In recent blog posts, several pundits have wondered whether Google's programming language Dart might be the future of the Web. I will pause here to allow time for the guffaws and coffee-spitting.
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Many folks might argue that Dart is presently very far from being the future of anything. Some people might doubt that Dart has any significant future itself. I think they're wrong and that the pundits might well be right, or partly right. If you're not following Dart development, you're not getting the whole story. Dart definitely has its supporters: Many developers, within and outside Google, are enthusiastic about the language. I edited a book on the language myself, and I follow several blogs on Dart development. Dart recently crept up into the TIOBE Programming Community Index top 50 for language popularity, although now it's back down in the 50 to 100 pile, along with Dylan, Occam, Simula, and another Google language, Go. Yes, I know. You'd think that languages developed by Google could attract a few more users.
I have to think that Dart's lack of popularity is at least in part due to the fact that it's just not a very exciting language. And it has grown less exciting over time. Programmers who really wanted to love Dart tell me that its developers have made a number of boring and disappointing compromises. Nevertheless, as I say, I think Dart could be the future of the Web for at least one significant group of Web app developers.
So, what's the Dart plan? Dart's developers decided to provide two scenarios for Dart use. These scenarios are not equally exciting or equally likely. In one scenario, browser creators support the Dart virtual machine, allowing you to write native Dart code both server side and browser side. This lets you create large-scale, full-stack Web applications that run lightning fast.
That's a pretty cool idea. But, that's not going to happen.
OK, I can't predict the future, but if it is, then some major attitude changing is going to have to take place. If you listen to the developers of any major browser not developed by Google, they are all, without any exception that I'm aware of, adamant that they will never support Google's proprietary language in their browsers. Not gonna happen.
If it can do that, browser makers don't need to drink the Dart Kool-Aid and Dart can go right on being a boring language. Its future as a high-end Web application language will be bright.
For many years, Michael Swaine wrote the "Swaine's Flames" column in Dr. Dobb's Journal.
See our feature article on Dart, which discusses its rationale, goals, and the technologies that make up the language.