Glitch: Web Development For the Rest Of Us
March 27, 2017 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Glitch (née Gomix, née Hyperdev) is a new service/community from Fog Creek Software "where anybody can build the app of their dreams."

Glitch gives you a little web server, which lets you use javascript to write whatever kind of web-ish service you want. It gives you a browser-based text editor that lets you work on code with remote collaborators, Google Docs-style, along with a bunch of handy starting points, all to address the complaint that web development's gotten too hard.

Once you learn to code, you can use Glitch to write games, host blogs, or do serious stuff like connecting Amazon Alexa to a vast trove of Star Wars knowledge.

Glitch is made by Fog Creek Software (Trello, Stack Overflow, FogBugz) whose new CEO is user number 508, Metafilter's Own Anil Dash. Anil has promised not to screw Glitch up.

Fog Creek obtained their latest's product's name from their friends at Slack, whose much-mourned and -beloved previous project was a weird game about giants. (Slack is also the current employer of User Number One.)
posted by Sokka shot first (48 comments total) 101 users marked this as a favorite
 
what a weird way for the website Glitch dot com to turn out. I don't know how to feel about this.
posted by boo_radley at 9:33 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


It feel a little bit like codepen meets geocities, things relevant and dear to me. So, more like this, please.
posted by potch at 9:39 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


It's struck me as weird for a long time that one of the hardest parts about learning this stuff now is that it's actually gotten harder to find a reliable place to stick a simple website since the Geocities days. So, yeah. I'm super excited.
posted by Sequence at 9:42 AM on March 27 [7 favorites]


Hopefully I kept the post neutral enough, but in case it wasn't obvious, I think this service is insanely fucking cool.

The original name "hyperdev" was meant to recall HyperCard, the late, great Macintosh software playground that spawned a million address books, games, and oh and also the original Myst was written in it. "Hyperdev" would have been a terrible product name for other reasons, but I think the goal of a low-overhead, high-utility programming tool is unbelievably important and admirable and it speaks very well of Fog Creek's overall ambitions that they're thinking of Hypercard.

And it's fucking shockingly easy to use. The code is re-deployed as you write it, so you don't have to do anything to see your changes reflected in the project. It's just there. And if your project outgrows Glitch, it's apparently easy to export to Github and transition to "real" hosting.

I don't know shit about web programming, and I was still able to write a little page that lets writers who've submitted their work to my little science fiction zine query an AirTable database to check submission status. I cannot overstate how completely impossible for me this would have been before Glitch. I'm so excited to see where it goes.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:50 AM on March 27 [30 favorites]


what a weird way for the website Glitch dot com to turn out. I don't know how to feel about this.

We're gonna have the same conversation in ten years about how flickr dot com is now a vintage fluorescent lighting retailer.
posted by cortex at 9:50 AM on March 27 [42 favorites]


"Whether it's for your pool, fishtank, or A/C unit, we've got you covered with all the best filter reviews, ranked by meta score-- in glorious 6K VR, fresh for 2027"
posted by gwint at 9:55 AM on March 27 [18 favorites]


Back on topic, I think that a bunch of companies have realized that the Javascript stack has become a pain to deploy, especially for just playing around, so I'm glad to see experiments trying to make that process easier. Codepen just launched Projects which is similar, and Zeit has Now, geared more towards existing devs.
posted by gwint at 10:07 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


user number 508

Glitch does have a nice professional white background.

ok, I'm done now
posted by gwint at 10:10 AM on March 27 [8 favorites]


"It feel a little bit like codepen meets geocities, things relevant and dear to me."
steals marketing slogan...

"And it's fucking shockingly easy to use. "
steals additional marketing slogan...

Thanks for the kind words, all! MeFites will definitely get the era of the Internet that inspired us. We've got a lot more planned, but even if Glitch is just the place that people use to put their little creative web projects, that alone would be worth it for us. :)

I did literally change the /about page on the site to a professional white background, bwa ha ha ha
posted by anildash at 10:20 AM on March 27 [51 favorites]


The code is re-deployed as you write it, so you don't have to do anything to see your changes reflected in the project.

I feel like I should point out that the reason most developers don't do this is not that it's some huge technical challenge. It's just a really bad idea for any non-trivial project.

For Glitch, it's probably the right thing to do.
posted by GuyZero at 10:22 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


It's just a really bad idea for any non-trivial project.

