XULRunner Milestone Builds

Good news for developers who are building applications on the Mozilla platform, XULRunner in particular. The wheels are in motion to start creating XULRunner builds (runtime and SDK) that coincide with major Firefox milestones. I encourage interested developers to watch the bug to see how the discussion and plan evolves.

This is a big deal for developers building and embedding applications using the Mozilla platform. Currently, the only official Mozilla build of XULRunner is an out-of-date 1.8.0.4 version. Builds based on snapshots of Firefox milestones will go a long way to creating a stable platform to build gecko-based applications.

As a platform Mozilla has a lot going for it: maturity, flexibility, standards & openness. At the same time, there is certainly more that could be done to make the platform approachable to new developers, maintainable to established Mozilla-based projects and suitable for a variety of application types. Your feedback is always appreciated. It’s ok if you just want to vent, but ideas for improving the situation are even better.

13 Comments

  1. Francis Gagné said,

    March 3, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

    That’s some great news. XULRunner release builds would perhaps get more attention than nightlies and would be easier to distribute for developers. If XULRunner could be installed alone (allowing applications to use a common runtime), it would be great, but I think that multiple versions should be allowed to be installed at the same time, so that legacy applications can still run. However, having each and every version would take up too much hard disk space, so maybe only the last version on a branch (one for 1.8.0.*, one for 1.9.*, etc.) would suffice, unless some applications have very specific version requirements (some kind of database could be used to keep track of all applications used by the runtime, so that unnecessary versions are uninstalled). Also, if XULRunner could have an auto-update feature like Firefox, it would ensure that users have the latest bugfixes and security updates.

    As a user of the XULRunner platform, these are a few things I would like to see when XULRunner is released. However, since the Firefox 3 release is quite imminent, I understand that all or most of that will probably not be in XULRunner 1.9.

  2. Question said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 12:03 am

    In the dev-platform, a lot of disscussion took place recently.As you/others (I can’t remember) said, we need two legs (ff3 and xulrunner). And I just think we should rely on xulrunner as a platform. FF3 can be released if there’s *no* bug, but I hope mozilla can focus on the platform rather than a browser.

  3. Mark Finkle said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 12:08 am

    Francis

    1) XULRunner does have the same update system built into it as Firefox. In fact, the update system lives in the platform, not in the application. But the application (developers) must create the MAR files that make up the “updates” themselves.
    Documents like this: http://wiki.mozilla.org/Software_Update
    And examples like this: https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=414785
    might help developers.

    2) Don’t look for a standalone, shared XULRunner from Mozilla anytime soon. The work to make this happen reliably is not trivial. On the other hand,if I were to try to make my own shared system XULRunner, I’d look at making a smarter xulrunner-stub. It should be possible to make something to fits a smaller set of requirements.

  4. Mark Finkle said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 12:15 am

    Question

    Separating the development of XULRunner (platform) and Firefox might be a something to explore in the future, but it isn’t happening anytime soon. However, we can get more XULRunner projects (Songbird, Miro, Komodo, Thunderbird, Mozilla Mobile & and others) focusing on the platform so that non-Firefox projects become more active in the platform codebase.

    An example of this is Firefox 3 on some Linux distros is shipping as “Firefox on XULRunner”. This has helped get some new functionality in the platform.

  5. Question said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 12:43 am

    Xulrnner as the core of mozilla (in the future?) I think , should be a
    1. platform that has many applications based on it.
    2. platform that may easily embedding as uBrowser and babelgum do.
    3. shared runtime shipped with all kinds of linux os.
    ——
    I don’t know whether I’m on the right approach to think about it. But as a front-end developer, I think it’s really urgent.

  6. Preed said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 2:22 am

    I am happy and relieved to see this tracked in bug 415180.

    I am a bit confused by the lack of “pong” in the bug that would confirm the availability of bandwidth, and thus the understanding that there is a stated commitment to completing these additional beta4 deliverables in a timely manner (i.e. 14+ days, which is what it is taking to get recent Thunderbird security releases out the door after Firefox may or may not be considered “timely”).

    If that’s not a possibility or the bandwidth isn’t available—and again, I can’t stress the importance of a clear answer on this—it would be prudent to start discussing how the Community can help now, not after b4 ships.

    Incidentally, is this a one-off “for b4 only”-thing, or is this a commitment to add XULRunner as a standard deliverable, which is to be shipped for all Firefox-coincident releases?

  7. pd said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 2:58 am

    Perhaps there is already one, but I’d really like to see a quintessential (I like using big words :) ) XULrunner hello world. It should include:

    1. Where to download the code
    2. What tools are a) required, b) helpful
    3. How to write a simple application such as a rudimentary open file, edit text, save file texteditor. Something even simpler than Notepad. This should include full details on the XUL required as well as the JS and such. The article should *not* just pass people off to related sites like devmo or xulplanet. Reference those but include the required code inline.
    4. How to compile the code
    5. How to wrap the resulting baby up in a nice friendly installer

    Perhaps pieces of this puzzle already exist, but there is no one simple source. Perhaps not. If there are suggestions where I can get this information I would would love to read them, test them from a never-written-a-desktop-app developer’s point of view, and see what comes out.

    Hooray that the change of management at Mozilla seems to have finally resulted in the org ‘seeing the light’ that is XULrunner as a cross-platform application environment.

  8. Laurentj said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 4:09 am

    XulRunner is used a lot in France, in some public and internal projects in some companies. So it’s a very very good news ! Thanks Mozilla !

  9. pd said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 6:04 am

    Finklester what happened to the JS ‘glue’ code you mentioned that would make it easy to use third party libraries within XULrunner?

    Seems there was a fair bit of “oh great, ActiveX again” thrown at ya about it. Is that preventing it from going any further?

  10. pd said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 7:41 am

    FWIW, I really hope Mozilla knows what it’s giving up by not really supporting XULrunner. For example, do they realise they are allowing competitors to take a potential market and justification for ongoing gecko development from them:

    http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20080303-creating-rich-internet-applications-on-linux-with-webkit.html

    WebKit + GTK
    WebKit + Qt
    WebKit + AIR

    There’s got to be a lot of opportunity lost in those three alone.

  11. enefekt said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 8:03 am

    First of all, cool news Mark, thanks for the update. Second, true-dat on pd’s last point. Impressive presentation that Alp had at FOSDEM. (Just read his blog post, wasn’t there)

  12. Francis Gagné said,

    March 4, 2008 @ 10:38 am

    Mark,

    I was not talking about updating XULRunner applications (I know it’s possible, look at Songbird), I mean updating XULRunner itself using the same mechanism. However, these updates, when they will be available, should perhaps be presented in a different way to tell the user what is XULRunner (in case they installed it “bundled” with an application) and why it is important to update.

    Well, let’s hope we’ll have a stable shared runtime by XULRunner 2.

  13. goehte said,

    March 18, 2008 @ 8:21 am

    Hello,

    on URL:
    http://ftp.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/nightly/latest-mozilla-central/
    I found a FF4 pre alpha realase.

    In that relase is a libary file called xul.dll. Is this the future vision of XULRunner2!?
    I think it is a nice vision to have only a xul.dll and the “xulrunner.exe” is only to start the application.

    Let’s discuss…

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