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Yo dawg, we herd you like webapps...
February 24, 2009 9:19 PM   Subscribe

Software startup 280 North today announced Atlas: a rich, web-based environment for developing Mac-like web applications.

The company garnered praise last year when they released web-based slideshow app 280 Slides, which offers powerful features in an oddly familiar motif.

The similarities are more than skin deep, for 280 Slides, though a polished and capable product in its own right, is also a showpiece for even more ambitious projects: a programming language and open-source framework that allow developers to write cross-platform applications for the web (nearly) the same way they would for the Mac.

Atlas, then, is a place to put it all together—an online Xcode for Mac-style web development.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism (34 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Guh, all the 280-related links seem to be down, most likely due to the Daring Fireball effect.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 9:21 PM on February 24, 2009


Might want to plan their startup product announcement with more than a startup server in the future.
posted by netbros at 9:27 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Link to the screencast. I was somewhat dubious about their approach in the beginning, but everything they've produced has been really impressive.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:30 PM on February 24, 2009


Kind of reminds of of the way Micorsoft thinks that people use Visual Studio to build web apps (as opposed to the way they actually do)

Also Objective C, blech.
posted by Artw at 10:19 PM on February 24, 2009


If I were an investor I wouldn't want them to create a programming language which value seems to be only language aesthetics.
I can't think of a compelling reason to creat objective-j unless you happen to have a huge team of objective-c programmers.
posted by jouke at 10:38 PM on February 24, 2009


I can't think of a compelling reason to creat objective-j unless you happen to have a huge team of objective-c programmers.

Those Objective-C programmers, coming from the Mac Desktop platform, would already be used to making polished software with intuitive user interfaces. This is the experience 280 want to create on the web. It makes perfect sense, and I am very excited by what they have been putting out.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:59 PM on February 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


I gotta say, if not for the fact that I would have to learn a whole new language (despite them claiming the opposite, since they're targeting programmers), this is a pretty slick little system they've got setup.

I don't know that I'll ever use it - but a wep app that makes web apps that look and function like desktop apps? That's fuckin' slick. And that it works even in IE... man, that's impressive.

I doubt I'll ever make use of the system - but color me impressed.
posted by revmitcz at 11:11 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, that it runs in the browser is pretty cool.
posted by Artw at 11:58 PM on February 24, 2009


If I were an investor I wouldn't want them to create a programming language which value seems to be only language aesthetics.

Pleasant, familiar aesthetics ease learning and speed adoption. Also, software engineers will shit on a language just because it's ugly. We have as much contempt for BASIC as graphic designers have for Comic Sans.
posted by ryanrs at 1:16 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's not nearly as much of a "new language" as Obj-C was, even 20 years ago when Obj-C was first released.

Obj-J is just a preprocessor on top of JavaScript to give it a nice syntax for true message-passing object-orientation. JavaScript as a language already had everything else they would need (unlike C -> Obj-C). The language isn't going to be the learning curve, the library is where you're going to struggle.

Yes, they're trying to do the same thing Microsoft tried to do with the abortion that is ASP, except with competency. Instead of making a ball-of-mud series of daisy-chained POSTs to emulate Win32 forms, they wrote libraries so that they could build a stateful GUI inside the browser that interacts with their server over stateless HTTP requests.

From the client's perspective their idiom is not much different from Gmail, even though the backend tools used to build them are extraordinarily different. The "app" is functionally a single infrastructural resource, loaded once, that then makes further 'clean' RESTful HTTP requests on your individual resources (emails, feeds, documents, etc.).

No, I really don't think that rich web clients should be widely implemented — most shit on the web is really best as shit on the web — hypertext documents! But sometimes what you really need is a glue interface on top of such resources, with which to operate on them collectively. This is a pretty damn good approach to doing that.
posted by blasdelf at 1:32 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit confused as to why you would want to build 'Mac-like web applications' inside a browser when the browser itself may or may not (and most likely won't) have a Mac-like interface. I suppose you might want to build a web-based version of a Mac desktop app specifically for Mac users, but is that the best approach?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:45 AM on February 25, 2009


I, for one, applaud new web technologies named for Greek mythology. Atlas, Ajax... it's all the same to me.

