New Etherpad!

About 3 hours ago we updated the Mozilla Etherpad installation to a more current version. This has been in the works for almost a full year, and has finally come to fruition.

Here’s a short list of the cool features we’re getting with this upgrade:

  • More ports work. You can still connect to the old link, but the :9000 isn’t necessary anymore. The standard port 80 works just as well.
  • SSL Support! However you access the site, you’ll get redirected to This is very cool, especially for the “SSL Everywhere” folks. 🙂
  • “Team Site” functionality. This is huge, and easily the biggest new feature… people have been asking for something like this for quite a while. Now Mozilla is a pretty open organization, but the reality is there are still some things that can’t be publicly discussed right away. A good example is domain name registrations… people have a habit of swiping them out from under us if we discuss a new domain name before it’s registered.
  • Team Site Pads can be public or private, and can even have their own password, just for that one pad. Let’s say you’ve got a team pad, and you need to let someone not on your team access it… but only that one pad, not any others. Simply make it a public pad, but set a password on it. Your team members can still access it, and now anyone you give the shared password to can also!
  • Team Site Pads can be deleted! This is a common request due to accidental information leaks (passwords, etc). Sadly this doesn’t extend to purely public sites, but it’s still a nice step forward.

Within a couple hours of migrating to this (and on a Friday at 5pm), and despite a bug on the confirmation email preventing it from “just working”, we had 8 different team sites created for various groups… from apps to UX, jetpack to infra. I suspect we’ll see some cross-functional and community team sites eventually as well.

Sadly, there are some bugs still to be worked out, especially in the area of SSL certificates. I’ve created a wiki page, mostly dealing with features and bugs associated with the upgrade: Feel free to add to it!


On a side note: there’s been talk recently about Etherpad Lite, and it’s definitely something we’re considering. We didn’t go with it this time because 1) most of this work was already done by the time we knew about that (this has been in the works a long time), and 2) Etherpad Lite lacks some of the functionality we’re getting here… specifically the Team Sites. It’s in their TODO list though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re on Lite in the future.


Let us know how the new system works for you! We’d love to get some feedback on it.


– Jake

4 responses

  1. Tomer Cohen wrote on :

    Is it possible to change some of its color to give it more look and feel as ordinary Mozilla property?

    Also, I wish it could do import and export tasks directly on, so it will be able to fetch a document with the same name, and the export will save it back there. This way we could use etherpad as a whiteboard and publish result on a more visible website that also get indexed by search engines.

  2. Jake Maul wrote on :

    Etherpad does have support for different themes… I don’t know how complete it is, and as far as I know it’s a global setting, but we could try it. However the themes are just a bunch of javascript files, and as far as I can tell don’t have any significant effect on things like colors, fonts, or really anything that would be in a ‘style’ attribute.

    The theme we’re using is “default”. The other 2 provided ones are “micro” and “nano”. I’m guessing they just reduce the site of the interface (and maybe the default font size) to get more usable screen real-estate, but honestly I haven’t tried them… there is no “preview” like in WordPress.

    There are a bunch of CSS files that could be tweaked, outside of the theme. A good place to start would be some simple things like changing the color values for various elements. It might be possible to work up to using our custom font for the headers like other sites do. If someone was interested enough, they could send me some suggested RGB values for various elements, along with maybe some suitable CSS to load the font, and we could try it out.

    Setting up a dev instance isn’t entirely out of the question. However, Etherpad is notoriously difficult to work with… whatever dev was doing this would be supremely frustrated until they really learned Etherpad inside and out. They would need to be very patient, persistent, and have a lot of free time on their hands.

    I don’t envy anyone who would want to take on the task of making a full custom theme… ‘default’ is 81 javascript files, spread across at least a dozen directories, plus 19 CSS files elsewhere. Most of them wouldn’t need changed, but it’s definitely a major undertaking. Oh, and there’s no developer or theme designer documentation to help out. 🙂

    As for the import/export… it does have an import/export feature, but it currently only works with text and HTML files. There is a plugin system in place, so it might be possible to write a plugin that does what you’re looking for. This gets back to having a developer willing to do the time. 🙂

  3. Francois Marier wrote on :

    Out of curiosity: what version (or git branch) of Etherpad did you end up using?

    I’ve found the master branch to be a little broken/buggy so I was wondering what you were running in production.

  4. Jake Maul wrote on :

    @Francois: this is from the main branch actually, but it’s a few months old. We forked it around the end of April / beginning of May. It was around the time I submitted a pull request adding some RHEL-related stuff into the contrib/ directory, if you want to check it out. 🙂

    The actual build/deploy stuff is (or at least was) very buggy. It took quite a bit of trial-and-error to get it to compile and run properly. And the run scripts are not good for RHEL. After that though, it’s been fairly stable. There are a few annoyances, but (obviously) nothing that’s a complete show-stopper for us.