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Mozilla Labs Introduces the Webian Shell 216

Posted by timothy
from the everything-that-rises dept.
kai_hiwatari writes "Mozilla Labs has introduced its concept of a desktop replacement called Webian Shell. The Webian Shell basically consists of a browser which will replace the traditional desktop, and web applications are given more importance than the native applications. Right now, the prototype of the Webian Shell is nothing more than a full screen browser with a dock which holds the tabs and the clock." The project's blog offers more about the ideas and underpinnings; there's even more on the home page of developer Ben Francis.
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Mozilla Labs Introduces the Webian Shell

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  • I must say but I like the GUI more than what "Chome OS" GUI is. I did not read the article (yet) but I hope that is possible to get work on other OS's than just Linux. With that, even HURD would have a change to be successful operating system so GNU people would be happy!

    • by Tarlus (1000874)

      I did not read the article (yet) but I hope that is possible to get work on other OS's than just Linux.

      Then for crap's sake, don't post. Spare us the idiocy and spare yourself the embarrassment. From the third paragraph of the article:
      "The Webian Shell is just a shell that will run on top on an existing operating system - Windows, Linux or Mac OS X."

      I'm not even going to touch that HURD sentence.

  • Active Desktop (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal (464142) * on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:10AM (#36348812)

    a browser which will replace the traditional desktop

    That idea is so 1990's. There is a reason the dot-com bubble burst.

    • Re:Active Desktop (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Seumas (6865) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:15AM (#36348836)

      This kind of shit really has me concerned for the direction browsing is going in, in general. I just want a browser that is efficient and does lots of cool things that make the browsing experience more productive. I don't want social-fucking-everything, branded tabs, branded browsing applications, a dedicated interface for every dipshit hipster social service and integration with a fucking smart-phone and mood ring. Just a fucking browser.

      • Re:Active Desktop (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Lisandro (799651) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:36AM (#36348954)

        I just want a browser that is efficient and does lots of cool things that make the browsing experience more productive.

        IMHO, Opera seems to be the only browser nowadays walking the fine line between features and bloat without falling to either side.

      • You'll like Chrome OS then, I think. That's all it is. Just a browser. :P
      • by jbarr (2233)

        I just want a browser that is efficient and does lots of cool things that make the browsing experience more productive.

        It's all really subjective opinion. I've been using Chrome because my CR-48 Chromebook is Chrome-based, and it does everything I need it to do. Before that, it was Firefox 100%. And believe it or not, some actually even find IE to be productive. There are many browsers that through congoing competition are providing more and more of what users need and want. The problem is that everyone d

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        "I just want a browser that is efficient and does lots of cool things that make the browsing experience more productive."
        "I don't want social-fucking-everything,"

        Umm maybe you don't understand that is what a large number of people think of as a cool thing that makes the browsing experience more productive.

        Really why the anger and annoyance. Just get Firefox and pick and choose your plug-ins.
        And frankly Chrome is really nice as well as a browser IMHO.

    • Yes, there were two reasons why the dot-com bubble burst:

      A) Most dot-com "businesses" were started by people with lots of technical knowledge, but no business knowledge. They were funded by people with lots of business knowledge but no technical knowledge. Most of the "businesses" had no hope of ever really turning a profit, most of them were businesses that lose money on every sale, but they make up for it in volume.

      B) The internet was -slow- in the 1990s. Lets face it, because of faster internet w
      • by Raenex (947668)

        The reason the bubble burst is because it was a bubble. Lots of hype over new technology, with lots of people investing in anything Internet related, regardless of merit.

        The other thing is that even if every project had merit, with any new "gold rush" industry there's always going to be a shakeout period where there are lots of losers and a few winners. That's just the nature of fierce competition.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Those two sentences do not belong in the same paragraph and likely not even in the same comment.

      Both are true but they are not connected in the slightest.

      Active Desktop did not catch on because desktop widgets didn't really catch on until Vista/7. Machines and the OS they ran on were underpowered and the concept of the Active Desktop was not implemented fully.

      The reason the dot-com bubble burst had nothing to do with Windows9X/XP in the slightest. It had everything to do with businesses buying and "invest

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Yes it is but it may be a not so bad idea right now.
      I know a family that runs a small business. He installs tile for a living. They use QuickBooks for their accounting, Email and Google Calander to handle job. They have a full PC and they don't really need it.
      Another example was an older couple that used their PC just for Facebooking with their family, email, and eTrade for investments.
      There is a large segment that now really do us their computer as nothing but an internet terminal. I do question the idea

      • by Omestes (471991)

        There is a large segment that now really do us their computer as nothing but an internet terminal.

