Google: Dart will not replace in-browser JavaScript

Though created as a replacement for JavaScript in the browser, Google's Dart will now be compiled rather than run in its own VM

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Scratch one off for Google's Dart language: One of its original destinations -- as a long-term replacement for JavaScript in Web browsers -- has been nixed by Google.

According to the blog, Dart will now focus on compiling to JavaScript, rather than having the virtual machine that directly supports the Dart language further integrated into browsers. "We have decided not to integrate the Dart VM into Chrome," wrote Dart co-founders Lars Bak and Kasper Lund.

None of this, they stress, means Dart development is ceasing or the Dart VM will not continue to be developed. Rather, the work will now focus on complementing the places where Dart is already in use -- for instance, within Google Ads, where "one million lines of Dart code" are in deployment.

From the beginning, Dart faced two futures. In one, it became a complement to JavaScript in the browser, although it seemed unlikely Dart could achieve traction within any browser other than Google Chrome. In the other, as hinted at in the blog post celebrating the 1.0 release of the language, it was more of a server-side language for building Web applications -- which JavaScript itself was fast evolving to encompass by way of Node.js.

The server-side scenario won out through Google's own actions -- and inactions. While Google added server-side support for Dart in its Google Cloud Platform, it refrained from providing the Dart VM within Chrome. The only way to run Dart client-side was to either compile it to JavaScript (which ran slower than "native" Dart) or to use a special browser build called Dartium that included the Dart VM. Google itself seemed unclear on whether or not Chrome would ever include the Dart VM.

Dart also hasn't made much of a dent outside of Google compared to the far more popular and broadly deployed JavaScript. Dart cracked the top 20 of the Tiobe language popularity index late last year, but as of March 2015, it's fallen out of the top 50 entirely. JavaScript, by contrast, is at seventh place -- up two notches from the same time last year.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.