“DART” ==> Google’s New Programming Language


Google has made good on its promise to launch its own JavaScript competitor, releasing an early preview of the Dart language to developers across the world.

Designed for web programming, Dart is built to offer familiarity to those used to JavaScript – to the point where it’s possible to compile Dart code into JavaScript, in place of the usual virtual machine approach.

As a result, Dart is ready for use now, but what makes Google think that developers are ready to move on from JavaScript?

“Dart’s design goals are: create a structured yet flexible language for web programming; make Dart feel familiar and natural to programmers and thus easy to learn; ensure that Dart delivers high performance on all modern web browsers and environments ranging from small handheld devices to server-side execution,” writes Dart developer Lars Bak.

“The language comes with a set of basic libraries and tools for checking, compiling, and running Dart code, all of which will evolve further with your participation,” he adds – but there’s a problem.

“The Dart VM is not currently integrated in Chrome,” Bak admits – meaning that anyone hoping to make use of the language beyond testing will need to use the compiler to translate their code into JavaScript first, or risk alienating users by requiring them to download and install a dedicated Dart VM for their chosen browser.

That stumbling block could prove a real problem: the majority of web developers are well versed in JavaScript, and writing in an unfamiliar language only to translate it back into JavaScript at the end is a step many will find cumbersome. It’s something that Google believes will bring benefits, should the virtual machine become a standard part of web browsers in the future.

“We believe Dart will be great for writing large web applications,” Bak writes. “Dart targets a wide range of development scenarios: from a one-person project without much structure to a large-scale project needing formal types in the code to state programmer intent. To support this wide range of projects, Dart has optional types; this means you can start coding without types and add them later as needed.”

So far, Dart’s reception has been mixed. Many developers appear hopeful that the development of Dart will avoid some of the kludges inherent in JavaScript, while others believe that Google will struggle to convince other browser manufacturers to include the virtual machine in their software – a step required if Google truly wants to make Dart competitive with JavaScript.

Full details of Dart, plus downloads for the compiler and virtual machine, are available on the Dart website.

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