Open SourceEclipse Launches Orion: A New Web Browser Plugin

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The open source Eclipse Foundation is known for its namesake Eclipse IDE and its related ecosystem of projects and plugins, most of which are desktop based.

The modern world of Web applications and even Web development itself is moving online to the cloud, which is why Eclipse is now starting a new Web-based development effort called Orion.

“Orion is a brand new, browser-based open tool integration platform which is entirely focused on developing for the Web, in the Web,” Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation told “This is not Eclipse in a browser — it is a completely new codebase with a completely new metaphor for tool integration and workflow that matches the idioms of the Web rather than the desktop.”

Milinkovich noted that cloud computing, mobile Web development and technologies like JavaScript, HTML5, CSS are important drivers for the future of software development. He added that Orion is a recognition that the developer tools for these Web technologies need to be on the Web.

“Orion is essentially an effort to move software development to the Web as a Web experience,” Milinkovich said.

The idea of a development tool on the Web isn’t an entirely new idea. Mozilla launched an effort called Bespin in 2009 to build a Web-based development editor. Bespin has since been renamed to Skywriter and is still under development at Mozilla.

“Bespin, now called Skywriter, was certainly a first step in creating Web development tools but at this time there is no direct relationship,” Milinkovich said.

At this point, Milinkovich noted that Orion is focused on Web developers that want a simple, super quick editor for doing JavaScript development. He added that existing Web tools such as Firebug and JSLint can be integrated with Orion and the hope is that developers will create other integrations and expand the capabilities towards a more feature rich JavaScript environment.

“We would also expect other languages to be supported, like HTML, PHP and even Java,” Milinkovich said.

That said, Milinkovich stressed that these are still the early days for the effort and there is still a lot more work to be done.

As Orion is an Eclipse effort, the Web development tool will work with existing Eclipse plugins now.

“This is a new platform,” Milinkovich said. “We do expect that Orion will be able to run within an embedded browser inside of desktop Eclipse.”

Orion is currently available as a download from Eclipse. Orion will also soon be available as a hosted cloud service by way of an Orion demo service that the Eclipse Foundation will host.

“Starting next week we will send out private invitations to people that are interested in participating in Orion,” Milinkovich said. “Over time we will make it more accessible to anyone interested in using Orion as a service. In addition, we certainly expect many adopters to use Orion as the basis for cloud services that they offer, either as a new service, or as a development-focused complement to existing services.”

Milinkovich noted that the goal is to build a community around Orion. A key challenge at this early stage is to get more people involved, especially people with experience and expertise in Web development.

The future roadmap for Orion is still not yet established and is something that will be working on over the coming weeks and months as more people get involved.

“The goal is to have a project proposal in place by March, and a community-led roadmap by second quarter,” Milinkovich said. “In terms of milestones, the team is going to focus on doing 6 week milestone releases that incrementally build upon the feature set that has been released. As I said, we want to build a community so as other participants come on board I would expect the roadmap to change and evolve.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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