        This would be both of my parents, if you put it as "internet terminal and magic solitaire box". But... In my father's case, he would NEVER buy a browser-computer (as another person here put it "webtop"). He basically uses his computer for email and light browsing, and the occasional foray into tax software (and downloading malware). His old computer (from 2002) was getting long in the tooth, so he went out to buy a new one, asking my geekly advice. I told him get something light and cheap, probably som

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Well that is just too bad. Most computers are vastly over powered in the CPU department but most could use a bit better GPU than what Intel offers. Honestly a cheap I3 or one of AMDs duel core is overkill. I compile code and a Core II Duo is fine for IOS development and even an old P4 is doing just fine for Java development.
          Frankly for most people they should get an inexpensive dual or tri-core cpu. A good integrated GPU like from nVidia or AMD a lot of RAM and a good monitor. The CPU is just loafing most

          • by Omestes (471991)

            I agree. I have a Phenom II x4 965, and it mostly goes to waste, when I used to game more it was nice, but that habit has been flagging lately. It comes in handy when I process large batches of RAW images, or transcode, but I don't really do those as often as I could (or would like). Most of the time I might get two cores up to around 20%. My old Core 2 Duo (2.4Ghz ish) laptop works just fine for pretty much everything, its little crappy Intel GMA GPU is the main bottleneck I ever experience. My new-is

            • by LWATCDR (28044)

              Powerful computer and crappy monitor just is not right. I guess people are still in the muscle car stage of computers. They want a big engine but ignore the suspension, brakes, and frame. I guess I am getting old but I want the smallest computer I can get that will do what I want for three years. Oh and I want it silent.

  • by RagingMaxx (793220) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:14AM (#36348828) Homepage

    To install Webian Shell:

    1. Launch Firefox
    2. F11
    3. ???
    4. ... oh wait there's no need to install Webian Shell.

  • by Lisandro (799651) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:18AM (#36348860)

    First was Gnome 3 using JS for scripting and now this. Wasn't this a bad idea when it was known as Active Desktop?

    • Yes!

      Now, if only someone could convince browser vendors that the reason it was bad was more than "computers were too slow at the time."

      Although, to be fair, consider that most of Firefox (and indeed every other major Mozilla product) is made out of Javascript, CSS and XML files bundled up in a ZIP archive. It's not exactly a speedy design in the first place. So they're kind of losing the race out of the gate here.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        To be fair, way back when Active Desktop was touted, everyone (those who had internet at least) were still dialing into their internet connection. And almost all web pages were static pages, hand edited by people, and not applications. People back then didn't spend all their computing time on the web browser. They spent time playing games, in their word processor, email client, IM chat client, IRC, managing finances (quickbooks, excel, or quattro pro), and writing programs. Except for writing programs, I
        • by vlm (69642)

          Except for writing programs, I would have to say that just about all those tasks are now done solely in the web browser for a large majority of people, and the vast majority of people will never write a program.

          And for those that want to write a program anyway, at least at the level of introductory learning, there's

          http://tryruby.org/ [tryruby.org]

          http://tryhaskell.org/ [tryhaskell.org]

          and probably many more....

          • by CastrTroy (595695)
            The operative word being "try". If you want to try out a language for the first time, those are probably good solutions, as they let you try out the language without installing anything, which can sometimes be more difficult than it should be. I have yet to see an online IDE that comes anywhere close to being as productive as working on your own actual machine. Although I'm sure upon mentioning this, that someone will point me towards something that is at least passably good.
      • Yes! Now, if only someone could convince browser vendors that the reason it was bad was more than "computers were too slow at the time."

        ...exactly...it was MS doing something nobody wanted in order to make the case to regulators that their browser was an "integral" part of the OS. Seriously...are browser developers the only ones who haven't figured this out?? Given that they're also the only people with any interest in launching other applications within the browser, I'd say so.

    • by Lennie (16154)

      And what do you think QT (thus KDE) and Windows 8 use ? Again webtechnologies like HTML/CSS/JS.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      What was bad about active desktop was Aieee! It's not an inherently bad concept.

  • I am sure Netscape had this in 1999.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:31AM (#36348936) Homepage Journal

    Computer is not for web only, I know, it's amazing to think otherwise, but some of us actually work on them, and most of the work is not happening on the web, though reading /. you won't be able to deduce this fact.

    Anyway, I always wanted my shell to take all of my RAM, overbook the CPU, run the fans on full throttle just to refresh the clock on the background.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Computer is not for web only, I know, it's amazing to think otherwise, but some of us actually work on them, and most of the work is not happening on the web

      The introductory video in the article agrees with you. It calls Webian a shell for computers which don't need a desktop. The narrator then goes on to say "If you're anything like me, you'll find that most of the stuff you do on your PC these days happens in a web browser".

