Between Web & Desktop, Bubbles

By Jackson West

Bubbles is an interesting new solution that provides a bridge between rich web applications and the desktop. While still in development, Windows users can download and install it for free. Then they can set up their favorite web applications (Gmail, Flickr, 30boxes, etc.) to run as programs on their start bar. Then it’s as simple as hitting alt-tab to cycle through them alongside your other client applications.

Developed by Ohad Eder-Pressman and his small team at 3D3R, a computer graphics studio, the project was part of their effort to split their time between client projects and ‘cool stuff,’ in Ohad’s words. Happily surprised by the reaction to the application, their now in the process of polishing the application and fixing bugs.

They’re also building in more desktop functionality, like providing a Javascript API so that web apps can interact with the right-click menu on the system tray and also display alerts — even building a set of GreaseMonkey-type tools to let the community build functionality into sites with or without help from the original developers. “If the community accepts this, it means it wants these sites to have these features, so hopefully when enough people use it, it will convince sites to add it themselves.”

The application uses the Internet Explorer rendering engine and ActiveX controls, making for a light weight download. “The funny thing is that we’re all Firefox users, so we’re also trying to put some work into a cleaner integration with Firefox, albeit I must admit Microsoft made it easier for developers this time.” They’re also currently looking for someone to help them port the application to the Macintosh, and want to focus on building a development community by creating forums for users and developers to communicate, script libraries and documentation. As for new features, he said that drag-and-drop and rich copy-and-paste between applications and sites were user requests that are now on their to do list.

Ohad, based in Raanana, Israel, about 20 minutes from Tel Aviv. His team currently works from their respective homes. “[D]oing a garage-stunt has its own benefits, like being able to not make any money and not take capital for a while.” He recently returned from Kinnernet — a meeting of the minds among techies from Israel and abroad modeled on O’Reilly’s Foo Camp. Ohad says that the Israeli hi-tech scene, which really matured in the late nineties, is “booming big time.”

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