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Famo.us JavaScript Library Goes Open Source to Public, Brings Free Lessons to Community

by James Chesters on Apr 29, 2014 |

The Famo.us JavaScript library has been released in open source to the public, with a free community-driven platform.

CEO Steve Newcomb says with this move Famo.us is bringing a entire ecosystem to the community, and aims to "enfranchise the millions who have traditionally been left out of coding".

HTML5 came out strong with the First Public Working Draft in 2008, but in the time since the real experience has fallen short for many developers -- with Facebook ditching it in favour of a native approach in 2012. Providing an open source 3D layout engine integrated with a 3D physics-based animation engine that can render to DOM, Canvas, or WebGL, Famo.us wants to help HTML5 reach its original vision.

Famo.us uses 3D rendering, multi-screen and gesture engines, and aims to enable developers to build "beautiful experiences" for cross-platform web-apps, and to be a JavaScript platform for engineers to build cross-platform web apps that perform like native apps.

InfoQ contacted Newcomb about the open source release. He said Famo.us was creating an ecosystem for its community. He said:

There are currently about 14 million developers on the planet, but Famo.us wants to enable 50 million people to build anything they want. From the beginning of computing, coding has been the world of the few—but our idea is to enfranchise the millions who have traditionally been left out of coding. That includes designers, women, kids, financially challenged people who can't afford the expensive computer you need to run most development platforms, and people whose first language isn't English so they struggle with English-language manuals.

Famo.us intends to do this with a free and open source "Famo.us University". Newcomb says the university platform offering lessons translated into 50 languages, where users can get up and running and coding with Famo.us in a few minutes. Famo.us University provides a cloud-based development environment in the browser, without having to install any software, servers, or complex environments prior to trying out Famo.us.

The open source announcement on Hacker News was met with mixed reactions. User Camus2 said: "Famo.us is over marketed, all I see is marketing and trying to create buzz."

However, others were more enthusiac.User DigitalSea said: "I've been looking forward to trying out Famo.us' Javascript engine to see what all of the hype was about and how they were achieving those remarkable benchmark scores on mobile. I am going to dig into the code tonight and find out what makes it really tick. Fantastic and exciting."

Some users were frustrated that the Famo.us site wasn't working as it should be. User dfc commented "The about section of the website is completely blank for me in the latest Firefox."

User pbhjpbhj agreed: "Same here - there's clearly some content in the source for the /about page but nothing showing for me either (FF28, WinXP)."

Commenting on the Reddit discussion "So famo.us was released a few days ago. Anyone tried it yet, what do you think?" several comments echoed Hacker News. User Darc_Castssaid: "The about page cuts off short and will not scroll (no scroll bar and arrow keys will not scroll though there is clearly content left on the page) on Chrome. Odd."

Andrew de Andrade, software engineer at Famo.us, responded to the comments on Hacker News, saying "Deadlines happen. This will be fixed shortly." The issues reported have since been resolved.

Newcomb says that the vision for Famo.us doesn't stop with the framework itself: "We believe that choosing a platform to learn isn't just a technical decision for a person—it's a career decision. And we want to be the community that a person chooses to be with for their entire career," Newcomb said "We not only want to measured by the capabilities of our platform, but the capability to help our community get that 20% pay raise for learning Famo.us."

InfoQ readers can get involved with Famo.us in a number of ways, including contributing to the open source code or as a Famo.us teacher. Famo.us also aims to help any members of the community who want to run a local meetup or hackathon.

Founded by Steve Newcomb (founder of Powerset, which is now Microsoft Bing) and Mark Lu (22 year old coder from UC Berkeley) in May 2011, Famo.us raised $1.1M in seed and a further $4.1M in Series A funding.

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So pathetic. by Jessica Walters

Steve & Co. embody all that is wrong with Silicon Valley. A failed product that is too late to market, finally getting exposed for the vaporware hype-machine it is. No amount of money or marketing will legitimize this broken, confused framework.

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