Appcelerator Raises $4.1 Million for Open Source RIA Platform
by Mark Hendrickson on December 9, 2008

Mountain View-based startup Appcelerator has raised $4.1 million in a Series A round led by Storm Ventures. The money will go primarily towards the development of an open source competitor to Adobe AIR, which enables web developers to create applications that look and function more like desktop programs.

The first version of Appcelerator’s RIA platform, dubbed Titanium, is being released today for developers on Windows and Mac OS. Appcelerator is also releasing a few demo applications, such as a Twitter client named Tweetanium and a YouTube media player called Playtanium (both shown in the video below). I’ve tested the Tweetanium client and it does indeed operate like AIR clients such as Twhirl and Alert Thingy, albeit with far fewer features.

One of the convenient aspects of Titanium is that its applications don’t have to require a separate installation of the Titanium runtime environment. If you wanted to install an Adobe AIR application – or activate any of the advanced functionality provided by other RIA environments such as Google Gears – you must install either an executable or a plugin first. But with Titanium, developers can opt to incorporate Titanium’s runtime environment into their applications so they can be downloaded and installed just like any other desktop program. (Update: As Ryan Stewart points out below, AIR developers can indeed “bundle the AIR runtime with any application” as well).

Appcelerator is leveraging a slew of technologies (C, C++, Objective C, Win32, Chromium, Webkit, Cocoa, etc.) to build out its suite of desktop capabilities, which include background notifications, native windowing, file system access, geo-location and offline storage. Titanium also relies on a forked version of Google Gears for about 45% of its APIs, which are based primarily in JavaScript.

Founded about two years ago, Appcelerator has generated revenue thus far through its SDK, which assists web developers with both their front and back-end programming projects. The company has enticed about 3,000 members into its developer community, which launched last March. Its work on Titanium began in earnest at the beginning of this year, and later versions of the platform will assist in the development of native mobile applications (for presumably iPhone and Android) in addition to desktop apps.



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  • Why is this simple twitter demo application over 20 MB and youtube player 35 MB?

  • Great question.

    For the PR1 release, we’re packaging everything you need to run the application without having to have the runtime pre-installed.

    For PR2, you’ll have the option of just building the application archive and those applications will be very small and only contain your app – but will then require the runtime to be installed. This is how Adobe AIR works today.


  • Just a quick note. We do allow you to bundle the AIR runtime with any application and you can license the runtime installer so you can deploy an AIR application using a native installer (.exe, DMG, etc) if you want that install experience.

    Even if the runtime is installed via one of those native installers all of the other AIR apps out there can use it.


    • This isn’t allowing bundling, it’s just allowing distribution of Adobes AIR installer. Bundling would be including a specific version of the AIR runtime in the application – e.g. making the application independent of any shared runtime that may be installed. Already AIR 1.5 broke applications written for AIR 1.1 when the system global AIR runtime was upgraded by installing a separate AIR app – if AIR was allowed to be bundled with an app this wouldn’t happen.

      “You also may not distribute the Adobe AIR installer files or the extracted Adobe AIR installer files within your product installer for any other purpose than installation of the Adobe AIR runtime or your Adobe AIR Application.”

  • I guess they never heard of Mozilla XUL.

  • I’m not sure what XUL has do to with this?

  • Is Titanium programs compiled into native binary code? If not, how is the source code protected?

  • it’s not compiled currently but something that a number of people have asked for…

  • How is this different or better then Adobe AIR? Just adding a bundled installer is not particularly compelling.

    • I think what is different and better is that Titanium is open source. That may not seem like a big deal, but consider that Adobe just announced layoffs of 600 employees. See the article above for what is happening at Appcelerator. If Adobe drops Air, you’re stuck. With open source, you always have options.

      • There is an open-source RIA technology that lets you build AIR apps…OpenLaszlo. OpenLaszlo also lets you deploy to native Javascript/DHTML/AJAX.

        Still doesn’t help if Adobe drops AIR entirely, but at least with OpenLaszlo you have an open-source tool with the ability to choose multiple runtimes.

