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InfoQ Homepage News Google Moves Dart to GitHub and Kills the Chrome Dev Editor

Google Moves Dart to GitHub and Kills the Chrome Dev Editor

Google designed Dart as a better language for the web, for developers who wanted a more solid language and tools than what existed in the JavaScript ecosystem. Also, they aimed for better performance. While Dart is certainly more robust and better designed than JavaScript and it outperforms JavaScript on several benchmarks, the language has seen several setbacks.

Google announced in March they would no longer push the Dart VM for the browser, but instead focus on compiling Dart to JavaScript. The reason mentioned was developers’ desire to have “better integration with JavaScript, and they need an easier way to debug and optimize their apps across all modern browsers” (emphasis added). Developers need to make web apps run on all major browsers, and the developing, testing and debugging process is desirable to be uniform across all these platforms. This made them avoid the Dart VM. And the VM for web got sidetracked. But the Dart team has not completely forsaken the Dart VM, continuing their “strong investment in Dart VM for server, embedded, and mobile.”

Another setback was the development termination of the Dart Editor, Google recommending using DartPad to play with Dart and WebStorm for actual development. And Google has just announced stopping development on Chrome Dev Editor, a JavaScript and Dart editor. This probably has to do with Google’s orientation towards IntelliJ IDEs, they also making the switch from Eclipse to Studio for Android. Related to this, Devon Carew, Software Engineer at Google, remarked: “The Dart team is doubling down on IntelliJ on the IDE side, and investing in adding infrastructure that can help all IDEs and development environments - specifically the analysis server.” This may also indicate that Chrome is losing some of its strategic importance, perhaps because it has not managed to become the default browser on the web and the competitors are catching up in terms of features and performance, including the upcoming Microsoft Edge.

Dart has been in competition with TypeScript, the later providing an easier path for JavaScript developers. And TypeScript is gaining ground. Even the AngularJS team rallied with Microsoft which in turn added annotations to the language.

Now Google has decided to move Dart to GitHub including the entire SDK, the VM, dart2js and various libraries. Will this step make the language more attractive to developers? It remains to be seen. One thing is sure: fighting inertia is hard sometimes. While many have complained about JavaScript’s shortcomings, and while Google has invested heavily in a language that is clearly superior, the fact that there are multiple browsers out there and developers’ familiarity with JavaScript seem to have an impact on Dart’s adoption. And many are taking the easier migration path, which TypeScript is providing.

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