“Never been done before on The Web” doesn’t mean anything

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Mozilla released this thing called Bespin. It’s a web-based text editor, rendered with Canvas. As part of the release, Mozilla put out a screencast introducing the product.

The wisdom of creating yet another text editor — much less one inside the browser — aside, the one thing I wanted to point out was that in the video, the authors keep mentioning that this feature or that feature “has never been done before on the web.”

Who cares? Unlike most web “applications”, you’re not in uncharted territory anymore. The text editor is an absolutely ancient type of computer program — and one which has not really moved to the web at all so far. When you write a web-based text editor, not just competing against other in-browser offerings developed in the last three years, you’re competing against 40+ years of history!

I’m very interested in the possibilities that Bespin presents — especially since they’re doing everything in canvas, which frees them from the absolutely sinful state of the text editing most browsers provide natively. But come on guys, recognize your market. “On the web” isn’t a feature in and of itself. If you want browser-based apps to be thought of as playing on the same field as desktop apps that’s how you have to market them.

Drop this “never been done before on the web” song and start singing about how your application has all the features of other text editors plus some that are (actually) new and unique features.


  1. Bradford Chang replied on February 19th, 2009:

    I had this exact same discussion with a friend of mine; I have yet to come up with a compelling reason to want to write anything using a web-based tool over a native application. I see Bespin as nothing more than a proof of concept from Mozilla, and I’m sure other applications of this type of technology will come of it. As for the tool itself, however, I’m not so sure if it will find much of an audience.