody within the next few months.

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