That's why I lost all my money on Sisyphus.com.
posted by twoleftfeet at 2:02 AM on February 25, 2009 [2 favorites]


Mac-like web applications

Oh good, I can't wait for the Internet to think it knows what I want and have only one button that doesn't work.
posted by DU at 4:49 AM on February 25, 2009


I'm a bit confused as to why you would want to build 'Mac-like web applications' inside a browser

Well, for one admin GUIs for server appliances like firewalls and storage servers and the like. Most of them use a home-rolled Java-based GUI that manages to ignore every GUI convention of the past twenty years, is slower than dogshit going uphill in January, more crash-prone than a demolition derby and is a royal pain to deploy to the desktop.

So, now vendors are investigating Ajax-like web apps to take over. Most of them have been terrible and unusable, plagued with all of the problems of the stand-alone java client, save for deployment. Most of the web-app frameworks are... dicey. You can get good results with a lot of effort and top-tier coders, and utter dreck with anything else.

This is a solid step towards making a web-GUI app easy to design, easy to code, and heaven help us, easy for the end user to figure out.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:26 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This looks like it'll be fun to play with.

Oh good, I can't wait for the Internet to think it knows what I want and have only one button that doesn't work.

Couldn't quite make that snark out. You were driving by too quickly.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:32 AM on February 25, 2009 [6 favorites]


Oh good, I can't wait for the Internet to think it knows what I want and have only one button that doesn't work.

You need a new "I hate Macs" comment, sir. That one is outdated.
posted by asusu at 7:00 AM on February 25, 2009


Oh good, I can't wait for the Internet to think it knows what I want and have only one button that doesn't work.

What are you talking about?
posted by odinsdream at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2009


Uh-huih. And Coghead, who did basically the same thing, went out of business a week or two ago. Oh, and Google just announced their dirt-cheap pricing for App Engine. Good luck 280 North.
posted by GuyZero at 8:26 AM on February 25, 2009


Oh, wait, they're not hosting, it's just a web app framework.

This isn't even news. There are enough web app frameworks out there to start their own model United Nations.
posted by GuyZero at 8:28 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Holy shit, it's Interface Builder. For the web. This is a pretty big change from having to sit there and wrestle with CSS floats and positioning to put stuff where you want it.
posted by egypturnash at 9:10 AM on February 25, 2009


Oh good, I can't wait for the Internet to think it knows what I want and have only one button that doesn't work.

Spoken like someone who has little experience with Mac software.
posted by brundlefly at 9:16 AM on February 25, 2009


Oh, wait, they're not hosting, it's just a web app framework.

Go on, try once more. Third time's the charm.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:56 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Our current methodology for interviewing asp.net devolpers: We ask them about update panels, and if they say anything nice about them we take them out back and shoot them.
posted by Artw at 10:05 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


Go on, try once more. Third time's the charm.

I have seen more RAD tools come and go in my day than boy bands. They have about the same staying power. Whatever their fancy builder tool is, if there isn't a real framework behind it then this tool will disappear in short order.
posted by GuyZero at 10:20 AM on February 25, 2009


You're right, GuyZero. We should just stop developing new ways to make software. Or maybe we should just screen them through you, first, to see if they warrant harmless discussion?
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 10:36 AM on February 25, 2009


Oh good grief. Let's both play your game. This is the most revolutionary software development tool ever and will undoubtedly completely re-write the software industry as we know it. I will let all the software developers I know that they should head back to cooking school or start studying to get their real estate licenses. I'm sure this tool will result in hundreds, if not thousands, of highly-polished web apps becoming available in every conceivable product niche. Thank you for shining your quarter-watt flashlight and illuminating the world of software development for us all.
posted by GuyZero at 10:47 AM on February 25, 2009


My point, I should say that I do have one, is that I have seen too many fancy GUI builders to be impressed by them. There were great GUI builders for Java 1.0 that went nowhere because there was "no there there" - the back end didn't have the chops to handle real apps. To mangle the old saying, the proof of the pudding lies under the crust. Which isn't to say that these guys don't have the chops to build a serious framework. All I'm saying is that they're different things and that one matters while the other does not.
posted by GuyZero at 10:51 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the most revolutionary software development tool ever and will undoubtedly completely re-write the software industry as we know it.

