JS Bin’s 5th birthday & news

28th September marks jsbin 5th birthday. jsbin was launched back in 2008 and has been a dear project close to my heart. So in celebration, I’m going to run a fun competition and announce some important news here today.

Competition

Late last night Max Ogden posted a tweet linking to some visual representations of mathematical problems.

Instantly I thought I’d love to see code for these (but they’re all animated gifs) – so I put it to you: create (js)bins that replicate these visualisations (probably using canvas), and prizes shall be received!

Prizes

For the first of each of the full images that are solved, I’ll post you a jsbin sticker (perfect for your laptop).

Solve 5 or more (previously unsolved visualisations), and I’ll send you a jsbin T-shirt.

Behind closed doors, Dave, the jsbin robot has been getting a bit of design love, and I’ll be showing off his new super-duper vector form very soon – obviously perfect for stickers and T-shirt.

Then two random entries will be selected for a lifetime pro jsbin account…whaaaaat? “What are these pro accounts @rem speaks of?”. Read on my friend :-)

Winners

All those entries will get a sticker in the post. Those who entered 5 or more, I’ll be in touch to get you a t-shirt. The winner(s) of the pro accounts are: Rafael Couto and Rob Aldred (I decided on the spur of the moment to give away two accounts).

Pro accounts I had hoped would be live by the end of September, but there’s more work to be done, but you will be the very, very first pro users of JS Bin – congratulations!

And in case you wondered how I picked the winners, here’s a video of me doing it: http://quick.as/y5uozj

Terms

  • The deadline is 27-September 23:59 UK time (BST)
  • Post the solution on jsbin.com
  • It’s better (for you) if you’re a registered user (it’s totally free and even easier now we added github auth a while ago)
  • Either send a tweet hashtaged #jsbin on twitter, or post it here in the comments
  • It’s first come, first serve, so if there’s an easy animated gif, then go for it, but it needs to match the animated gif

Solved so far…

News: side project moves to full time focus

For some time now we’ve* been asking the question: can jsbin sustain itself to support its own development?

“we” refers to myself and Danny Hope who has contributed his time since 2009 on the UX of jsbin.

In short, I’m now full time on jsbin (as of this week until the foreseeable future), and intend to support the development time by creating Pro user accounts (details will be revealed later).

Aside from the new features that pro users will get, the pro account will help keep jsbin 100% free for freely available educational uses (in schools, universities and community training). Those good people will be able to get free training accounts so they can continue help young students and new-comers with jsbin in their tool belt.

Education is very important to me, and pro accounts allows jsbin to keep iterating with features I want to see land, and to help fix any issues that cause issue for both general users and those students stuck working with limited access to tech (like the version of jsbin that works without a web connection and entirely from a usb stick with zero install).

If you want heads up when jsbin pro accounts go live, register (for free) with jsbin – as I’ll email registered users first.

How jsbin’s development cycle works now

At present (as of the day of this post) jsbin only gets development resource from either myself or my team when client work stops, ie. there’s a break in paid development – then I move on to features or bug fixes.

In addition, jsbin’s hosting fees are around £6K ($9.5K) per year (and yes, I’m careful about how and what I host, so I’m not looking for alternative solutions). Then there’s my employees time on jsbin that I pay for.

Overall, not only does jsbin not cover its costs, but it has a deficit of several thousands. One that for a long time, I’ve been happy to incur.

Healthy competition

Since jsbin launched in September 2008, jsfiddle came to the market – which was fine: two freely available apps as side projects. But then last year Chris Coyier (and team) launched CodePen, and what’s important is that it has a business model around the product. From I can see, it’s doing well too: I can’t speak for the business, but general popularity across the web is growing well.

So why can’t jsbin sustain itself? I’m not sure.

The dirty word: money

I always told myself jsbin would be free, ad-free and totally open. That I wouldn’t ask users for cash, because…why should I ask to be paid?

What a idiotic thought.

It’s not that I want to get rich on jsbin, but where I got the impression it was okay to lose money was acceptable – I’ve no clue.

