Improving composition in browsers

Blog QuillSo a bunch of us at the newly opened up Flock HQ were discussing the Performancing extension today, wondering how we could both support and benefit from their work… It’s clear that we need to improve the quality of composition tools available in browsers, period. Doing this by elevating the experience and smoothing out the behavior of the Mozilla editor (which both Flock and Performancing use) seems like the way to go, creating value for the open source, Flock and Firefox communities.

As it is, Firefox ships with this editor built-in. Thunderbird uses it too, as does NVU (though I believe that they forked awhile back). You can imagine that refocused effort on this editor could potentially lead to an alternative to plain textarea that’s both stable and adequately featured (as opposed to hacking on an embedded solution).

So the thing is, how do we go about defining and building out the specs for the next generation Mozilla editor? How do we better collaborate with folks like Performancing to make this a reality?

As for Flock, well, this effort really needs to exist as a community-wide project. We’re all already pretty focused on other aspects of the browser and while making changes the editor are essential long term, it’s not in our immediate roadmap. Sure, Anthony makes incremental changes here and there (replacing the span tags, for example), but we just don’t have full time resources to allocate at the moment.

And that’s where the work that the Performancing community is doing comes in. Ideally if we can collaborate and coordinate on the needs we both have, we can begin to craft a list of user experience and development requirements to support our comingled goals of bringing blogging to Firefox and Flock users.

Ajaxian recently posted an Ajax Office Roundup that provides us some insights into how people are trying to use editing in browsers. The reality is, we don’t need Word for the web, especially when it comes to blogging, but we do need some established basics, like bolding, italics, blockquoting, linking and so on. And while those are already fairly well accounted for in the existing editor, we’ve got to look beyond formatting to natively supporting rich metadata in microformats and other forms of structured blogging.

I’ll be pinging the Performancing folks to see if they’re down for working together somehow. Maybe we start be cross-polinating each other’s forums.

After all, this is about choice and working on building awesome tools. This is what open source is all about. So hey now, here’s a quintessential opportunity for us to get some benefit and promotion for the work we’re doing anyway.

Author: Chris Messina

Head of West Coast Business Development at Republic. Ever-curious product designer and technologist. Hashtag inventor. Previously: (YC W18), Uber, Google.

2 thoughts on “Improving composition in browsers”

  1. i use performancing because it worked with my old blog software in the last few days i’ve switched to wordpress (after over 200 posts at my old site) so now it’ll work with every api as wordpress is so ubiquitous.

  2. Yeah, the mozilla editor widget is a bitch, which is why we ( ActiveState ) worked around this in Komodo by embedding Scintilla as a Mozilla plugin. The funny thing there is ( as Shane will tell you ) the plugin layer involves all sorts of weird voodoo, and 3 year old bugs that haven’t been fixed. Fun!

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