New year, new local code editor? It’s maybe worth a peak at Zed, at least. They do a good job in the one-sentence pitch:

Zed is a high-performance, multiplayer code editor from the creators of Atom and Tree-sitter.

All tech things have to be fast, so check. No shade either, speed is vital in all things tech, especially something you use heavily all day. Their main competition is clearly VS Code, which already gets some flack for slowness (feels fast to me 🤷), so leaning into a comparison that shows them some 4x faster on startup is sensible marketing.

“Multiplayer”… eh. I’m skepitcal about how much teams really care about this. VS Code did a whole “live share” thing a while back and I don’t think it struck much of a chord. I’m not against it as a feature, it’s just more like table stakes these days rather than a killer feature.

The last one… “from the creates of Atom and Tree-sitter” is a great pitch. People loved Atom. People are not happy Atom went away, so you get those people right out of the gate. Even if you didn’t use it, I think a lot of people respected it. Then Tree-sitter is this best-of-breed code parsing tool that all sorts of stuff uses (the new version of CodePen that will be out this year uses it heavily).

Will I actually switch? No idea. I’m always down to try new things. But I’ve written about this before, and I have my own criteria on switching code editors. For me, the new one needs to be able to behave essentially like the old one. If anything is too obnoxious, I’ll just switch back. If I can switch without terrible annoyances, then I’m happy to explore changes and different features and such.

And to keep me (and I think this is generally true, not just for me) it needs killer features. Maybe that is speed, but I don’t think the competition in this area is slow enough for that to be the big thing.

Maybe the AI stuff will be one of the killer features. AI is such a big thing these days, but VS Code has Github Copilot, which is great and a huge competitive advantage. Except… Zed supports GitHub Copilot! Nice move. And check out the video where they’ve integrated GPT-4 into the editor, and you invoke it by highlighting a block of text and typing a prompt. Very classy, I think.

It appears as if they are really making a swing for it with Zed and that’s good for everyone. Making a business out of it is going to be tricky too. Looks like they already have a team of 10. I can tell you that 10 world-class developers aren’t cheap. It doesn’t look like Zed is open source yet, so best guess is the plan is to make it paid. That’s tough in a world where VS Code is free (although Copilot is not). Panic makes it work with Nova though, so it’s not uncharted territory. I think developers are happy to throw bucks at tools that are even a little bit better, so I would bet on Zed doing pretty decently, myself. The good design of their landing page makes me feel like they have their heads screwed on straight.

Gotta love companies making a big swing on things. I feel like that’s what Arc has been doing since the beginning with their new web browser. They are constantly shipping and taking risks on big features. And it has all the hallmarks of big swings: some big hits, some big misses. I think Arc has massive potential as being the best web browser out there, but it seems like that’s not where they are headed. In a vague end-of-year where-we’re-headed video, they say they actually want to build a whole new computer. That seems like a wildly different task and set of skills needed, but hey, a big swing is a big swing. They are kind of “pre-money” so I guess it’s more of a pivot.

I feel like another company that is trying to make a swing for it in a crowded market this year is Bun. A brand new JavaScript runtime in a totally different language is a big endeavor. Competition in this space feels warranted and good for everyone. And also like the business model is just as nebulous as all the other companies mentioned here. There was some pretty pointed pushback about Bun, which both feels fair and like that’s exactly what you’d expect when you’re doing something new and bold.