      • So what if Adobe decides to open source AIR like they have Flex? OpenLaszlo is awful to work with compared to Flex… I just don’t see it being a good long-term bet to pick as a developer.

        I’m all for open source software, but this platform/business model doesn’t add up for me. It’s like the knock-off version of AIR unless there is some sort of compelling reason they are better than AIR that I’m missing. Maybe their VC’s didn’t know something like AIR already existed?

  • The main components in Adobe AIR are open source; Tamarin, Flex SDK, BlazeDS …etc. There is a bigger chance that Adobe opens the rest of AIR before deciding to drop it. (which will never ganna happen given AIR’s amazing success so far).

    @Roshan, you don’t need to compile to binary to protected the source code. You can use obfuscation just like what we offer here for ActionScript:

  • This sounds like something I could use so I visited the Appcelerator web site. However, the web site had some bugs.

    1. In FireFox 3 and Chrome the FAQ pages have broken styles. For example the answer to a FAQ appears above the question. I think it’s due to the “float left” commands on several elements.

    2. In all tested browsers the links on each FAQ answer page, “See other questions” and “Ask a question” do not work. The URLs appear to point back to the same page.

    3. On this contact page, when I unselected the “Join our mailing list?” check box the “Send” button dims out. Is this a feature or a bug? I find it very off-putting.

    You only get one chance to make a first impression and you’re web site is my first impression. (Did you use your own product to create the this web site?)

    I wish them success and will look into the product in more detail.



  • are we dubbing any desktop client as an Internet application now. I don’t get it. I’m in the class of Ill pass on installing stuff, and prefer it on the browser.

  • the challenge of “release often, release early” is that you’re much more likely to run into hiccups like this. we’re an open source company with a growing community and we’ve erred on the side of trying to get stuff out to our community sooner rather than later to get feedback, honest opinions and solicit help. we’re going to make mistakes like everyone does and we’re working hard to correct them.

    we love adobe air and think it’s a great product and that adobe is a wonderful company (we’re big fans and use a lot of their products ourselves). titanium supports flash and flex apps could be built and deployed on titanium. our approach is a little different and we think that’s a good think ultimately for developers and end-users. we’d welcome working with adobe as well just like we’re working with a lot of other open source projects that have some overlap.

  • I’ve downloaded and installed playtanium for XP and worked fine. A few suggestions though: basic stuff are missing and this is not an excuse even for beta versions. For example volume controls, relevant videos in a vertical stripe, other videos from the same publisher, make a shortcut of the video to the desktop, convert the video to flv / mpg and save to desktop, low-high quality stream, and a whole bunch of other stuff that other desktop or iphone video players already incorporate. The platform seems promising, but not if it just aggregates stuff or acts as a wrapper for a single function. I see that many developers lately are trying to detach the apps from the OS and make them more iPhone-like, which makes sense in some cases, but Java jnlp files do that for some time now. Plus I’ve never used Adobe AIR apps cause they make no sense other than they are simply a single executable that requires a plugin to run in the same manner that .NET apps did years ago. To me, AIR is nothing more than a better Flash executable. Not my idea of an innovating platform. All apps should be standalone from day one anyway. The fact that we are trying to patch the mess that microsoft caused for almost 2 decades with libraries wont make things better anytime soon. A centralized library-repository in the cloud similar to that of Linux but with XML descriptions for each app to grab the necessary files would be more convenient IMO. If the future is cloud computing, then the first thing to do would be LEAVE AS MANY STUFF IN THE CLOUD AS POSSIBLE AND KEEP THE CLIENT CLEAN. This means apps running inside their own containers. Well, again SUN did try that too. Who’s using that idea for the masses? None that I’m aware of.

  • Why would someone raise money to compete with an incumbent free offering like AIR (Free runtime, free compiler (open source Flex SDK))? Is it just because it is open source? The Flex SDK is also open source which is used to build a lot of SWF’s that can be compiled into AIR. AIR uses the WebKit Open Source engine for HTML, CSS as well as the ISO PDF standard. How much more can be done?

    Sorry man – I will not use it.

    Disclosure: I am an Adobe employee but this has nothing to do with my decision.

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