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Microsoft Announces Visual Studio Online

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Last month Microsoft announced Visual Studio Online, an online code editor for the web. The new service functions as a web-based companion to Visual Studio IDE and Visual Studio Code. Since Visual Studio Online is based on Visual Studio Code, it will provide support for its existing extensions and features. It will also provide support for Visual Studio projects and solutions, along with built-in IntelliCode and Live Share.

Microsoft already had an online product named Visual Studio Online in the past, which concentrated all of its cloud development services. This product was ultimately rebranded as Azure DevOps.

With the new service, Microsoft wants to enable developers to work together from anywhere, on any device. From the official announcement:

Built for productivity while on the go, this solution helps developers perform quick tasks, join Visual Studio Live Share sessions, or perform pull request reviews at times and in places where they may not have access to their development environment.

The announcement is part of Microsoft's initiative on providing a distributed and collaborative development platform. It follows the release of the Remote Development extensions for Visual Studio Code, which allows the use of a local development environment against a remote target machine - even if they run different operating systems.

Contrary to Visual Studio Code, however, these extensions are not open source since they also support other proprietary products like Visual Studio IDE. This was immediately noted by the community - as Titanous points out:

It's worth noting that the new VS Code Remote Development extensions are not open source, which means that it is impossible for the community to fix bugs, and add new platforms/environments/features, or see the code that's running in their environment without reverse engineering.

Visual Studio Online is currently under a private preview, which requires a sign-up process to be able to participate when it is available. There are, however, other open source online editors supporting Visual Studio Code extensions that can already be used. One of the most popular alternatives is Coder, based on Visual Studio Code and available on GitHub. Another alternative (also available on GitHub) is Theia, a joint project between TypeFox, RedHat, IBM, Google, and others.

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