Gitpod releases browser-based Visual Studio code to get around Microsoft

Backed by industry leaders GitLab, VMware and Sourcegraph, Gitpod created an open-source project to bring browser-based development to VS Code free from Microsoft's control.

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Image: iStock/monsitj

Gitpod announced Tuesday the creation of a new open-source project around Gitpod's OpenVSCode Server implementation of upstream stock Visual Studio code. This project (licensed under Massachusetts Institute of Technology open source license) allows individual developers to run upstream and stable VS Code in a browser. 

"Over the last few months, we have been approached by multiple large organizations and individual developers asking how we run Gitpod's 'OpenVSCode Server' implementation, as they wanted to adopt that approach within their own products and daily workflows," Sven Efftinge, co-founder and CEO of Gitpod, said in a press release. 

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Even though Microsoft, which owns the Visual Studio source code, has yet to publish the Visual Studio source code it uses to enable GitHub Codespaces, Gitpod, an open-source platform provider of automated development environments, decided to share the same low-footprint technique, he said. 

"My hope is that this eliminates the need for bad forks of VS Code that introduce unnecessary complexity," Effinge said.

The launch of Github Codespaces, a browser-based, cloud development environment, pushed browser-based remote development into the mainstream, Gitpod said. But, because Microsoft did not open source its server implementation, developers cannot run the most upstream VS Code in a browser and server context since the source code driving Github Codespaces is not open source. 

"Gitpod's move to open source their technology will improve the productivity of developers who run VS Code in the browser," Sid Sijbrandij, co-founder and CEO at GitLab, said in a press release. "Extension developers can further automate end-to-end tests in a DevOps platform like GitLab, improving the overall developer flow from ideation through CI/CD pipelines."

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With Gitpod's creation of the 'OpenVSCode Server' open-source project, dev teams will have access to all the benefits of cloud-based IDEs in a vendor-neutral solution, the company said. Teams and individual developers can use the most popular IDE in the world on any device, at any time, deployed on any machine, including access to all VS Code extensions via the vendor-neutral OpenVSX marketplace—another project that Gitpod initially created. 

The project has the following long-standing objectives, Efftinge said: 

  • Enable every developer to run the latest VS Code in the browser based on the same architecture that powers Gitpod and GitHub Codespaces
  • Eliminate the need for bad forks of VS Code that introduce unnecessary complexity
  • Provide a straightforward upgrade path and low-maintenance effort
  • Demonstrate that professional software development in the cloud is a reality today
  • Offer a browser-based VS Code distribution that is free from the control of Microsoft in addition to the vendor neutral OpenVSX extension registry

"Independently maintained projects like OpenVSCode Server play an important role as an alternative to vertically integrated dev ecosystems ... I'm looking forward to the innovations this enables for developers everywhere. Together with the vendor neutral marketplace that Gitpod started, it opens up a ton of opportunities for devs to do even more," Beyang Liu, co-founder and CTO at Sourcegraph, said in a press release.

The initiative is supported by GitLab, VMware, Uber, RStudio, SAP, Sourcegraph, SUSE Rancher, Tabnine, Render and TypeFox, the company said in a press release. 

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By Allen Bernard

Now a freelance business writer and journalist, Allen Bernard is the former managing editor of CIOUpdate.com, eSecurityPlanet.com, ITSMWatch.com, and EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet.com. Throughout his 20-year career, Bernard has focused on explaining the...