Firefox aiming up for remote debugging with IDE addition

Firefox's slow morph into the Mozilla suite that it left behind continues as a HTML editor is added back into the web browser.

The hulking weight of the Mozilla suite was one of the original reasons the browser that eventually came to be known as Firefox was begun, but a decade later, the Mozilla browser is armed with an inbuilt integrated development environment (IDE) that surpasses the capability of the Mozilla Composer.

Currently released in Firefox's Nightly release stream, the IDE called WebIDE contains an editor for HTML, JavaScript, and CSS files based upon the open source CodeMirror editor, as well as Firefox OS simulators.

"This is a first step towards debugging across various platforms and devices over Wi-Fi using open remote debugging APIs," wrote Mozilla director of developer tools, Dave Camp in a blog post.

Although the remote debugging feature is currently only available for Firefox OS devices connected via USB, Camp said that Mozilla is working on an adapter that will allow clients using the Firefox Remote Debugging Protocol to "talk to all mobile browsers, regardless of rendering engine or runtime". The first pair of browsers on that list are Chrome for Android, and Safari for iOS.

Developers interested in giving WebIDE a spin will need to toggle the devtools.webide.enabled preference in Firefox Nightly's about:config page, and those just curious can view a video of the IDE in action.

The IDE thankfully allows for external editors to be used, and it should be possible to add Vim bindings into the CodeMirror-based internal editor, but the move does not fit the ethos of Firefox.

In the modern internet, browsers do not compete so much on features anymore, as they do on raw performance.

It's strange days when the embodiment of refining a bloated project down to its core components returns with a feature that is likely going to be used by very few users compared to the millions of Firefox users who are not interested in debugging and developing web pages within the browser.

There is still some time before WebIDE migrates up the Firefox release chain to a full, general release, and there is no guarantee that it will make it that far.

Mozilla's recent new theme, Australis, took over four months to graduate out of Nightly stream into the Beta release, and after almost two years of work, the plug was finally pulled on Metro Firefox for Windows 8 earlier this year.