First of all, thanks to everyone who’s responded so far to my statement about Venkman dying yesterday. I’ve had a few thoughts and a few communications since then, and I thought I’d try to answer them here.
Venkman versus Firebug
The most important question I’ve gotten so far is “Well, what does Venkman have that Firebug doesn’t?” As I said in comments, I don’t know, because I have almost never used Firebug. Apparently, several years ago, a few people talked about it (search results courtesy of Google.com). For example:
- “Goodbye Venkman, Hello Firebug” by Joe Hewitt, who created Firebug
- “Firebug and Firefox” by Shawn Wilsher, who didn’t seem to get a clear answer
- A few blog posts on Firebug by Lei Sun, with a couple references to Venkman
- “Last Combat: Venkman vs Firebug”… I don’t know where this came from. Aside from being useless for developers, it’s pretty silly.
Since my blog isn’t really a good place to collect this data, I figured I’d start a comparison wiki page where we can collect the features of each. Firebug and Venkman fans, please, help me out with some facts – log in and write them down!
On another note, the question itself bothers me a bit. Eight years ago, you could ask “What does Macintosh do that Windows doesn’t?” We were in a monoculture back then (and still are). You could ask “What does Mozilla do that Internet Explorer doesn’t?” about eight years ago, too. Again, a monoculture existed then.
When you have at least two complete, healthy projects using the same interfaces, you’re probably doing something right. The W3C works like this: few specifications reach Proposed Recommendation status without two independent complete implementations. The spec may have bugs, and the implementations certainly will… but it provides a level of confidence that the spec is usable.
Now, someone might write a JS debugger UI independent of both Firebug and Venkman, using jsd2… and that’s great. The question bothers me, and I thought I was answering it above… I can’t put my finger on what it is that bothers me right now, but it’s a gut feeling.
The Venkman community: diehards
The second thing I notice from replies so far is that there are a few enthusiasts still out there. 🙂 It’s nice to know, and it’s appreciated. No one’s committed to working on a rewrite yet (not surprising – it’s a huge task). I certainly haven’t figured out high-level details of a rewrite project yet. My goal yesterday was to start the conversation, but to move on, I need somewhere I and others can at least white-board a bit.
I don’t even have a viable code name for the rewrite yet. (The best I’ve come up with so far is “Spengler”.) I’m open to suggestions – maybe WikiMo, maybe somewhere else.
The only thing I know we need and don’t have right now is a good “dockable XUL panels” implementation. Neil Deakin filed bug 554926 for this. This is not what I would call a “good first bug” by any means, but I suspect a lot of editor applications would love having this. (Komodo Edit, my Verbosio project, BlueGriffon, etc.) I envision using XUL panel elements to replace the floating windows Venkman currently provides. Panels in general could use a lot of help – see XUL:Panel_Improvements for details. I’m sure Neil would welcome patches.
I don’t know yet. It’s too soon for me to call anything like a “Town Hall” for Venkman replacement efforts. I’m still trying to identify people willing to actively contribute time and talent. If it were me and Gijs alone, forget about it arriving in the next three years. We need help if it’s going to get done.