Thursday, June 4, 2009

Would a Wave-based IDE be feasible

Google recently announced "Google Wave," a project that they've been working on for the past two years, and which is set to revolutionize online communication as we know it.  When it was announced, they mentioned that the whole thing was built using Google's Web Toolkit.  I started looking into the toolkit and noticed that they also have something called the Google App Engine, which is a framework and service that lets you host your applications and data "in the cloud" on Google's servers.

Pondering on these various Internet technologies, I got to wondering:  Would it be possible to host the entire development process online?  If someone could create a Wave-based code infrastructure, we could have an online IDE:
  • Each Java code file could be a Wave, which could be edited collaboratively--by multiple users at the same time, if necessary (hello Extreme Programming!).  
  • A spell-check-like plugin could be created to provide real-time compiler feedback and intellisense.  
  • A bot could be granted access to the code tree in order to compile and deploy changes to a cloud-based service in real-time, provide debugging services, and even run unit tests.
  • Developers could "check out" the waves into their own framework instance, and once a set of changes is ready, they could be merged into the "stable" set of Waves.
  • Waves have a built-in, extremely powerful version control system built in already; you can visually and immediately step back to each point in a file's revision history to watch its evolution.
  • The Google folks already showed how useful Waves can be in bug management; bugs and tasks could be handled and passed around within the same Wave framework.  They could probably even be linked to the code changes that were made to fix them (and vice versa), for future reference.
  • A plugin similar to the bug management one could be used to tag a spot in code for colleague review.  A Wave thus tagged would appear in the colleague's inbox, where they could see the changes made in the context of the entire Java file.  They could start a thread inline in the code to ask questions and make suggestions, which would all be immediately visible to the original programmer.  They could even have an entire chat session right there, inline with the code!  Both the original programmer and the colleague could make and see the changes in real-time.  Once the colleague is satisfied, they could use the plugin to sign off on the changes.
  • Documentation (both internal and external) could also be managed by the same system. Code for a particular feature could be linked to that feature's documentation.
And perhaps the best part about the whole thing is that developers don't even need to install anything on their computers.  They can log in from any web-enabled computer, anywhere, and all the same capabilities are at their fingertips.  With Wave, Google has laid the foundation for a new generation of Internet technologies.  I'm excited to see the many ways that this sort of technology will be leveraged in the years to come.

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