Saturday, 20 September 2008

Seaside History

There are a lot of questions around the origins and evolution of Seaside, particularly after Avi and I gave up our old domain and the old Seaside and Seaside 2 websites with it.

A couple of months ago, I began (but never finished) a history page for the Seaside website to provide some background information for those who are interested. I had to dust off some of those notes to prepare my ESUG presentation on the past and future evolution of the framework and figured I might as well dust off the history page as well. So here's the story as best as I can recall it (and by "recall", I mean "find in Google" because Google seems to hold the majority of my memories these days).

[Update: now posted at]


Seaside made its public debut (version 0.9) in an announcement to the squeak-dev list on February 21, 2002. Avi Bryant and I developed Seaside to support our web application development consulting, specifically the development of a web-based theatre boxoffice sales system.

Seaside took heavy inspiration from Avi's Iowa framework (now here), which was written in Ruby and was itself inspired by NeXT's (and then Apple's) WebObjects. This first release of Seaside provided action callbacks for links and forms, session state management with support for call/return and the back button, and a component system with templates.


Almost immediately after the release of 0.9, we began work on Seaside 2.x (codenamed Borges, a reference to Jorge Luis Borges' short story The Garden of Forking Paths and an allusion to Seaside's support for forking session states). Seaside 2.0 was essentially a complete rewrite with a layered architecture: a Kernel layer providing a continuation-based HTTP request/response response loop and state (back-)tracking; a Views layer providing action callbacks and a rendering API for generating HTML; and a Component layer providing call/return semantics, embedding, and development tools.

Seaside 2.0 was released in October, 2003 with the templating system conspicuously absent. This was an experiment to see whether the development of the HTML rendering API and the wider acceptance of CSS had reduced or eliminated the need for templates. The new layered architecture made it easy for others to experiment with developing their own template engines. Seaside was also ported by Eric Hodel to Ruby, where it kept the name Borges.

Several versions followed in quick succession with major refactorings to the session state tracking and backtracking mechanisms. Seaside 2.3 (mid-2003) also introduced an even more layered architecture that tried to make some of the internals clearer and more accessibly to the project's growing number of users and contributors. It also confirmed that Seaside would not have built-in templates in the near future. Seaside became increasingly well-known around this time with a presentation at ESUG 2002 by Lukas Renggli and Adrian Lienhard and a hands-on development workshop at Smalltalk Solutions in 2003 by myself and Avi.


Seaside 2.4 and 2.5 addressed some growing pains in some of the core parts of the system: the Renderer API, collapsing under the weight of combinatorial explosion, was replaced by the now-familiar Canvas API; and some of the internal workings of the Session object were reified to make its application main-loop metaphor more obvious. Version 2.5 also saw the introduction of Component Decorations, Halos, and response streaming.

As first I and then Avi began to work full time developing applications using Seaside, the community began to carry more of the development load, with the release of Seaside 2.7 being  entirely (and very successfully) managed by the community, with Lukas, Philippe Marschall, and Michel Bany leading the effort. This release focused heavily on cleaning up the code base by fixing, deprecating, refactoring, and removing code.

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