Interview: Joe Hewitt

We have good and bad news. The bad: Joe Hewitt wil not attend FOSDEM 2007. The good news: Firebug 1.0 stable is released. That's why we didn't want to keep back this interview from you. It was performed at the time when Joe was right in the middle of the release process for Firebug 1.0 - his versatile web developer's tool.

We also took the opportunity to poke Joe for some info on Parakey, his all-secret software company.

What did you plan to talk about at FOSDEM?

I wanted to talk briefly about the philosophies that drove Firebug's development and then run through a series of mini-tutorials that illustrate how to get the most out of Firebug.

Firebug is useful for hunting (JavaScript) bugs, but it does much more than that. Do you feel the name still matches the app?

The name wasn't meant to be taken literally, any more than Firefox was meant to be the name of a tool for igniting furry red canines.

While it's true that the first few version of Firebug were very JavaScript-oriented, it was always my plan to support all facets of web development.

How does the community around Firebug look like currently?

The community is still taking shape. I'm seeing certain names appear more and more frequently in the Firebug forums, and it's exciting to imagine some of those people making larger and larger contributions over time.

Some companies have been investing serious time integrating their tools with Firebug. Both Yahoo and Aptana have some products in the works which will integrate nicely with Firebug. Many of the popular JavaScript frameworks like Dojo, jQuery, YUI, and MochiKit use Firebug's logging feature for their built-in debugging facilities.

You've considered making Firebug a commercial product, but in the end you didn't. What changed your mind? And -- how are the donations going?

The state of web development tools is awful, and the quality of the web itself reflects that. I like money as much as the next guy, but what I really want is a more usable, better performing web. I decided to make Firebug free so that every web developer on Earth has easy access to information they can use to make better websites.

Donations have been ok. I'm hoping that soon they add up to enough [to] cover a summer intern to come in and work on some of the most requested features.

Did you get any assistance from with regard to promoting Firebug?

Mozilla has been very supportive of Firebug. On the day they added Firebug to the list of recommended extensions on, downloads more than quadrupled and have not dropped since.

Do you have a vision for "Firebug 2.0"? Is there a "grand plan"?

There is definitely a vision for Firebug 2.0. The theme of the next version will be extensibility. Firebug 1.0 lets people debug the aspects of a web page that are common to everyone, but Firebug 2.0 will let people debug aspects that may be specific to their application or a particular web framework.

For instance, 2.0 will allow pages to add their own tabs and buttons to the interface and to parse and format data from network requests. It will also allow debugging of original JavaScript source files that have been compiled using systems like OpenLaszlo.

To ease the pain of missing your talk, can you reveal something about Parakey for FOSDEM?

I wish I could, but it's still a little too early.

Maybe next year? :-(

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Creative Commons License
This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.