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What is the future for GWT?

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The newly formed Google Web Toolkit (GWT) steering committee recently published “The Future of GWT Report”, which captures the opinions, usage patterns and hopes of over 1300 Google Web Toolkit users worldwide.

GWT is an open source set of tools that allows developers to create and maintain complex JavaScript applications in Java. Google first released GWT on May 16th, 2006. In June of 2012, Google handed control of the project over to a steering committee which includes members from Vaadin, Google, Sencha and RedHat. The report provides the most comprehensive survey of GWT development ever conducted.

While GWT is often thought of as an enterprise technology, 65% of the survey respondents are working on projects for use outside of their companies. That said, only 1% of the projects are games - the vast majority are business applications.

Half of the respondents are working on projects that contain over a million lines of uncompressed obfuscated Javascript code which suggests that either GWT applications are complex and/or that GWT generates a lot of Javascript code for relatively simple apps. Forty-six percent of the applications have 21+ screens, and a number of the comments in the report suggest that one of the big benefits of GWT is access to static typing and compile time error checking in Java when working with multiple developers. However, the average GWT project team surveyed has less than three front end developers, so most of the projects aren’t working with large numbers of front end engineers.

While the vast majority of the apps (over 98%) target desktop-based users, the number of these apps that also also target tablets (36%) eclipses the 26% of apps that also aim at mobile phones.

The main complaints with GWT are compile time (49%) and the lack of enough good quality UI widgets (34%). The biggest benefit of GWT is not having to deal with browser compatibility issues (60%). Despite the complaints, over 88% of the self selected respondents plan to use GWT on their next project. The report is available online in return for your name and email address.

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