When the king of search engines speaks, the tech world listens. When it announces that it’s going to start speaking in a new language, though, the tech world gets a little concerned.
The only constant is change
What are the goals of Dart?
On their technical specifications sheet, Google outlines the following objectives for the Dart programming language:
- Create a programming language that is structured, yet flexible.
- Make Dart appropriate for the full range of web-capable devices. This might be one of the items that pushed the need for a new language over the tipping point.
- Create a language that launches quickly and efficiently. This is more important than it seems: as standards and devices continue to splinter, efficiency in compatibility is going to become a high priority.
- Make sure there is a language that can work across all browsers. This can be considered a sister idea to that of ensuring multiple device compatibility. The number of browsers right now is higher than it has ever been, and shows no sign of stopping. Look at Amazon’s inclusion of a new browser in the Kindle Fire, as an example.
Also listed in this document are the specific programming problems Dart attempts to address. Paraphrased here, they are:
- Dart will attempt to address the problem whereby small programs swell into larger ones that cannot easily be broken back up into smaller components.
- Dart will attempt to address the conflict between static and dynamic languages (though this sheet doesn’t make clear what exactly their remedy is).
- Dart will attempt to address the problem whereby few languages right now are designed to work well both with client and server specifications.
- Dart will attempt to make it easier for programmers to take over each other’s work, by addressing the problem in which interactions with different parts of an application are put more into the code comments than in the code itself.
- Dart will attempt to reduce the cumbersome work associated with context switching.
OK, those seem like good ideas. What does the audience have to say?
From our surveying, the biggest problem that the IT world has with this new programming language is its mere existence. The fact that Google has done work to make sure it can be plugged in as many places as possible right from the start doesn’t seem to have mollified them. This is one more language to learn, and who knows whether or not the time invested in it will be well spent.
The next biggest concern after that was with Google’s approach to its development. Working with the greater community in developing standards is at this point considered both wise and honorable. Google says that it is going to, but the initial development sketches and basic coding structures were authored in-house, outside the view of third-party eyes. Google defended this position, stating that it was necessary to make sure that initial plans didn’t spin too far out into chaos.
A worrisome feelin
This doesn’t dull the feeling that some are getting that Google is becoming another Microsoft, creating “standards” that it single-handedly pushes onto the world. Given that Google is about as big as Microsoft, it’s hard to see this worry as unwarranted.
Is it fair, though? That’s a more difficult case to make. As much as Google has done some things that have not sat well with the internet world, the general consensus is that it has never strayed too far from its “Don’t be evil” motto. Recall recently, for example, their decision to pull out of China in protest over that government’s information control requirements.
Our verdict: Worth a look
The bottom line is that, like it or not, Google now maintains a position in which, if they determine that something needs to be changed on the web, and they put the effort into doing it, it’s a good bet that they’ll succeed. Gmail replaced Hotmail, Google Maps replaced Mapquest, Chrome is replacing Mozilla, and Google+ is making a serious bid to replace the mighty Facebook.