[Techtalk] Mozilla v. Firefox

Akkana Peck akkana at shallowsky.com
Tue Feb 1 08:09:30 EST 2005

jennyw writes:
> Akkana -- I don't suppose you have any insight into developing using
> XUL?  I had heard that some people are using it to develop interfaces
> which then communicate with the backend using XML-RPC.  Sounds
> interesting!

It's been about a year and a half since I last tried to develop
a standalone cross-platform app using XUL and mozilla libraries.

The problems I had at the time:

1. Poor documentation.  Several books on developing apps with
mozilla technology have come out since then, so that problem
should be mostly gone now.

2. How to package the libraries.  The "GRE" (Gecko Runtime
Environment) was a fairly new idea then, and you couldn't get
a standalone GRE for any platform but Windows.  And even if
you could, I was concerned that users would have to download
their mozilla app (or firefox or whatever) with its set of libs,
then a whole second set for the GRE that my app would have used
(much like the way some Java apps ship with their own JRE, to
make sure that users have the right version).  That means not
only that the download size of your app becomes much bigger,
but also that the memory footprint of your app is bigger since
it can't share the existing mozilla libraries that the user
may already have loaded in memory to run a browser.

There's been some progress made on this -- merging the CVS branch
that firefox used back onto the trunk is a good start -- but I'm
not sure what the status is of shipping a GRE and apps based on it.
And of course, most other cross-platform toolkits (wxWidgets, gtk,
qt) also involve rapidly-changing libraries that your customers
won't already have; their downloads are probably a bit smaller
than Mozilla's but that's a difference of degree, not of kind.
One could make a reasonable argument that a few years from now,
customers are more likely to have a Mozilla GRE already installed
than wxWidgets, gtk or qt libraries.  Cross-platform toolkit choice
right now does involve a bit of trying to predict the future. :-)


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