announced on his blog that he's leaving Facebook and going independent.Joe Hewitt helped build Firefox, he built the wildly popular developers' tool Firebug and then he single-handedly created one of the world's most widely used iPhone apps: the Facebook app. Today he
What's he going to do? Build tools. "[T]ools for writers, designers, programmers, whatever," he writes. "Wherever people are using computers to turn their ideas into reality, I want to help." That sounds awesome.
"I've spent the last four years of my career working on a very different kind of software. At Facebook, I've gotten to build communications tools that reach hundreds of millions of people. I've had the honor of seeing people, even my own parents, using my apps while walking down the street, in restaurants, on trains, in planes and everywhere I go. Still, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Firebug.
"Technologies have a way of growing faster than the ecosystem of tools needed to support them. Over the last four years, we've seen the rise of mobile apps, the cloud, and now HTML5. Most developers building on these new platforms are using the previous generations of tools along with a mix of ad-hoc scripts and Web apps to get things done. It works, but it is far from ideal. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the Ajax climate back in 2006 when I decided to make Firebug.
"And so, I'm independent now, and I'm going to pour myself into understanding the needs of modern developers and designers, and creating software to fill those needs. There are so many opportunities that I can't even predict what I will end up building, but I am pretty sure I know where I am going to start. I can't wait."
Hewitt's plan to build tools for other developers (much less writers and designers!) points towards a future where the Web is a platform for democratized creation again. A generative force, not a new walled garden silo for passive consumption of media on a mass scale.
Facebook is many things; on the positive side it's been an incredible introduction to a writeable, personalized, feed-driven, mobile, social, place-aware Web for hundreds of millions of people. Just like AOL was too often mistaken for the entirety of the Web in the old days, though, there's a risk that many people will treat Facebook like the entirety (or at least the center) of the Web today and in the future.
There's nothing hotter right now than mobile design and applications and there are few things online more conflicted with potential and confusion at the same time as HTML5. Some tools-driven leadership could come in very handy in both departments.
Joe Hewitt creating for creators, on the open Web, sounds like very good news for the Web and its future.