      I really hate the idea of Webian because like you I'm not a browser addict, but this really seems to be selling itself as a system for specific circumstances, not something to totally replace the desktop of old.

      • by gmueckl (950314)

        Sounds like an ideal base for kiosk-like setups where the user needs just a little bit of control beyond navigating a single web site.

      • by hitmark (640295)

        It is aimed at the same user group as ChromeOS.

        Hell, i have family that spend their computer use 90%+ in the web browser. Only time they do not is when they want to handle photos taken at some family event or other.

        So if this can also provide good interaction with the file system, then everything required can be done in the browser.

    • by Lennie (16154)

      I do webdevelopment and network- and Linux/Unix system administration. It is that I've not had time yet to it up and try it out but I think I could actually move over all my work into a webbrowser if I wanted to. I've actually been wanting to try it out as an experiment:

      http://www.cloud9ide.com/ [cloud9ide.com] (open source webbased programmers editor with git version control and offline support is almost ready)
      http://code.google.com/p/shellinabox/ [google.com]

      And the rest is already online, because it is the same as a lot of people ar

      • by yarnosh (2055818)

        I do webdevelopment and network- and Linux/Unix system administration. It is that I've not had time yet to it up and try it out but I think I could actually move over all my work into a webbrowser if I wanted to. I've actually been wanting to try it out as an experiment:

        You're not a real web developer or admin or you'd have very specific requirements of your terminal and editor. Either that your you greatly underestimte your requirements to get real work down. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself "what is the point?" I mean, just because you could theoretically move your work into the web browser, that doesn't mean you should. Is there any benefit? It looks like that terminal you linked to requires that you run a local server..??? So it isn't like you could use that anywhe

        • by Lennie (16154)

          To be honest, I code most of my code in vi and ssh, just to be clear I'm not a webdesigner. I usually don't even use syntax highlighting.

          All the other work I do on networks is all ssh or webbased management tooling.

          The point is:
          - I can work from anywhere (without carring stuff around)
          - have the exact same environment I do all the time
          - only having a central system to backup

          I would run the "cloud" based editor on the same system where I do my testing for the websites I work on. Which means I'm editing the co

    • But what we're seeing here is the evolution of a device. I agree, there's so much more to computers, I'm a power user at work, but a lot of folks are just using the computer as an web based device. My HDX 16T laptop now sits in the living room streaming netflix and playing DVDs. Completely under utilized, but it's that or being shoved on a shelf in the garage while I pay for a cheaper computer to do the same thing. I lament at what a waste this is for the HDX. This is the next step in netbooks. A simplified
  • Oh, how great it will be - Google text ads scrolling past you, as you are trying to find that damn file. Anytime you try to open your word processor, there will be an appearing/disappearing link to Google web-based office, anytime you try to edit a picture, there will be a bunch of ads about various photo-studio and album offerings, every attempt at typing find . -name somefilename will bring up the Google page with 'Are You Feeling Lucky' button pressed already for you.

    It's going to be great.

    • The worst part for me would be when I'm trying to click on an mp3 or video and because the mouse moves over the wrong part of the screen, some fucking box pops up from addthis.com, asking if I want to like this on Facebook or something. A box that doesn't go away when I move the mouse away from it. Like you just have to click on it and let them know you saw it, just to get it to go away. Although I do like being connected to the internet all of the time, I don't want my whole computer acting like websites d
  • Minimalist trend (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lord Lode (1290856) on Monday June 06, 2011 @08:37AM (#36348960)

    This is not fully on topic, but I'm worried about the minimalist trend going on in GUIs these days, such as the disappearing of the URL bar in browsers, hiding things behind clicks instead of immediately visible, removing the minimize and maximize buttons from windows, etc...

    I like having status bars, lots of indicators, toolbar buttons, menus with many options and customizations, having as much mouse buttons with a useful feature as possible, etc...

    Do you think the minimalist trend is temporary? Or should I really be worried?

    Thanks!

    • Do you think the minimalist trend is temporary? Or should I really be worried?

      Now that user interfaces have pretty much been done, developers have to justify their existence by breaking their product, and fixing it again. Don't worry, the buttons will be back; Bigger and better than ever.

      • Now that user interfaces have pretty much been badly done, developers have to justify their existence by dismantling their broken product, and fixing it again.

        There, fixed that for you. New interfaces like the World Wide Web first and later the iPod/iPad show that there are better ways for computing than showing applications inside floating windows. That developers keep trying to find a new style of post-wimp [wikipedia.org] interface is usually a good thing.