Actually, I just posted a link about it. I haven't worked with it--I have only seen 7 minutes of video about it--so I don't feel justified in making any predictions.

You seem to be the only one with any sort of strong feelings one way or the other. There must have been something awful in those 7 minutes that I just wasn't bitter enough to see.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 11:13 AM on February 25, 2009


Okay, I take back the bitter part. I had a level headed thing going there and I shouldn't have taken a personal swipe. Sorry GZ.
posted by Mr. Anthropomorphism at 11:37 AM on February 25, 2009


That's big of you. No worries.

I don't have any hate on for these guys, but it takes a lot to make a real, viable tool and simply looking like a Mac isn't enough of an innovation to cut it. There are a lot of people trying to hit their next (or their first) home run doing web app development and it's going to take a lot more than what I see, as impressive as it is.

They seem to be sticking pretty closely to 37 Signals' game plan but even then, 37 Signals makes its money off its apps, not off of Rails. I still cling to a tiny bit of bitterness that the development tools space has vanished as a viable commercial market, having been crushed by loss-leader products given away to drive developers to platforms. It was an inevitable evolution of the market, but it was a real drag when it happened nevertheless.

My snark may be that I simply get a little too much into work mode with a post like this - I expect to see competitive analysis, a magic quadrant, some commentary of the relative strengths of different frameworks, analysis of the different competitors trying to deliver SaaS development tools, etc. My bad for harshing on you for not being Gartner.
posted by GuyZero at 11:50 AM on February 25, 2009


I'm thinking that the whole point of you posting this link is to show off your awesome title. I love it.
posted by neilkod at 1:46 PM on February 25, 2009


I still cling to a tiny bit of bitterness that the development tools space has vanished as a viable commercial market, having been crushed by loss-leader products given away to drive developers to platforms.

Well, hate to be smug but the development tools space is alive and well in Open Source land (aka the non-commercial market). I have to smile when people complain about Java being "slow" or "bloated"—they fail to see its true purpose is not as a stand-alone application development language (where its past failures like the graphics or sound APIs are all too evident) but as the definitive language for web application development. Not scripting pages, but back-end services. None of that sexy stuff. But at least you can count on it working on any platform, and at extremely fast execution speeds (well, as fast as is possible with managed garbage collection, but that's the price you pay to never again have to worry about calling malloc). A fair trade for a language as fast as C (to be honest more like 75% for normal tasks, string manipulation, math routines, etc).

This is a really nice little BuilderApp™ they made for themselves. As a purist, I bet the generated pages are fucking atrocious. Forget about your web pages ever being semantic. Sure, if you're clever enough you can compensate for IE6 or whatever with enough DIVs to make you dizzy. If you're building an application, the argument goes, it doesn't matter what the code looks like so long as it works, right? Well, not for me, but perhaps someone can benefit from it.

Personally, I think Atlas will fall victim to the 80/20 rule. I mean, if you're just doing simple pages, panels, maybe a drop-down box and a button... that's fine. But at some point you're going to need or want to be able to tweak or configure something that there won't be a menu option for, and you'll be SOL.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:31 PM on February 25, 2009


That's why I lost all my money on Sisyphus.com.
Three times now! But this time it's looking good …
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:16 PM on February 25, 2009


Oh good, I can't wait for the Internet to think it knows what I want and have only one button that doesn't work.

You only have one button and you're using it wrong?
posted by chairface at 4:28 PM on February 26, 2009


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