This story was written by Keith Dawson for UBM DeusM’s community Web site Develop in the Cloud, sponsored by AT&T. It is archived here for informational purposes only because the Develop in the Cloud site is no more. This material is Copyright 2012 by UBM DeusM.

Google's Mis-Aimed Dart

The year-old wannabe JavaScript replacement gets an SDK release; will anyone care?

Google announced a version 1.0 SDK for its Dart language, whose ambition is to replace JavaScript. It's not going to happen.

The announcement of the "first developer-oriented version of the Dart SDK" comes on the one-year anniversary of Dart's introduction as a technology preview. The open-source Dart project includes an object-oriented, class-based language, tools, and libraries for building large-scale, structured Web applications. According to the announcement page, the SDK includes:

You can download the various pieces here.

Almost two years ago, a year before the Dart preview was introduced, a leaked memo out of Google telegraphed the company's thinking about JavaScript. The memo, by Googler Mark S. Miller, summarized the thinking of Google engineers coming out of an internal JavaScript summit. JavaScript, the memo said, "has fundamental flaws that cannot be fixed merely by evolving the language." Google would continue participating in the evolution of ECMAScript through the T39 standards group, but also intended to pursue development of Dart (then called Dash), whose aim was "ultimately to replace JavaScript as the lingua franca of Web development on the open Web platform."

For Dart to fulfill its wider ambitions, it would have to be adopted by all of the major browser vendors. Here are three reasons why this is not going to happen. 1.) Apple and Google are bitter rivals at this point. 2.) Microsoft has come out with its own solution to what it perceives as JavaScript's shortcomings -- TypeScript -- and delivered Dart a dismissive backhand when introducing it. 3.) Firefox is well down the road towards implementing the standards-track ECMAScript 6.

It's possible that by now Google has effectively given up on the dream of replacing JavaScript. The company may simply want the language for its own development projects. (Microsoft, for its part, said as much about TypeScript.)

At least some communities must be using Dart for more than just exploratory and learning purposes. The language shows up on RedMonk's annual survey of language popularity, though it's nowhere near the desirable upper-right grid square. To be precise, Dart is two squares down and three to the left of where it wants to be.

We'll give the final word to Douglas Crockford, inventor of JSON and author of JavaScript: The Good Parts. In this video of a talk at Yahoo, he famously said: "If I could take a clean sheet of paper and write [a new language] that retains all the goodness of [JavaScript] ... I would not have come up with anything like Dart."