Oh, there's a preference (the only preference!) to turn that off, for people doing bigger projects.
posted by anildash at 10:24 AM on March 27 [7 favorites]


It's gonna turn out like wordpress, isn't it? Where it becomes a byword for awful gloopy code that nevertheless functions to do things, sometimes good things and somethings things that sane folks shouldn't do

like lolthis
posted by hleehowon at 10:25 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


(the only preference!)

Some day you'll look back fondly at these simpler times, Anil.

You'll look back from among your forest of configuration options, the checkboxes and radio buttons, the maze of hidden beta flags and think, man, remember back when this was all open space? Good times.
posted by GuyZero at 10:28 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


I feel that this is all leading up to me saying:

chrome://flags/ wasn't built in a day

*bows to applause*
posted by GuyZero at 10:30 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


lotta buzzkills itt
posted by Sokka shot first at 10:37 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Wow, um, this looks....really cool. I can't wait to have some time to play around with this soon.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:37 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


So, web development = app development? Can a guy just build a website with this?
posted by Thorzdad at 10:39 AM on March 27


The original name "hyperdev" was meant to recall HyperCard
I was gonna say, there’s something about those fat drop shadow buttons that’s very reminiscent of Hypercard and Bill Atkinson’s aesthetic. If you had to translate that late 1980s, Susan Kare-meets-Memphis look into a modern application, Glitch is pretty close.
posted by migurski at 10:48 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Neat! Thanks!
posted by saulgoodman at 10:54 AM on March 27


You'll look back from among your forest of configuration options, the checkboxes and radio buttons, the maze of hidden beta flags and think, man, remember back when this was all open space? Good times.

They say that, late at night when the moon is shining full on the crowded pony stables, you can still hear the ghostly wail of pb refusing to add an extra toggle to the Prefs page.
posted by cortex at 10:56 AM on March 27 [21 favorites]


Can a guy just build a website with this

Yes!
posted by Sokka shot first at 11:02 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


1. Instead of requiring a new username and password, it allowed me to sign in with Facebook or GitHub. I know this is a controversial feature for some sites but I love that so much. Death to password proliferation! (Though logging in with my Google account would have been nice.)

2. As soon as I logged in I saw a project that does offline apps with Service Workers, something I've been meaning to learn about. Awesome.
posted by Tehhund at 11:32 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Anything that counters the ever more lunatic complexity involved in developing for the browser is good. It's no wonder nobody is going into computer science. One look at Javascript would put anyone off.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:46 AM on March 27 [5 favorites]


where are the sleeping giants
posted by Going To Maine at 11:58 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I feel like I should point out that the reason most developers don't do this is not that it's some huge technical challenge. It's just a really bad idea for any non-trivial project.

Yeah, although normally you'd have something like that only it would be a local dev server pointing at your source. In this case given the target audience/approach I can see why they give an option for treating your prod server like your local dev server for simplicity.

Although I've worked for at least one very popular website where we occasionally did stuff not too far from that in the earlier days....
posted by thefoxgod at 12:05 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


anildash: "It's just a really bad idea for any non-trivial project.

Oh, there's a preference (the only preference!) to turn that off, for people doing bigger projects.
"

Looks awesome. Also, I still owe you for that initial GMail invite, back in the day.

I think a friend and I are going to look at it for a couple of cheesy little projects we have been kicking around. We are both admin types, so we can't code for crap.
posted by Samizdata at 12:12 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


it speaks very well of Fog Creek's overall ambitions that they're thinking of Hypercard

Yes, this is fantastic. Hypercard was my first programming language/platform, when I was a kid. "Hypercard for the modern Web" is an idea that immediately has my attention.
posted by biogeo at 1:34 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Github was revolutionary in how it let people share their projects and their code, but often when I go to grab something from gists or a full github project, the install process is a giant pain on account of dependencies and replicating the author's exact environment, etc.

I love that Glitch is turnkey and you just click a button to replicate and start tweaking live code that is already running. They cut out such a huge pain point, I can't wait to start seeing serious projects I want to use/reuse show up there.
posted by mathowie at 1:49 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Anyone yearning for HyperCard should check out spiritual descendant LiveCode.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:45 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Weaponized democratized JavaScript.
posted by blue_beetle at 3:27 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


One look at Javascript would put anyone off.

Maybe it's cause I don't know any other programming languages but I kinda love JavaScript. This looks fucking awesome.
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:04 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


"No April Fools Jokes. We plan to be mildly funny and confusing every other day of the year, instead."