        The desktop metaphor was a necessity in the 80s but is terribly s

    • by vlm (69642) on Monday June 06, 2011 @09:01AM (#36349116)

      Do you think the minimalist trend is temporary?

      Three societal / cultural trends / beliefs / needs across all areas of human endeavor:

      1) Talk down to the noobs. "Hay n00b U R dum so ur UI will B 1 button". Its a public display of profound intellectual arrogance. "The average gutter dwelling noob could never understand the rarefied nobility and intellectual challenge of the maximize button, so I, as their superior, as a shining example of Nietzsche's overman, will take away that dangerous option from them for their own good"

      2) Everyone gets a participation trophy, so we must drag everyone down to the noob level. There must not be a learning curve or the people at the bottom of it might have hurt feelings. If that means the entire population must only be given tools equivalent to lincoln logs and playdough, the frustration of almost everyone is inferior to the feelings of one individual.

      3) Eternal September has finally sunk in, around a decade too late, and now completely obsolete, and its going to take a long time to get rid of it. People that have not already had their "eternal september" moment years or decades ago are either about 5 years old or are socially and economically irrelevant so there is no need to pander to them, unfortunately people still insist that "everyone knows" that 99% of the population has never clicked a mouse. Its an meme thats obsolete and just won't die. Maybe when the Gen-Xers have all died of old age and the Gen-Y finally get it pounded into their heads that there's no one alive on the planet that was born before facebook... but that could take decades...

      In other words, expect to be held back for quite awhile.

      • "The average gutter dwelling noob could never understand the rarefied nobility and intellectual challenge of the maximize button, so I, as their superior, as a shining example of Nietzsche's overman, will take away that dangerous option from them for their own good"

        Woah woah woah, slow down there. GNOME 3 removed the maximize button from the default configuration (it's still there technically) but not the functionality. It was redundant to have the maximize button there, not only because it was so close to the close button which could accidentally be clicked, but because you can maximize by dragging the window to the top and/or double-clicking the window border.

        There must not be a learning curve or the people at the bottom of it might have hurt feelings.

        You have a really messed-up definition of "learning curve" and are over-simplifying this way, way too much.

    • They must think we use cell phones to browse or something, full time...

    • by Cthefuture (665326) on Monday June 06, 2011 @09:56AM (#36349624)

      It's just a fad. It's very similar although not exactly the same as "Not Invented Here" syndrome caused by developer inexperience and naivety.

      Although this has happened countless times the primary example I like to take out is Java. Java tried to be minimalistic and "simple" by leaving out all sorts of useful functionality (eg. generics, etc). Now look at it, everything they left out in the beginning is shoehorned into the current versions and it sucks because they failed to account for the functionality in the original design.

      What will happen is these products and projects will start out very minimalistic but will then slowly grow into a bloated, poorly designed pieces of shit as the developers realize that some features exist for a reason and are actually needed or just plain useful.

      Then there will be backlash against the "idiotic" minimalist approach and we will start to get over-designed, over-complicated, inefficient, bureaucratically designed, and slow to implement bloatware which will slowly shrink into buggy poorly designed pieces of shit as the developers realize that you can't start giant designs and implement the whole thing at once.

      Then there will be backlask against the "idiotic" over-complicated software so... (this is what is happening now)

      Repeat ad nauseum. Einstein had it right: "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." You need to start with a solid flexible, possibly somewhat complicated design but with the intent and proper planning to only implement a simple subset of the design at first. Then it can grow into the full-blown design over time.

      • by Raenex (947668)

        You need to start with a solid flexible, possibly somewhat complicated design but with the intent and proper planning to only implement a simple subset of the design at first. Then it can grow into the full-blown design over time.

        It's pretty much impossible to figure out exactly how much complexity you need to start and where the design will end up going. You can take a guess, but there's a good chance you'll be wrong. Software grows organically.

    • by tenco (773732)
      My Gnome 3.0 experience was over when i had Gnome Shell laughing into my face for snatching the "Save", "Apply" and "Close" buttons from my LyX 2 settings dialogue.
    • by gmueckl (950314)

      The minimalist trend is not temporary, nor should it be. But developers tend to overdo it.

      There is no reason to have every last feature of a program available directly in the main UI of said program. This is especially true now that program complexity and feature-completeness has risen to enormous levels (which is not a bad thing in itself). You remember the ridiculous screenshots of MS Word with every toolbar displayed, leaving 2 lines of the actual document visible on screen amidst all those buttons?

