Born from Firefox

Developers and startup founders use the Mozilla toolkits to build apps for diverse uses including music and video playing.

Clayton Stark is the vice-president of engineering for Flock. "Other options were considered, yes, but Mozilla is the premiere provider of a truly open and free, cross-platform toolkit," he says. "Building our app from scratch would negate all the benefits of the work being done to refine and augment both the technology and the community that keeps it rolling forward."

The developers of Celtx chose to build with XULRunner because of this toolkit's cross-platform nature. Mac computers are used extensively throughout the motion picture and media industry, as well as Linux systems for computer animation. So the Celtx team wanted their application to run identically on all three platforms.

"We considered using platform-specific technologies, but didn't like the prospect of developing separate code bases for each platform," says Dawson. Additionally, because Celtx was designed to be a semantic web application, he adds: "We wanted to ensure that Celtx was built upon semantic web technologies. The XUL runtime environment provides us this with its support for RDF."

Another big reason why the Mozilla toolkits are attractive to these developers is that they are easy to immediately start using if one has the know-how for writing JavaScript, COM/C++ or XML code. For example, a person who designs web sites could probably use XULRunner to quickly throw together a user interface for an application.

"With just a little web developer skill, you're coding a desktop application that is 'web' from the get-go," says Lord. "When you code on XULRunner, you get everything Firefox is today and will be tomorrow, and you get everything that the Mozilla stack is today and will be tomorrow. That's a tremendous platform -- very broad and in some cases very deep, too."

This ease-of-development comes with a caveat, however. Nick Nassar, a co-founder and developer of Miro, says XULRunner allowed him and his team to create a rich user interface, but "it's slow and less flexible. Sometimes, things that are advantages in one context, like a cross-platform UI, can be disadvantages for another."

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Howard Wen

LinuxWorld

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