Feeds

Google's 'JavaScript killer' marks first birthday with update

New Dart SDK brings speed boost, language revamp

Boost IT visibility and business value

Just over a year after it first unveiled the Dart language for large-scale web programming, Google has announced that its purported "JavaScript killer" has hit its first major milestone.

"Today, after plowing through thousands of bug reports and feature requests from the web community, a new, more stable and comprehensive version of Dart is now available and ready to use," wrote Lars Bak, co-developer of the language, in a blog post on Tuesday.

The new release, which Google is calling "M1," is hardly version 1.0. In fact, the Chocolate Factory is referring to it as version 0.1 internally, to indicate that the language and its associated libraries are still likely to undergo significant changes before they reach their finished form.

"M1 is our first release milestone. It's a signal to developers that things are stabilizing, that now's a good time to start building your app in Dart," said Google's JJ Behrens in a video chat on Tuesday. "We're going to try really hard to not make backwards incompatible changes, but rather we're going to be polishing the language, adding to it, and then working a lot on performance."

Much has already changed since Dart's initial public release a year ago. An article on the Dart language website lists 24 significant language changes in the M1 release, not to mention "minor changes and clean-ups."

The Dart team has also been working to improve performance, mostly by enhancing the Dart VM (virtual machine). A new feature called "snapshots" can capture the state of an application right before it starts executing, allowing it to start up as much as ten times faster in subsequent launches. And Behrens says the Dart VM actually now outperforms Google's V8 JavaScript VM on key benchmarks.

Unfortunately, neither improvement will do much to speed up most Dart applications, at least for now. That's because the Dart VM isn't included in any mainstream browser. The primary method for deploying Dart applications today is to compile them to JavaScript – which is one reason why the notion that Dart is a "JavaScript killer" still irks its development team.

"Dart is not out to replace JavaScript," Google's Gilad Bracha insisted during Tuesday's video chat. "This is something that, I guess, various commentators jumped to that conclusion, and once that happens, no amount of denials will help."

Even though most users will run Dart apps as JavaScript, however, the Dart VM can be used to run server-side applications in Node.js fashion, and the Dart SDK ships with a development version of Google's Chrome browser that has the Dart VM built-in, to enable faster debugging. (It has been widely speculated that Google may include a Dart VM in future mainstream Chrome releases, but the search giant has announced nothing officially.)

The M1 release also includes an improved version of the Dart source code editor, which uses static code analysis to enable intelligent refactoring and code completion, as well as introducing a package-management system called Pub, which allows Dart developers to share their packages on Google's servers.

In addition, the new SDK introduces a few new libraries, including an HTML library that works transparently on modern browsers and a library that makes it easier for Dart code to interoperate with code written in JavaScript.

For all the changes introduced in the M1 release, however, there are many more to come. There will definitely be an M2 release before the language approaches its final form, and future updates may even break Dart code written today.

"When we say that the language is stable, you have to take that with a grain of salt, in the sense that we have no intention of making any more breaking changes," Bracha said, before adding, "unless we've really screwed up." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
KDE releases ice-cream coloured Plasma 5 just in time for summer
Melty but refreshing - popular rival to Mint's Cinnamon's still a work in progress
Leaked Windows Phone 8.1 Update specs tease details of Nokia's next mobes
New screen sizes, dual SIMs, voice over LTE, and more
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Mozilla keeps its Beard, hopes anti-gay marriage troubles are now over
Plenty on new CEO's todo list – starting with Firefox's slipping grasp
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.