Web development gurus Dion Almaer and Ben Galbraith are leaving their previous positions, at Google and as a consultant respectively, to join forces and head up a new group at Mozilla called the Developer Tools Lab.
“We’re now the co-directors of the developer tools group at Mozilla and we’re really jazzed about it,” Almaer told eWEEK in an interview. “This is the first time the dominant platform is the open Web platform and is not in a position where a specific vendor has control over it. We’re psyched about building tools and making them available to everybody as open-source software.”
Almaer and Galbraith co-founded the popular Ajaxian.com site and are known as a hot draw on the developer-oriented trade show circuit. The team has a particular style that plays well to developers as they joke and banter amongst themselves, with Almaer’s British wit playing against Galbraith’s impish American-geek sense of humor. Other talented technical presentation duos that come to mind include Don Box and Chris Anderson of Microsoft and Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman of Novell and Ximian fame.
Almaer and Galbraith will be missed by their former employers, but welcomed with open arms at Mozilla. Almaer served as an engineer and evangelist on Google’s open-source team, where he contributed to several projects and turned out some of the best video interviews and other content related to Google’s developer-oriented initiatives. In addition to serving as a software consultant to many organizations, at MediaBank Galbraith was CIO and chief software architect.
Almaer said despite having left Google to start up a developer tools effort inside Mozilla, he has not severed ties to the search giant. Indeed, he said he hopes to maintain a close relationship with Google and other potential partners such as Adobe Systems.
“Being Mozilla and open, we want to work with other companies on this,” Almaer said. “We are especially excited to work with companies like Google who care about the open Web.”
Galbraith said Mozilla is focused on “creating development tools that make the open Web productive for developers.”
Moreover, “Mozilla is the extreme with community-everything we do is going to be public,” Almaer said. “This is the perfect situation; everything will be done openly and transparently.”
Almaer and Galbraith said they were not ready to deliver a road map of what they plan to deliver and when, “but we plan to attack a few interesting bottlenecks that hinder open Web productivity,” Galbraith said. “One thing we plan to do is provide simple reference materials so developers can get a browser to do what it’s supposed to do according to documented APIs. And we’ll help with things like providing assistance for participating in open-source projects-just in terms of how to do it.”
Galbraith said they also plan to look at traditional pain points in Web development such as layout and debugging support, including possibly delivering lower-level debugging tools. And although nothing has yet been established, it is possible that the Mozilla Firebug team could eventually become part of the new Mozilla tools group.
Both Almaer and Galbraith come from the enterprise Java world and said that they come to this new role having always had to augment available commercial tools with tools of their own. So they know developers’ pain. “We always wound up doing tooling plays internally wherever we worked, and this is an opportunity to focus on tools for open Web developers,” Galbraith said.
He said he is not necessarily interested in rebuilding “Visual Basic on the Web, but we want to help you build compelling software.”
In a blog post, Almaer wrote:
“Mozilla is placing a big bet, not only on us, but in the developer tools space. Why are we doing this? Ben and I are passionate about a couple of things: compelling software and developers. In various roles in the past, we have built tools that attempt to make developers productive. We are huge advocates for the Open Web, yet we feel that tools are lacking on our collective platform. We want to help make a difference.“