YES!
This! Thank you!
Can we all just stop doing Dumb internet prank day!

I'm totally in!
(I mean for all the other good reasons too, but .. yeah mainly for the no April Fools)
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:05 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Minor correction: Stack Overflow isn't part of Fog Creek Software, it's its own thing.
posted by Aleyn at 4:12 PM on March 27


Yeah, to be clear, Trello & Stack Overflow spun out into independent companies years ago (though FogBugz is still proudly one of our offerings!). Trello recently sold to Atlassian and Stack Overflow is thriving (I am on the board of Stack Overflow, while Joel Spolsky is CEO of SO and on the board of Fog Creek).
posted by anildash at 4:28 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


That Hypercard philosophy and visual aesthetic sucked me right in. As a CS guy who drifted off into law and hasn't kept up with the insanity and confusion of modern web development/deployment, this is very welcome. Looking forward to getting back into hobbyist programming and getting some personal projects off the ground.
posted by naju at 4:48 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Interesting fact: a little birdie told me that some of the R&D folks at Apple when they got ahold of the iPad and looked at it, basically immediately wanted a HyperCard.

It didn't happen.
posted by hleehowon at 4:49 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


I for one will be utilizing this as a part of of a Girls Who Code club. It'll be awesome not to have to setup an environment and allow collaborative edits. Thanks Anil.
posted by pyro979 at 6:06 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


I was skeptical because of (a) the SPA interface which requires me to enable JS and (b) the hosting/deployment stuff is behind the scenes rather than letting the user own it, but the pitch is right on: "remember how you'd find something cool on the internet, view source, and just start doing it yourself?" So I tried it.

Once you get into the workspace it's basically frictionless. I was able to resurrect a dead project and get it humming along on a public URL in an hour. Without creating a user account!

My main complaint is that you need either a github or facebook account to permanently save your projects. But I can see where this could go -- sort of making javascript a casual creative mode for a community in the way photoshop democratized image manipulation (or what Vine did for cellphone video) -- so maybe it's worth finally getting a github account.

If you've never touched javascript before, give this is a shot. It's impressive. A lot of work has been done to just invite you right in.
posted by postcommunism at 6:54 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I object because this isn’t python.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:58 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


I feel like I should point out that the reason most developers don't do this is not that it's some huge technical challenge. It's just a really bad idea for any non-trivial project.

This is true for networked and especially internet-exposed systems, sure, but the funny thing is that we don't even do this with code that we develop locally, even though we could. Decades ago, before SysV was even a thing, we had computers that could insert and update code into the currently running environment without process or system restarts, and that would drop into a debugger in the event that an unhandled error condition was encountered, giving the user the opportunity to either restore the program to working condition or to save their state, using the aforementioned hot code updating. Worse Is Better turned out to be the more adaptive strategy at the time, and it allowed general purpose computing to proliferate, but it took from us a vision of what creating software could be like, since that vision put too much burden on the creator of the platform for that software.

I don't think the constraints on software are the same now as they were in the 70s and 80s, and so part of what I think is cool about Glitch is that it's exploring what it looks like if, actually, Better Is Better, and in a format that will appeal to a lot of people who don't really have any cause to just take up developing in Common Lisp or Clojure on a whim. It's not the first, obviously, but it seems to get the details right in a way that makes it really inviting (not in the least by having someone like Jenn Schiffer driving the culture of the community), so I'm rooting for it.
posted by invitapriore at 10:57 PM on March 27 [5 favorites]


> I feel like I should point out that the reason most developers don't do this is not that it's some huge technical challenge. It's just a really bad idea for any non-trivial project.

Sorry, but [citation needed]. I know real-time-compilation (and its friend, compile-on-save) is a scary "IDE doing IDE things" feature, but for product development and mucking about with business logic, automatically compiling and then automagically running unit tests that apply to the lines of code you just touched is great tool for having to fight dragons in an unfamiliar legacy codebase who's original authors are long gone. It's not so great if the tools suck and the entire project is needlessly recompiled every time from scratch, but real-time-compilation isn't a hammer for every nail that needs compiling. (I'd argue that's a tooling issue and that it only applies to some developers.)

Anyway, back to this wonderful project at Glitch.com. I'm compelled to mention Jsfiddle's been around for seven some years, not to undermine Glitch.com, but to say how much attention to user experience plus some whimsy really adds to the experience. Github connectivity is really neat, though I wonder if there's a planned glitch -> github -> hosting service for "serious" apps, and I also wonder how Glitch.com plans to make money.