Over the last 3 months I’ve been meeting real people who use jsbin (and some that didn’t and used codepen instead), and I asked them about their use, their understanding of functionality and this is what I’ve finally come to conclude:

  1. There’s lots of people who want to pay/donate for a jsbin account
  2. There’s lots of people who don’t fully know what jsbin can do

Addressing features

jsbin is rich with features that (most) people don’t know about. That’s partly because we’ve taken a held back approach to the UI – in that you arrive at jsbin, and what’s the thing you want to do? Code: so we present the code panels and try to keep that the focus. I still feel that’s right, but the welcome page that was added back in June 2012 will be removed, and introduction and integrated help is a new focus for us.

We’ve also started a new learning centre for jsbin: learn.jsbin.com. Currently it’s a skeletal site with only two real posts, but more to come: github.com/jsbin-org/learn – which will be updated and added to regularly.

Important notes

It’s worth stating so it’s clear:

  1. jsbin will remain open source and available on github as it is today
  2. All current functionality will remain free to all users (there’s some ways of hacking jsbin that may move to pro accounts though)
  3. Those individuals offering free training (to students, children and doing a good thing) on a regular basis can apply for a free pro and training accounts for jsbin.

Exciting times ahead

For me, it’s kind of a big deal to now turn my focus 100% to jsbin, and instead of getting home from work and thinking what bugs can I squash before I hit the sack, now I can spend my day focusing on this tool.

Really the big question is: will the pro features and your sign ups (and let’s face it: your cash) be able to support that position? I hope so, and indeed I hope to bring someone else on board full time to work on jsbin in the future too (maybe that could be you?).

22 Responses to “JS Bin’s 5th birthday & news”

  1. Awwww, that sux.
    Guess I’m going to have to find somewhere else to play now…..money is one thing I don’t have.
    And all that work I did on an extension I never even got to release, bumma.

    But I sure don’t blame you and seriously can’t wait to see what magic you do once you can work on it full time.
    There’s nothing better than getting to turn your hobby/love into a job and I really hope it works out for you.

    So is it going to stay open source?
    Maybe its time to try harder at getting Node to place nice here and running an offline version.

  2. Great news about the Pro account, onward and upward as they say.

  3. @PAEz – everything we have *today* will remain open source and free to use. There might be some functionality I layer on top of jsbin that’s pro only – but where I can, features will continue inside of the open source github project.

    I’d still like to see your plugin released, I mentioned over email that it might make sense under the jsbin-org in github, and I do expect to expose some/most of the functionality via the UI, but I love that you’ve solved it ahead of time with a plugin.

    I’m also going to create a policy that gives anyone who has contributed any significant code to jsbin a free pro account (the exact terms are not straight in my head yet, and this excludes pull requests for libraries). I’ll have details about this in the future.

    I’ve also purchased a windows machine so I can finally get to the bottom of the local windows install issues – so that’s high on my list too.

    I don’t see any reason why you’d need to find elsewhere to play :)

  4. Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!
    As long as it has what it has now Im happy.
    And glad its staying open source..its one of the big reasons I chose JS Bin.

    Wonder what features you could add that you could charge for, also wonder what others would think is worth paying for.
    Here’s some ideas ;)….
    Front Page for user where they can post there bins, get rated on and commented. The ability to link to a bin in a comment and have that link shown in the original bin with link to comment. And then the ability for the original poster to make alterations to the bin in the comment and for it to show up to the poster in that bin (It doesnt fork, the original poster is allowed to alter the commenters code). The original poster could also bring up a diff page to see the diffs between the original code and the commenters. Basically making one awesome QA thingy ;)
    The ability to attach a comment to a line, with a little marker in the gutter that when you click on makes the output panel show a page of markdown/html. Allowing the poster to put whole page (pictures and all) comments to a line…how cool would that be for tutorials.
    Incorporate some auto doc generator. At any time they can click a button and see its result in the output panel. Be extra awesome if when you clicked on a link in the docs the source went to the corresponding location.
    Monitoring and notifications of updates to someone elses bins.
    RSS Feeds.
    Chat.
    Mass downloading/backups.
    By the way you’ve mentioned an offline version of JS Bin that runs off a usb stick (before as an idea, in this post like its been done)…thats something Id pay for (as long as it wasnt much, and our concepts of much would prolly differ ;)). SInce it’d be a one off payment and not monthly, it’d be more likely I could do it and if it works with no setup from me it’s something Id love to have (being dialup and all).

