Gitpod Answers Developers’ Call To Run Upstream VS Code in Browser

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Gitpod on Tuesday announced the creation of a new open-source project licensed under MIT around Gitpod’s OpenVSCode Server implementation of upstream, stock VS Code.

Founded in 2020, Gitpod is an open-source platform for automating the provisioning of ready-to-code developer environments. It is designed for applications running in the cloud.

This project enables every individual software developer and/or company to run upstream and stable VS Code in the browser.

By doing so, Gitpod is making a browser-based VS Code developer experience accessible to everyone. This allows developers and teams to run VS Code on cloud-powered servers and access it from any device using only a web browser.

The new project was initiated in response to continuing inquiries from developers, according to Sven Efftinge, CEO at Gitpod.

“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,” Efftinge told LinuxInsider.

Forward-Looking Response

Microsoft has not published the source code used to enable GitHub Codespaces. But since GitPod uses the same low-footprint technique, Efftinge said he wants to share the code with everyone.

“My hope is that this eliminates the need for bad forks of VS Code that introduce unnecessary complexity,” he explained.

The launch of GitHub Codespaces has pushed browser-based, remote development into the mainstream, he noted. Since Microsoft / VS Code did not open source their server implementation, developers cannot run the most upstream VS Code in a browser and server context. The source code that is driving Github Codespaces is not open source.

With Gitpod’s creation of the OpenVSCode Server open-source project, dev teams will have access to all the benefits of cloud-based integrated development environments (IDE) in a vendor-neutral solution. 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-agnostic OpenVSX marketplace, which is another project that Gitpod initially created.

The project lets software developers use the same application that is also running on the desktop. This means they always get the latest VS Code.

This is effectively the market-proven implementation for running VS Code in the browser that both Gitpod and GitHub Codespaces use at scale. Developers will have access to the latest version of VS Code with a straightforward upgrade path and low maintenance effort, according to GitPod.

Newest Available Option

Two other open-source options are available to software developers. But no proprietary or commercial options exist, according to Gitpod’s Efftinge.

An older fork of VS Code is usually outdated because upgrading is very painful with the approach they took, he noted. Another alternative called Theia is not 100 percent like VS Code and also lags behind the latest VS Code changes.

“Microsoft does not offer running VS Code as a web server. They do this within their GitHub Codespaces product, but this is not something people could do on their own servers,” he explained.

The Gitpod-Codespaces Connection

Gitpod and Codespaces are both much more than just the possibility of accessing VS Code from a browser, Efftinge added. Both products use a web server VS Code as one way to access their automated cloud workspaces. That feature is the main value of those products.

Gitpod is open source. Codespaces is a part of the GitHub platform. Efftinge said he does not think that Microsoft has any plans ever to open-source this code.

“OpenVSCode Server is a fork of Microsoft’s VS Code repository, where we add the missing code bits to run VS Code as a web server, just like it is used in Gitpod and Codespaces,” he detailed.

The difference is the VS Code is a version that runs as a web server. Users start it on some machine and can then access that machine through a VS Code interface in a browser. It does not do any user management, cloud-based orchestration, or further automation. All this is what Gitpod or Codespaces do.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

Cloud-based development environments are quickly becoming a favored approach by cloud-native developers to lower the barrier of contribution, offered Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

“As usual, Gitpod is at the forefront of delivering solutions that move the entire industry forward. The new VS Code web server project will certainly allow professional development teams to write code via a browser,” he said.

RStudio Workbench enables data scientists to work with RStudio IDE, VS Code, or Jupyter in a secure, centralized configuration, added J.J. Allaire, CEO of RStudio.

“OpenVSCode Server’s technical alignment with the core VS Code open-source project provides an ideal architecture, and we are excited to integrate it into future versions of RStudio Workbench,” Allaire said.

Interested parties can find out more about the general benefits of cloud-based development here.

Jack M. Germain

Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open-source technologies. He is an esteemed reviewer of Linux distros and other open-source software. In addition, Jack extensively covers business technology and privacy issues, as well as developments in e-commerce and consumer electronics. Email Jack.

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