Will Google's Dart be the new language of Web apps?

Google has unveiled a preview of what it hopes will be an all-purpose programming language for Web development, although it is already meeting some resistance from developers.

The new language, Dart, is a “class-based optionally typed programming language for building Web applications,” writes Lars Bak, an engineer working on Dart, on the company’s blog.

Bak says the open-source language is intended to work with everything from one-person to large-scale projects. The code can be executed either by using a native virtual machine or a JavaScript engine that translates Dart code into JavaScript.

The language and preliminary tools for Dart are available at Dartlang.org.

One reason Google has two ways to execute Dart code is that the first method, using a virtual machine native to the browser, would require other browser-makers to support it, which seems unlikely, Scott Gilbertson writes at Wired’s Webmonkey.

Gilbertson also reports that Dart isn’t getting a warm reception in some quarters, citing a negative-leaning discussion thread at Hacker News and some widespread developer resistance to the idea that Google is aiming for Dart to replace JavaScript in Web applications.

Although Google says Dart and JavaScript will complement each other, a 2010 company memo leaked in September criticized JavaScript for “fundamental flaws,” saying the Web has outgrown it and stating a goal “ultimately to replace JavaScript as the lingua franca of Web development on the open Web platform.”

Developer resistance to Dart, coupled with other browser-makers’ competitive inclination not to go along, could mean Google is facing an uphill battle.

And what would Dart mean to HTML 5? A Dart application executing in a native mode would, like HTML 5, allow complex applications to run without plug-ins. So, for example, you wouldn’t need Adobe Flash to view a complicated, interactive graphic because everything happens within the browser.

That’s one of the things HTML 5, which has long been in development, is intended to accomplish. But HTML 5 relies on JavaScript, which Google’s memo says is part of the problem.

But for all the resistance to the notion of Dart replacing JavaScript, Colin Eberhardt at Scott Logic thinks replacing JavaScript with Dart could be a good thing, making HTML 5 apps more viable.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.


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