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Meer Meer: Cross browser testing all through your one browser!

The most exciting part of Adobe MAX last week was a service that was
announced by Paul Gubbay at the “Sneaks” session that shows cool tech
that Adobe folk are working on. His (very early stage) service is
called Meer Meer and it is genuinely useful.

You can plugin a URL and the system will render that page on a
server farm (many browsers, cross OS) and show you the results. It can
visually layer these results so you can see the differences. It was

I pinged Paul and had a nice conversation with him about the project:

Can you explain what Meer Meer is, and where you got the inspiration?

Meer Meer is the code name for a new hosted service that allows Web
Pros to view their content on a variety of different browsers and
operating systems without requiring them to install anything other than
the standard Flash Player. The inspiration is easy. We spend a lot of
time with our customers and cross-browser compatibility consistently
comes up as the #1 issue unprompted. It’s a real pain and we wanted to
help solve it.

What browsers and OSes are supported? This means I don’t have to kick up VMWare to test in IE 6 now right? 😉

IE6 is covered 🙂 We haven’t finalized the complete set yet but
we’re committed to supporting the top browsers for Windows and Mac. We
expect that mix to change over time as new browsers/versions gain
market share.

What are the various views and features?

We’ve really focused on how users tweak/debug their CSS today and
engineered the service to fit into that workflow. One of the unique
features for Meer Meer is that it can work directly with your local
content if you are using Dreamweaver. This is a big benefit as users
can tweak CSS and hit the refresh button to get an immediate
representation of the page on their target browsers. No need to save,
publish to a public location and then view. In addition, we’ve focused
on several views (1-up, side by side and onion skin).

Onion skin is the most interesting as it overlays two browser shots
over each other and provides the user with complete control over the
transparency. This view typically gets the big oohs and aahs 🙂

Can you talk about the high level implementation? I assume you
have a server farm on the back end and you are rendering and sending
back images of the rendered image?

That’s correct. In addition we’re using a Flex application as the
client. This makes the application feel very snappy and respond like a
desktop application without the need to install anything. The team has
also done some great work to establish a local connection with
Dreamweaver to work with local content. When you make a change to your
code and switch back to Meer Meer it knows you’ve made a change and
prompts you to refresh. You can choose to refresh from within
Dreamweaver and a panel will update and show you the status of the
screenshot retrieval in real time.

In Dreamweaver CS4 you showed taking an Ajax app, clicking around
to change state, freezing the page and then sending it to Meer Meer.
Can you talk more about the freezing feature and other things that you
can do?

I’m really proud to be associated with this release of DW CS4. We’ve
definitely pushed the envelope. Our new Live View leverages the WebKit
rendering engine to provide users with a true browser experience
directly within the product. This means that you can see and interact
with dynamic content such as Ajax UI widgets. Furthermore, we’ve
included the ability to see the Live Code that the browser generates as
you interact with the page. Users can freeze JavaScript to get the page
into different states and then use the new Code Navigator to jump
directly to the CSS that effects the element they select. This is an
added bonus for Meer Meer because we can place the page into different
states, such as selecting the second pane of an Accordion widget, and
then view the page in that state within Meer Meer. Other browser
compatibility services simply can’t do this.

Any final thoughts on Meer Meer or other Web Pro services coming from Adobe?

We’re really excited about the future of desktop + services at
Adobe. Meer Meer is a great example of what we can accomplish when we
take a holistic view to solving a user challenge. We’re also very
interested in extending the capabilities of our users by providing them
with turn-key hosted solutions that allow them to grow their business.
Content maintenance follows very closely on the heels of browser
compatibility as a top challenge that our users face today. Our new
InContext Editing service that is now in free preview on Adobe labs
allows Web Pros to provide content editing capabilities directly within
the browser to their end user. No programming required.

We look forward to hearing feedback from the community on these services to help guide our future direction.

This is an exciting server from Adobe, and shows that focusing on
the Flash issue isn’t the entire story. They have a lot to offer the
Open Web if we look to the right places and we can continue to fight
for more too 🙂 If we support projects like Meer Meer we can make our
voice heard.

Of course, this is just the beginning. I would love to see an API to
the service which would allow any developer tools to mashup nicely with
the service. You can also imagine actively analyzing the code to not
only point out the diff in the image, but the issue in the code. When
we get there, we will be in a very good place indeed 🙂

There were some other cool things from MAX that showed up in Labs:

  • Alchemy: A research project that allows users to compile C and C++ code into ActionScript libraries (AVM2).
  • Durango: Mashup tool for AIR

And for more in-browser tools, check out this nice roundup on

15 Helpful In-Browser Web Development Tools.

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