This blog contains reflections and thoughts on my work as a software engineer

mandag den 10. oktober 2011

Google announces Dart - a programming language for the web

I was at GOTO Aarhus today and Google had announced that they would present a new programming language developed by Google to the open public for the first time. So what did they come up with this time?

Dart is “a programming language for the web”. It has been developed by Lars Bak (the guy who created the Javascript engine V8 in Google Chrome). If we take one step up the ladder it is a paradigm shift which enables developers to write compiled code invented and prepared for being run in a browser. Scripting languages have been ruling the web world for eons but the inherent disadvantages with runtime interpretation and the DOM itself have driven Google towards a decision that we need to take web development to the next level. Tooling and frameworks for i.e. Javascript (such as JQuery) CSS and HTML have evolved around making things easier for the developers but they have been constrained by the nature of the web, i.e. the request/response paradigm of the HTTP protocol etc. With the emerging HTML5 standards the rules of the game will fundamentally change and I believe Google – again – have been quick enough to embrace that fact and ask somebody to drive this development forward in a direction which is pointed out by Google. I can’t remember speed being an key point of interes in any web-browser until Google released a beta of Google Chrome which made Internet Explorer look really bad. Google gave people the impression that they could get much more and a much richer browsing experience just by using another browser and guess what? People just love it when they get more for free.

Dart runs in a Dart VM which can be integrated into the browser – that calls for insanely fast websites / webapplications when combined with i.e. HTML5 offline capabilities. Dart can also be ported to Javascript with a tool called DartC so it can run in browsers which do not support a native Dart VM. It is a commercial decision, not a technical one I’m pretty sure. Lars answered a question regarding the possibility to run Javascript directly from Dart and his response was crystal clear: It was not an option and it wouldn’t become one. “Everything starts falling apart”, he said if you allow developers to hack around shortcomings in a language – the nature of Dart isn’t scripting anyway so the Dart team have made a clean cut there. That is for the good I think and another indicator that Google regards Dart as a programming paradigm which could rule out Javascript as the tool to solve a given problem in a lot of cases. There’s plenty of room for both languages but due to the heavy attention on mobile browsing experience in the community today I would expect mobile browsers to be the first to adapt VMs. The constraints regarding CPU size, memory shortage, network latency etc. on a mobile platform calls for VMs which are able to host and run compiled, not interpreted code. Mobile platforms are all the rage due to the fact that smartphones and tablets in various forms are about to take over from laptops and desktops as the main Internet browsing platform so new tools and languages and a large community will emerge for sure during the next few years.

Dart is still work in progress and Lars emphasized that a lot so we won’t see a large community evolving in the near future I believe - but due to the fact that some 15 developers from Google stood up at the end of the keynote so people could see their faces and eventually catch one of them and ask questions during a break proves that this isn’t just some prototype gadget Google have given birth to. It’ll be exciting to see the reactions from the other browser vendors such as Mozilla and Microsoft. Will they go in another direction and try to market their solution to the same problems identified by Google? I personally believe it won’t be long until Microsoft releases some sort of VM-like prototype to the Microsoft community just like they did with Internet Explorer 8 which had a brand new Javascript engine as a response to the V8 made by Google… On the other hand they might stick with optimizing Javascript performance but no matter what they’ve got to come up with something. It’ll be fun to see what they will come up with and how the community will evolve around Dart.


GOTO Conference


Google Code blog – Dart announcement


Regards K.

1 kommentar:

aparna john sagde ...

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