Slipping musically into my twitter stream earlier this morning came an excited remark by John Resig. He seemed all hyped about the new Atlas product from 280 North that they announced at Future of Web Apps, Miami.
Given John’s reputation in web development, I immediately followed the link and watched the introductory video on the site, expecting to be amazed. It looked all very pretty and the creation of an rss reader with just a few clicks of the mouse gave suitable wow-factor to the demonstration.
However, I could not help thinking that I had seen this idea somewhere before. I use it at work every day – Microsoft Visual Studio. The same concepts are there for web development – a drag-and-drop interface, with built-in controls that are supposed to take most of the grunt work away from you.
At first look, this idea is great – creating fully-fledged application in no time at all. However, in my experience with Visual Studio, this ends up being more of a hindrance than a help. I avoid the drag-drop functionality of VS like the plague, not because I am a glutton for punishment but because of the intrinsic limitation it places on you and because most of the time the same functionality can (and should) be achieved in a faster, more flexible and more maintainable way. The biggest gripe I have with web development in VS is the constant struggle to make it produce tidy html that is standards compliant.
Atlas might not be like that at all. I have only seen the video. However, I don’t think it is revolutionary as the buzz today would lead us into thinking and it may not be all that people hope it is. It could endup just being a Visual Studio type development environment based in a browser.