Interview with Alexey Utkin from JDICPlus project

April 4th, 2008

The announcement of JDICPlus project that was made last week was a little unexpected. This was mentioned in the latest installment of Swing links of the week, and subsequently picked by DZone and editors. The comments on both the original announcement and on the DZone thread are mixed, and most commentors point out that JDIC and JDICPlus could provide a little bit more information on their status and roadmaps.

Alexey Utkin is the man behind the JDICPlus project, and he graciously agreed to answer a few questions that i had in mind.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Alexey Utkin avatarI was born in 1971 in Saint-Petersburg, Russia and still living here. I started writing programs at school and never stopped doing it. I got my PhD diploma in physics and mathematics in St.-Petersburg State University where I am lecturing now at Calculating Physics Department. The longest period of my developer’s life was spent working in Novavox company. For a year before joining Sun Microsystems, I worked for Borland till closing of the local office. Since 2006 I work as a developer in AWT group. I like fine solutions of complicated problems, read with interest avva’s live journal and Facebook puzzles.

Can you overview the history of JDIC project?

Really I can not. The only history that is accessible for me is the diffs in CVS. Some ideas were brilliant, and others were not. My last 15 years were spent for DOS/MS Windows development in C++. In Windows OS family the browser embedding was never a problem, so I did not need JDIC before.

The JDIC project has not seen any substantial activity after a lot of its functionality was incorporated into Java SE 6. Do you know the reasons?

The answer is in your question. Most of the JDIC functionality was transferred to Java SE 6. The browser part was not. An approach with inter process communication over a socket connection is not suitable for real life. But any released solution in Java becomes a standard, especially in case of browser component. My opinion is that JDIC browser
reached the top of functionality in the confines of the chosen architecture, but it was not enough for main stream release.

What is JDICPlus? Is it your personal hobby, simple exploration of new ideas or the renewed investment from Sun in JDIC for Java SE 7?

It’s clear that Java needs standard embedded browser. We are working on it. Of course, JDICPlus is not a candidate for Java SE 7. JDICPlus is a part of my research work about an ability to use native browser as some kind of an external AWT/Swing component. Currently it is a personal hobby. I tried to create primitive communication with browser and take mostly the native renderer. DOM and events treatment subsystems are already inside and it works perfect with Javascript. If you get the connection point from Java level to Javascript with callback ability – you have everything that you can for free.

Is there a roadmap for JDICPlus? What are the projected areas that it is going to concentrate on, and what are the target platforms?

At present the JDICPlus project doesn’t have an “official” status. It is an incubator in the full meaning of the word. Currently there is no roadmap for JDICPlus at all. I will spend the time implementing the most essential OS functionality that is not accessible from Java. JDICPlus CAB format coder/encoder with ZipInputStream/ZipOutputStream interface is such an example. For browser it is possible to capture new window creation event – that is done in TabbedBrowser (WebStart link). There are the problems with child windows rendering and common stability. I hope to solve it soon.

Are there any plans to port the support for translucent and shaped windows to JDIC or JDICPlus, so these can be used on JDK 5.0?

JDICPlus supports very strict approach to shaping and translucency that makes IE browser similar to real lightweight component. Potentially it could be propagated to JDK 5.0, but all project orients to JDK 6.0. The problem is complicated, especially taking the cross-platform aspect into account. Please wait for the main stream release solution.

Are there any plans to investigate support for cross-platform browser toolkits, such as Webkit or Gecko?

Gecko is progressing too fast. Attempting to embed Gecko is a constant challenge. The key part of API is incompatible with older versions, and you can not distribute Gecko together with your product. That is a dead circle and JDIC is a good example. May be something will change in future. Webkit is impressive, but young. Let’s wait and see.

Are there any plans to handle the issues reported on JDIC over the past eighteen months?

The most critical bugs reported on main stream release (based on 0.9.2) will be fixed. But the main project is frozen for new features.

What are your thoughts on pure-Java solutions as opposed to embedding native components / toolkits?

Let’s try to be realistic. I don’t think that Sun has any reason to join the browser war. The existing pure-Java solution in Swing is acceptable for rendering simple HTML snippets. But now nobody is interested in a partial solution. The compromise is available and more or less predictable. Wait…

What would be your top three wishes for Java desktop?

  1. Standard cross-platform solution for embed browser (surprise?! )
  2. Shaping and translucency (smile)
  3. Perfect MS COM/DCOM interconnection with Java classes. It can really make Java the number one development environment under the MS Windows.

With this, i hope that at least some of your questions have been answered. I’d like to thank Alexey for agreeing to answer my questions.