Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Live Blogging the Yahoo BrowserPlus Release Party

Category: Browsers, Plugins, Yahoo!

Austin Chau and I are here on the Yahoo campus for the Yahoo BrowserPlus release party. I’m going to blog the event as it happens here (Disclosure: I work for Google with the Open Web Advocacy and Gears teams).

First, Ernest Delgado, Canvas whiz here at Yahoo, sent me a cool demo showing a prototype he and Michael Johnston made of Yahoo Maps and Flickr integrating with Yahoo BrowserPlus using the native gyroscope on Macs. You just hit the side of the laptop, for example, in order to jump to the next Flickr picture, or tip your laptop to zoom around a Yahoo Map:

Eric Miraglia is opening the release party up with a nice Introduction to YUI:

* Starts with some really nice demos of things you can create in the browser using YUI.
* Underlying technologies driving browsers are very complicated.
* About 7 knowledge areas needed for web development — each is different than the standard, with bugs and specialized expert knowledge. You get about 672 different permutations of things needed for you to know and test on.
* YUI focused on “A-grade browser support”.
* Good to target toolkits like YUI, since it helps you be future-compatible when new browsers appear like iPhone and Google Chrome
* Goal of YUI: Have a sophisticated widget like a rich text editor work cross-browser using just a snippet small snippet of code.
* Also want things to be automatically accessible.
* Progressive enhancement should be easy and possible, showing a cool demo of hierarchical menus still being readable on Lynx, a version of Firefox with no JavaScript, and then a full IE with CSS and JavaScript on.
* YUI is ala carte, file sizes are small, between 15 and 30K for any given component (including gziped)
* Deployed at Yahoo for three years, on every major property, 400 million users/browsers consuming YUI every month. In properties like Flickr and on the front page, well tested.
* YUI in lots of places: iGoogle, Wall Street Journal, Mozilla, LinkedIn, Southwest.com, Obama website, more
* ~1,000,000 external downloads

Now Lloyd Hilaiel is getting up to present on Yahoo BrowserPlus, the focus of today’s event:

* The teams motivations: people get browsers — browsers could be so much more — plugins aren’t working! Takes too long for new innovations to propagate (5-7 years)!
* Non-goals: no fixing web UI, no web outside the web (like AIR or Mozilla Prism), no improving JavaScript (that’s the domain of YUI, JQuery, Dojo, etc.)
* YES to new web features with low overhead. Low overhead: low intellectual overhead, low overhead to implement and get it into widespread production
* Plugins have strengths (scriptable, cross-browser), but they have problems… installing them sucks, writing them is hard, sharing doesn’t happen, updating is clumsy, securing them is hard
* BrowserPlus enables in-browser desktop applications
* Abstraction layer over web plugins. Implements all the stuff common to web plugs, decreasing cost of development and helping end users with management and installation
* User install core platform just once
* Page requests distinct services it wants to use, if not installed user is prompted to accept services and they are installed on the fly
* Demo of Flickr uploader working in browser using Yahoo BrowserPlus – drag and drop into browser of images, even folders for recursive uploading, 100% leveraging client-side functionality, multiple file selection.
* Demo of a BrowserPlus marble maze game using the Mac’s motion sensor that exposes a single function that gives the laptop’s x and y position and acceleration. Idea is that you can expose simple functions for custom hardware — rest of app can just use web technologies.
* Demo where you can drop a file into a page and then work with the files contents, service coming out soon. Took just one day for them to create. Imagine dragging and dropping vCards or iCal files for example for a web-based calendering system.
* Demo showing desktop notifications
* Services installed on demand, no more monolithic plugins — instead smaller services, installation seemless, no browser restarts
* Authoring of new services currently restricted to Yahoo and partners
* BrowserPlus will be Open Source! Goal is to have Service API and services open source by end of year, everything else by mid next year.
* Need to figure out how to protect end-users while removing Yahoo from the loop of handling serving up the services
* Yahoo roles: consumer of the platform and the project maintainer (bug fixes, feature requested, service adoption)

After a short break the team (Lloyd Hilaiel, Steve Spencer, David Grigsby, and Gordon Durand) did a deep dive on the Yahoo BrowserPlus architecture, security model, user-facing interaction, how web developers interact with it, and how to create your own services. There is some really impressive engineering in here; they’ve tackled some hard problems. There’s lots of great material they went over, too much to summarize here. You can download the presentations from here in Keynote format.

Here’s a snippet of using BrowserPlus from some JavaScript:

Desktop notifications:


  1. BPTool.Notify.create().show("My Title", "My Message");

Drop-in uploading widget:


  1. BPTool.Uploader.create("uploader", {uploadUrl: "up.php"}).render();

Check out the full developer docs that went live for more details.

Services are either binary shared libraries (.so or .dll) or Ruby script! The Ruby interpreter itself is a Yahoo BrowserPlus service that other services can use (services can be composed together and can work with each other, similar to how Unix utilities work with piping).

Posted by Brad Neuberg at 7:36 pm
1 Comment

3.5 rating from 24 votes

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What? no 64 Linux support? WTH?

Comment by emailandthings — November 18, 2008

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