Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Web Interface Is Morphing Into Emacs

A while back, Steve Yegge wrote a post on Emacs and its future. My executive summary of his post is that Emacs needs to compete or die - and the competition is the browser.

This got a little thread started on the Emacs development list, but not much activity. If Steve's line of reasoning is correct, then I surmise Emacs is dead b/c the Emacs development team is not at all interested in competing with the browser. Heck, they recently had a discussion on moving from CVS to a modern (distributed) version control system - and while there appears to be a tentative decision to move to Bazaar for version control, main development is still on CVS.

I personally think Emacs is a niche product. Like Unix, it has a dedicated fan base and will be around for the foreseeable future. But, it is never going to grow a large base of end-users. It has got a lot of ... baggagehistory that turns some people off: GPL, RMS, lisp, (lack of) speed, text-based, carpal tunnel, etc.

I love Emacs and do most everything inside Emacs, but it is not and probably will never be hip, exciting, new, or perceived as leading edge technology.

What was my point? Oh, right, Ubiquity was recently announced at Mozilla Labs.

I watched the 6 minute video demo. And my first impression? It is Emacs, only instead of M-x you use C-SPC. Soon, people will tire of typing things out and come up with shortcuts based on various key combinations, and it'll turn into Emacs.

Of course, if Ubiquity does that, it'll be cool/hip, and people won't complain about the key-bindings.

It's just like XML over Lisp. The reaction to Lisp is, "OMG! Parentheses! Run!" On the other hand, XML (with twice the number of parenthesis</>) is cool/hip and folks have flocked to it.

Steve was right about the competition, the browser has fired the first salvo, and it looks a lot like Emacs.

Mozilla Labs » Introducing Ubiquity


Matt Donahoe said...

How do Emacs key bindings work? Are they more like keyboard shortcuts or auto-suggest?

What I like about Ubiquity (and Enso before that) is how I invoke commands by typing them, instead of having to remembering shortcuts. It includes an auto-suggest feature so that I can stop typing when I figures out my command.

Drew said...

I don't think the audience here is what you think it is. The people who will use things like Ubiquity are the type of people who will keep using emacs. The huge majority of the market doesn't use keybindings at all.

I've done some tech support and I've asked users to log in many times. I nearly have a stroke when I see a user click on the username field, type their password, then click on the password field, type in their password, then click on the login button.

This stuff is so niche that it will never get the development a browser gets.

In the mean time, I'm using vimperator so that my browser acts as much like vim as possible. :)

[ dut ] said...

the only way to resolve this is to add mouse gestures to Emacs. ;) where do i send that feature request, exactly?

brandon said...

Gee, and all this time I've been looking for a vi plug-in for text fields. ;->