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Is Google Dart a replacement for Java?

Java, especially for government, is the devil you know. Although many people, including GCN security expert William Jackson,  questions whether the problems with Java, including recent high-profile zero-day security exploits make it more trouble than it’s worth, it still runs on everything from televisions to PCs to cell phones, and is a part of every modern browser.

Of course, if anyone is willing to take on the devil, it’s Google. The search giant may do so by building its own demonic host, in this case a programming language developed in secret, called Dart.  Google has added a lot into Dart in an attempt to lure developers away from Java. The Dart project includes a modern scalable language, libraries and tools to help developers build large complex Web applications.

The part about the Web applications is really the driver for Google. The company lives and dies on its ability to use and manipulate the Web, and even Java’s strongest supporters acknowledge that large-scale applications were not originally considered in its development. Those of us who have learned how to code Java know that, compared with something like C++, it’s a pretty simple language, which is why it can reside comfortably on your phone or in your car’s dashboard. But for big projects, it needs to be jury-rigged. Google’s main problem with Java is that it makes Google Docs run slower than Google thinks it should.

Microsoft reportedly isn’t happy with Dart’s appearance. Redmond officials argue that, should Dart catch on, a whole new language would need to be added to browsers, which would open up new security holes. They say that flavors of Java exist that could be used for large-scale applications without totally tossing the nearly ubiquitous language out the door. Groovy, for example, could prove to expand Java’s capabilities while also making it easier on programmers.

Will Dart hit a bull’s-eye with programmers in government? I don’t know, but Google has taken aim toward that target. The Dart software development kit is now available for download.  With many public-sector agencies moving to Google Apps for Government, a language that makes Google Docs run better might catch on.

My advice would be to get it, try it out and see if what Google promises will work for your organization. The language itself is pretty similar to Java, so you should be able to make an informed decision in no time.

Posted by John Breeden II on Oct 23, 2012 at 9:39 AM


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