      When

    • Look down. See that big thing in front of you with lots of keys. It's called a "keyboard", and it is what you are supposed to be using most of the time instead of all those GUI buttons that went away. The less you use the mouse, the faster you'll finish what you're doing.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      funny but I don't. I have been using computers since 1982 and I am sick of tool bars. They take up a ton of screen space and frankly tend to be too large. Some you can customize but not all and how many people ever do? But then On say netbeans they are actually pretty dang useful but on a browser or word processor they are just about useless most of the time. But then you can go too far. I want my drop down menus still but tool bars? and a bunch of useless info? Let me turn that junk off. Tool bars? When I

  • never really took off, still bumps around in the night at obscure servers and disused packages.
    Same concept really, except they used a text editor back then. Emacs, they called it.

  • Isn't it exactly the idea behind the Jolicloud [jolicloud.com] linux distro?

    The jolicloud html5 desktop is also available as a chrome webstore app... [Insert Yo dawg joke here]

  • .. if he wasn't still alive :-).

    I really, really hope that I don't hear people herald this as innovation, because that was the Netscape vision (and the reason Microsoft had to nuke their business by giving away Internet Exploder for free).

    With that vision come the flaws, and they remain still pretty much identical too: without the net there is no work (net-work, geddit? No? Sjeez..). This is sort of OK for the desktop but it doesn't really work for mobile use.

    Conclusion: yawn. Anything interesting on TV

  • Webian? Is that pronounced Web ee Ann or Weeb ee Ann ?

    (Mind you I never did find out how to pronounce Debian I just thought it had a long e since there was only one cosonant between the vowels)

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Since when does a consonant-vowel-consonant sequence imply a long vowel?

    • by fnj (64210)

      [Crap added due to lame slashdot dupe filter.]

      Is "camera" pronounced came-ee-ra because there are only single consonants between the vowels?

  • right? History repeating itself with faster computers? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_Window_System [wikipedia.org]
    • by fnj (64210)

      Is "camera" pronounced came-ee-ra because there are only single consonants between the vowels?

  • by macraig (621737) <(mark.a.craig) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday June 06, 2011 @09:48AM (#36349530)

    What's wrong with the desktop I have now? Is it interpreted code? No. Is it slow? No (mostly). Is it unresponsive to user input? Sometimes, but that's the fault of the kernel and other processes, not the shell per se. Could the desktop metaphor be improved? Maybe... but what's wrong with just changing the existing code/resources?

    WHY do I need my desktop in a Web browser? How will shoehorning my desktop into a browser actually improve any of the few problems my desktop does have? "Integration", you say? Pffft! The browser is ONE CLICK and a few seconds away. WHY do I have to have my entire desktop inside the browser just for 'integration"? Preload the damned browser code instead, for gosh sake. I already do that.

    Leave my fucking desktop out of the browser, please, Mozilla. A more intelligent integration MIGHT be to merge Web and file/document browsing; they're both browsers intended to locate stuff, after all, eh? Maybe you could then integrate (Open|Libre|)Office into that integrated browser, so that it could then locate AND open both Web and other documents?

    Why don't you tinker with that instead, Mozilla, and leave my freaking desktop out of it?

    • Having an OS with a shell like this could certainly save time in teaching new users to use the platform, as well as saving a lot of programmer time on porting over the years. A local web server is a very inefficient way to provide apps in a sense, but then so are all GUIs and that doesnt seem to limit their popularity in any meaningful way. And if you run all your apps through that, you can keep a fairly small, modular operating system codebase that isnt a nightmare to maintain, update, and port using relat
    • by Tasha26 (1613349)
      A desktop replacement or pave the way to an "App Store" model? I think it's the latter, lats of money in there.
  • The Webian Shell basically consists of a browser which will replace the traditional desktop, and web applications are given more importance than the native applications.

    This idea seems so familiar... [chromium.org]

    • by hey (83763)

      It would rather trust my desktop (and browser) to a non-profit.

  • by hey (83763)

    This is great for Gramma/pa. Or other beginner users.
    I have to support my parents and would love it give this to them (when its 1.0).
    Of course, its not for Slashdot "nerds" to use ourselves.

  • Now, instead of having to restart Firefox twice a day, I get to restart my whole desktop shell.
  • I thought it looks rather nice (ducks).

    Seriously, I've never heard so much FUD. The collective "Get off my lawn" hurts my ears.

    My Linux desktop runs exactly two programs: Firefox and Shell. If I weren't a programmer, like 99% of the world populace, then I would run just Firefox.

    HTML + CSS + JavaScript is the new platform, again. This time, I think it's gonna work.

  • HP's WebOS, for example. But even there, they have hybrid apps where you can use native APIs. On the desktop, why make your desktop just a big browser? Lame.

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