After 3 years of hiding out in the campuses of Yahoo! it’s good to finally have something external to show for it. Most exciting is the release of BrowserPlus, a software and software distribution framework that allows device developers (desktop, mobile, etc.) to seamlessly bridge the browser programming environment (DHTML, JS) to any component they can dream up (VoIP, image manipulation, data caching, etc.). Some time ago we created a platform team to focus on device software at Yahoo! and this is what has emerged amidst the quickly shifting strategy of the mothership. The 1.0 release of BrowserPlus is intended only for use by Yahoo! sites to enhance customer experiences; however, in the coming months, developers might expect the ability to use components on their own sites. (If you’re interested in this, send us feedback). In the meantime, you can hack the framework on your own system after you’ve installed it to start experimenting. You can experience BrowserPlus currently through the PhotoDropper module on Mash, though direct installs are available for mac or pc. A hearty three cheers for the guys that made it happen – Lloyd, Gordon, Dave, and Steve.
Also this week was the official external launch of Fire Eagle, a platform for sharing your physical location in the world, to developers. This is the second public-facing project to launch from the team we started in San Francisco back in late May, Brickhouse. (The first was BravoNation.) Dopplr is one of the first sites to make use of Fire Eagle, updating your location to Fire Eagle once a trip begins or ends. You can expect wider exposure of Fire Eagle in the coming weeks as more developers ready their apps for the service, creating a complete ecosystem of location-sharing apps – from geo-friend-finders and SMS location updaters to location savvy search tools. Finally, location apps don’t have to be a closed system solutions. The whole team (Jeannie, Sam, Kevron, Rabble, Simon, Seth, Phil, Marc, Mor, and Salim) will be celebrating and evangelizing in SXSW this week, though a special congratulation is in order to Tom who carried the product from skunk works to research prototype, and delivered it at public launch this morning.
An interesting parallel between these projects, aside from their timing or my contributions, is that both employ Ruby in significant ways – significant, not necessarily to the scope of the app, but to the future of the language itself. Fire Eagle is the first Ruby on Rails application to be publicly launched at Yahoo! (a technical stunt on all fronts, indeed), and has the potential to be the most significant test of scale for the Rails platform on the Internet. BrowserPlus is making use of Ruby through an runtime engine component that allows for other components to be written in Ruby rather than compiled OS-native languages. That is, load the Ruby Engine component into BrowserPlus, then write your own component in Ruby that leverages any gem on the planet to offer up new functionality to your applications in the browser. It’s all super easy to do, but we are getting ahead of ourselves in suggesting you write your own at this point. Still, it’s all exciting for the world of Ruby.
Both BrowserPlus and Fire Eagle will be easier to get your hands on in the coming weeks, but if you want to play with one of them now it’s best to go through Mash for BrowserPlus and Dopplr for FireEagle – so you have a chance to see each platform working in practice. If you need an invite to any of the above, just post a comment to this article with your email address (no worries, it won’t be exposed).