But for now, it's a really fun looking site! :D

(Side note - Jsfiddle's collaborative edit mode has a really nifty feature to see the other person's mouse pointer and where they're clicking and I think that would add a lot to the Glitch.com collaborative editing experience.)
posted by fragmede at 10:01 AM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Jsfiddle's been around for seven some years, not to undermine Glitch.com, but to say how much attention to user experience plus some whimsy really adds to the experience.

Yeah but it has such an annoying name. "Oh look I made a fiddle for that" die die die
posted by thelonius at 10:17 AM on March 28


I know real-time-compilation (and its friend, compile-on-save) is a scary "IDE doing IDE things" feature, but for product development and mucking about with business logic, automatically compiling and then automagically running unit tests that apply to the lines of code you just touched is great tool for having to fight dragons in an unfamiliar legacy codebase who's original authors are long gone.

I'm not talking about real-time compilation, I'm talking about pushing every compiled change automatically to production. Automatic recompilation is fine and automatic unit test execution is also fine assuming you have the horsepower to make it fast.

At any rate, people seem oddly enthusiastic to pull-quote the first part of my comment and completely ignore the second part: "For Glitch, it's probably the right thing to do."

Glitch seems like it is for people learning, fun tools, remixes but probably not several nines of uptime although I'm sure they'll do a fine job at keeping it up. And as Anil himself says: "Oh, there's a preference (the only preference!) to turn that off, for people doing bigger projects." Which is exactly the right thing to do and is the kind of thing where it's very defensible to have the dreaded configuration option.

I have no desire to make new developers go back to the dark days of trying to upload PHP scripts via cPanel. My only comment is that automatically making every change live instantly is a very sharp double-edged knife that has pros and cons. For people learning it will make life much easier. If you expect to host a tool that will have hundreds of users using it all the time, don't do that.
posted by GuyZero at 11:11 AM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I can't view it (not even the instructions pages) on an android browser... I just see a blank white page. Is it just me?
posted by Speculatist at 11:19 AM on March 28


I also wonder how Glitch.com plans to make money

We have a thing called Glitch For Your API which right now is mostly free tools, but also has some paid options, for companies that have an API and want to help developers use it. Glitch lets them offer free sample apps (and live assistance) to developers who are trying out an API, and we think that'll be really valuable all around, so we're adding paid features there that should sustain the whole community. I expect at some point we'll start to have a way to charge people who want to use a ton of storage or computing power or bandwidth, too.

Jsfiddle's been around for seven some years

I think Jsfiddle (and CodePen, and other tools) are awesome, and obviously we learned a lot from them. But I agree with your point — the design decisions we've made and the focus on community really seem to be why people have told us they're excited about Glitch. Of course, another obvious difference is Glitch is running a full Node stack, not just a front-end playground, but we're seeing people who like Glitch's ability to remix projects and collaborate even on relatively simple static sites.

I can't view it (not even the instructions pages) on an android browser... I just see a blank white page. Is it just me?
Hmm! We specifically test for compatibility with major mobile OSes/browsers, so it should work. But Android browser support is notoriously buggy. If you're still stuck, please do hop into the support forum & we'll help you out.
posted by anildash at 12:10 PM on March 28 [6 favorites]


Is this the right place to suggest the operators to submit glitch.me to mozilla's Public Suffix List? :-P. It apparently prevents 'privacy-damaging "supercookies" being set for high-level domain name suffixes'. The list already includes similar providers like github.io and duckdns.org.
posted by sourcejedi at 12:18 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


Anil, I'm curious whether you have any noodly thoughts about Glitch vis-a-vis Jupyter notebooks -- inspiration, integration, what have you.

-Sumana Harihareswara, Fog Creek employee # .... 6? 7? more than a decade ago -- ask Liz or the other old-timers about the ten-year-old promo video for FogBugz's initial SaaS offering if you haven't seen it already! Probably funny to see your colleagues earnestly explaining why "we host it for you" is a useful feature.
posted by brainwane at 1:00 PM on March 28 [4 favorites]


I realized today this is what I always wished Yahoo pipes had been. I never was able to make pipes do what I want, but this is perfect.

Hello, customized RSS feeds I don't have to host on the machine in my basement.
posted by stobor at 9:21 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]


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