Development Blog

Firebug Reflections

The third anniversary of my first Firebug contribution is coming up, so it’s time for a little reflection and dreaming.

We’ve come along way since Joe Hewitt unleashed Firebug 1.0.  Arriving at the start of the Web 2.0 revolution, Firebug helped shift people from thinking Web 2.0 was a fad to realizing Web apps can be real. Firebug had to grow up in a hurry while we still did not understand the code well and certainly didn’t understand Firefox.

Firebug 1.1 wasn’t really meant to be, used by a few dedicated and helpful folks. So Firebug 1.2 was our first real release beyond Joe’s original source. Behind the scenes we had lots of extra work to close a security hole in Firebug.  At the time we could not tell anyone: too many users were exposed.

Firebug 1.3 was originally planned as a stop-gap release, but thankfully it was pretty solid, because Firebug 1.4 started off as a bizarre disaster: a lot of unpopular UI changes masked a serious UI bug that took weeks to discover. Firebug 1.5 went a lot smoother, partly by luck but mostly because we finally have a solid test suite and working debugger for our debugger.  Firebug 1.5 just entered the history books; we’ll know in a few months how we did.

Some people use Firebug as an inspection and tweeking tool; some use its console or net panel; some use just the Javascript debugger. But for most users the real power of this first ever Web debugger is synergy.  No combination of independent inspectors, consoles, net-traffic analyzers, and debuggers provides the same level of support for developers. Pivoting between panels and using one view to trigger action in another is how Firebug Ninjas work.

The world of Web development changed in three years. Other browsers gave up on small independent tools , they now have debuggers that look and act an awful lot like Firebug; there are even another browser now and it comes with a Firebug-like debugger built-in. While I am hardly unbiased, I think Firebug remains the best of the bunch, both in terms of overall design and in terms of a rich and appropriate feature set. For that we have a lot of  talented and dedicated contributors to thank!

But what about the next three years? I’ll do a little dreaming in my next post.


Follow up on the newsgroup please.

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