Google's acquisition of Writely last week got me thinking again. For those of you who've been living under a rock for the past year, Writely is an AJAX-based word processor built on ASP.NET. It's not as fully functional as Word and it has some quirks. That said, like the talking dog, it may not talk well, but it talks.
The acquisition got me thinking again about development tools and the potential of creating a very interesting, lightweight, modular development tool delivered over the Web. Such a product would be very different from the mainstream IDEs in use today -- Microsoft, Macromedia, Borland, Eclipse, Powerbuilder -- you name the IDE, and it's probably a client app with a substantial client footprint and lots of bells and whistles.
Everybody's doing it, so clearly, this is the right way to build IDEs, right? Nobody's using Writely, and even if they were, an AJAX-based word processor isn't a development tool – developers need the power of a full client application.
The technology may not be there, but overcoming the delivery challenges created by what I'll call the "blow 640MB onto a CD and install it with setup.exe" mentality is huge. When was the last time you bought (with your own money) an app that required a CD for installation? Wouldn't you rather have just gone to some URI? Why are IDEs immune?
All the IDE creators seem to be happily building a better mousetrap. But are the mice taken care of? Are we now looking at what to do about raccoons? If so, who’s building the raccoon trap?