    Oh and the installing Node stuff is prolly all me. Still need to get the VC compiler thing, which someone is dropping off soon, so hopefully Ill finally get to install it here and have a play…..I really wanna play ;)

  5. I am glad you reached this decision. In time, I will probably be one of your paying users.

    Jsbin is a better tool compared to what I have tried using before (jsfiddle is somewhat annoying to me, especially if I want to use it with Ember.js).

    Also, I am actually taking a service really seriously only when it asks me for money. This might sound weird, but nothing is free, we all know that. And when people use something for free, what they don’t really realize is that they are the product/merchandise being sold.

    So, looking forward to the Pro version!

  6. Oh and one more pay for thing….be a prick….Tern ;)

  7. @PAEz – some of those features (including Tern) are already on the list for free users (I was one of the big donators to the Tern project because Marijn’s CodeMirror is such a useful tool). The mass export (both as zip file and to dropbox) will be a pro feature. There’s some more hints as to what’s coming in the ROADMAP.md file in the jsbin git repo.

  8. Just did a simple one. Also put the image in there for comparison.

  9. Good luck with it Remy. As someone who works on and releases a lot of open source projects (and enjoys doing that way more than actual client work!) weighing up time vs money is a nagging issue. I wish you all the luck in making the right decisions. I’m going the same route myself over the next 6 months and will be formalising all major releases under a new moniker. If you ever want to brainstorm ideas…

  10. Great, i will have to take a look into this once i get a spare moment…

  11. Interesting… I used JSFiddle and only really discovered JSBin and Code Pen recently.

    Why I like code pen, mainly the landing page, showcasing cool stuff.

    I also really like the dark theme.

    Something that would be awesome:

    I like how people are making gists and then embedding single snippets of code into their blogs. If this could some how been integrated with JSBin it would be really nice. Then I could have all my code in one place. I could blog my findings using snippets of code and then I could have a demo URL in JSBin, I know I could do that any way but with separation.

    Maybe if I could have several gists snippets (for the blog and explanation), and then 1 final gist snippet with all of the js code that could be linked to a JSBin demo project some how.

    Good luck with the project.

  12. @Michael – that’s already there in jsbin (both embedding which is a fuller feature, but also being able to embed a small snippet – like a gist – and easily, automatically sucking that in to jsbin to demo) – it’s been there for over a year, and again, it’s because I don’t do a good job of education people about the features.

    There’s also gist import (just change the gist.github.com to jsbin.com/gist/ and it’ll work). There’s gist export (under the “Bin” menu in the navigation) and full embedding (which I’m not sure you were asking about, but it’s worth mentioning anyway).

  13. Great news Rem, glad your finally able to give a great project your full attention.

  14. updated to match original gif (sorry for spamming)

    http://i.imgur.com/CuzTPTR.gif
    http://jsbin.com/idIXaDe/4/edit

  15. This is good news. I love open source projects, and jsbin is an amazing tool.

    Right now it’s a very useful tool for developing snippets of code, and I’d love to be able to open my projects using it (which have multiple javascript files), and edit them all from one location.

    As a professional developer, this would save me time, which means it makes me more effective in my work. I’m happy to pay for that, and I wouldn’t mind that it would still be accessible for free to other people. I run a charity myself, and understand that things cost money. You can’t do everything on the smell of an oily rag. Ask people who can afford it (and who see value in it) to pay for it.

    Count me in for one of your first subscriptions now. I’ll even start paying for it ahead of time. Just tell me how to pay you.

    Cheers

    Mike

  16. Colleague noticed a bug. New version: http://jsbin.com/EnOXuh/4/edit

  17. Not the first solution of this one so no cigar, was fun to make nonetheless.
    http://jsbin.com/ePaXEzO/6/

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