Bespin is now Mozilla Skywriter, moves to GitHub

Havi Hoffman

Today, we’re announcing that the Mozilla Labs project codenamed “Bespin” is now called Mozilla Skywriter. It remains a Labs experiment to see how great coding in the browser can be by making a powerful, customizable HTML5 text editor. We’re also announcing a move to GitHub.

We’ve had many compliments and complaints about the “Bespin” codename ever since we first introduced the project. You can’t please everyone, especially when it comes to naming. The Bespin codename, derived from the awesome “cloud city” in The Empire Strikes Back, was a fun name to use for an editor that enables “coding in the cloud”.

Since the initial release in February 2009, the Bespin has come a long way. The project has changed focus and expanded its reach. The “Bespin Embedded” releases have been showing up more and more including several entries in the recent “Node Knockout” competition: Nodify, Inflatable Churn, and Wrath. Other recent development environments on the web have also chosen to use Bespin, including ShiftEdit, jGate and Mozilla’s own Add-On Builder (aka FlightDeck).

As we approach a 1.0 release, it was clear that it was time to shed Bespin’s code name and give it a real, lasting project name. We’re happy to announce that that name is Mozilla Skywriter. I think that Mozilla Skywriter fits the “coding in the cloud” theme very well indeed.

Skywriter is becoming an end-to-end JavaScript-based system. Camilo Aguilar, a new contributor to the project, has been working on porting “dryice”, our build tool, to node.js. Once that’s done, we’ll be creating a XULRunner-based desktop version of Skywriter and a new customizable server version based on node.js. It’s actually pretty amazing how many different uses for our editor we’ll be able to target with a single codebase.

Many people who have worked on Skywriter have expressed a desire to fork it on GitHub. There have been unofficial mirrors and plenty of people installing Mercurial just to use Bespin. In order to make things easier for our community, we’re moving the official repository for Skywriter over to GitHub: http://github.com/mozilla/skywriter.

A note about the repositories: that shiny new repository holds the “all JavaScript” version of Skywriter. As I write this, that repository needs a lot of work (in other words, it’s broken!). All of the “bespin” names have changed to “skywriter” and the build tooling is still in the process of being rebuilt. The existing bespinclient repository remains available for people wanting to work with something that works today. That repository is effectively a branch of the code prior to the start of the JavaScript work. For the most part, we should be able to migrate changes made to that repository over to the new Skywriter repository pretty easily. We’re just changing the tooling to JavaScript, we’re not really changing Bespin’s core plugins at all.

One final note about the Bespin to Skywriter transition: the Bespin name appears in many places and it will take some time to fully migrate over. The Mozilla Skywriter home page will always have up to date links to project resources and is the best place to look if you’re having trouble finding something.

You can follow the Skywriter project (MozSkywriter) on Twitter and ask us questions in #skywriter on irc.mozilla.org.

Finally, a big thanks to Julian Viereck who is off to university in Zürich. Julian has been a huge help to the Skywriter project since the beginning and we wish him good luck in the coming years!

Kevin Dangoor on behalf of the Mozilla Skywriter team