Monday, November 24th, 2008
The most exciting part of Adobe MAX last week was a service that was announced by Paul Gubbay at the “Sneaks” session that shows cool tech that Adobe folk are working on. His (very early stage) service is called Meer Meer and it is genuinely useful.
You can plugin a URL and the system will render that page on a server farm (many browsers, cross OS) and show you the results. It can visually layer these results so you can see the differences. It was awesome.
I pinged Paul and had a nice conversation with him about the project:
Can you explain what Meer Meer is, and where you got the inspiration?
Meer Meer is the code name for a new hosted service that allows Web Pros to view their content on a variety of different browsers and operating systems without requiring them to install anything other than the standard Flash Player. The inspiration is easy. We spend a lot of time with our customers and cross-browser compatibility consistently comes up as the #1 issue unprompted. It’s a real pain and we wanted to help solve it.
What browsers and OSes are supported? This means I don’t have to kick up VMWare to test in IE 6 now right? ;)
IE6 is covered :) We haven’t finalized the complete set yet but we’re committed to supporting the top browsers for Windows and Mac. We expect that mix to change over time as new browsers/versions gain market share.
What are the various views and features?
We’ve really focused on how users tweak/debug their CSS today and engineered the service to fit into that workflow. One of the unique features for Meer Meer is that it can work directly with your local content if you are using Dreamweaver. This is a big benefit as users can tweak CSS and hit the refresh button to get an immediate representation of the page on their target browsers. No need to save, publish to a public location and then view. In addition, we’ve focused on several views (1-up, side by side and onion skin).
Onion skin is the most interesting as it overlays two browser shots over each other and provides the user with complete control over the transparency. This view typically gets the big oohs and aahs :)
Can you talk about the high level implementation? I assume you have a server farm on the back end and you are rendering and sending back images of the rendered image?
That’s correct. In addition we’re using a Flex application as the client. This makes the application feel very snappy and respond like a desktop application without the need to install anything. The team has also done some great work to establish a local connection with Dreamweaver to work with local content. When you make a change to your code and switch back to Meer Meer it knows you’ve made a change and prompts you to refresh. You can choose to refresh from within Dreamweaver and a panel will update and show you the status of the screenshot retrieval in real time.
In Dreamweaver CS4 you showed taking an Ajax app, clicking around to change state, freezing the page and then sending it to Meer Meer. Can you talk more about the freezing feature and other things that you can do?
Any final thoughts on Meer Meer or other Web Pro services coming from Adobe?
We’re really excited about the future of desktop + services at Adobe. Meer Meer is a great example of what we can accomplish when we take a holistic view to solving a user challenge. We’re also very interested in extending the capabilities of our users by providing them with turn-key hosted solutions that allow them to grow their business. Content maintenance follows very closely on the heels of browser compatibility as a top challenge that our users face today. Our new InContext Editing service that is now in free preview on Adobe labs allows Web Pros to provide content editing capabilities directly within the browser to their end user. No programming required.
We look forward to hearing feedback from the community on these services to help guide our future direction.
This is an exciting server from Adobe, and shows that focusing on the Flash issue isn’t the entire story. They have a lot to offer the Open Web if we look to the right places and we can continue to fight for more too :) If we support projects like Meer Meer we can make our voice heard.
Of course, this is just the beginning. I would love to see an API to the service which would allow any developer tools to mashup nicely with the service. You can also imagine actively analyzing the code to not only point out the diff in the image, but the issue in the code. When we get there, we will be in a very good place indeed :)
There were some other cool things from MAX that showed up in Labs:
- Alchemy: A research project that allows users to compile C and C++ code into ActionScript libraries (AVM2).
- Durango: Mashup tool for AIR
And for more in-browser tools, check out this nice roundup on
15 Helpful In-Browser Web Development Tools.
Posted by Dion Almaer at 8:32 am