GitHub Codespaces feels a bit too closed? Gitpod opens up OpenVSCode Server to escape Microsoft control

'Minimal' tweaks shared for all to see

Development platform outfit Gitpod has taken the covers off an open-source project aimed at running the latest Visual Studio Code remotely via a browser in the form of OpenVSCode Server.

If it all sounds vaguely familiar, well, it should. GitHub Codespaces turned up earlier this year after a lengthy gestation. Codespaces permits a developer to use a browser-based version of Visual Studio Code with a cloud-based development environment.

Gitpod noted "the launch of Github Codespaces has pushed browser-based, remote development into the mainstream," but added that Microsoft had not open sourced its server implementation.

"As a result," Gitpod's Johannes Landgraf, Sven Efftinge, and Anton Kosyakov, went on, "developers cannot run the most upstream VS Code in a browser and server context, as the source code that is driving Github Codespaces is not open source."

Gitpod has long been about the "developing remotely" experience, hosting cloud-based development environments, although initially generally used Eclipse Theia for browser-based coding. Earlier this year, the outfit made the move from Theia to VS Code and now here we are.

The implementation shared on GitHub looks relatively straightforward and is forked from VS Code.

"We thought we might as well share the minimal set of changes needed," explained Gitpod in the file, "so people can rely on the latest version of VS Code, have a straightforward upgrade path and low maintenance effort."

"We have no intention of changing VS Code in any way or to add additional features to VS Code itself," the company added.

The likes of GitLab have enthusiastically backed Gitpod's move, with CEO Sid Sijbrandij commenting "Gitpod's move to open source their technology will improve the productivity of developers who run VS Code in the browser."

With VS Code still very much a developer darling, Gitpod's take is an alternative browser-based distribution of the editor for coders that find the thought of Microsoft's control a bit icky.

The IDE's original, fully automated, developer environments still remain an option. However, programmers tempted by Codespaces might prefer the open-source alternative of OpenVSCode Server. ®

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