First Release of Dart SDK ( Category : 1 )

It's a year since Google released a technology preview of Dart, its JavaScript replacement. Now, to coincide with Dart's first birthday, comes the M1 release of the SDK.

If you've not come across Dart before, it's an open source project that includes a class-based, object-oriented language, libraries and tools for building complex web applications and represents Google's attempt to overcome perceived shortcomings in JavaScript.

You can compile it to JavaScript so that it runs in any browser or you can run it with its own virtual machine (VM) that is only currently supported by Chromium.

According to its overview:

Dart addresses issues with traditional web development languages while remaining easy to learn. Thanks to optional static types, Dart scales from simple scripts to large apps.

The highlights of the new release of the Dart SDK include:
  • A faster Dart Virtual Machine that claims to outperform V8 on some Octane tests.
  • A new Dart to JavaScript translator that generates fast and compact output.
  • An HTML library that works transparently on modern browsers.
  •  A library to interoperate with JavaScript code.
  •  A new package manager, Pub
  •  A server-side I/O library.

The SDK comes with a language specification describing Dart semantics, including many features new in this release.

It also includes the browser Dartium, the Chromium build with native Dart support. that we originally saw as an experimental release in February and a standalone lightweight editor to help developers refactor and debug code which is introduced in the video below. You can also use Eclipse, IntelliJ and Webstorm which have Dart plugins.

To know more about Dart, see Seth Ladd's 4-minute video, Introducing Dart

With so many alternatives to making JavaScript better, it is difficult to know if Dart has a big future ahead of it. Not only do we have popular language alternatives like CoffeeScript, but there are JavaScript augmentations like TypeScript and the sweet.js macro language. 

Given that Dart compiles to JavaScript, there is no obvious disadvantage in using it - unless of course development in native JavaScript is faster and/or produces faster programs. Also, given that JavaScript is itself evolving, it could just be that Dart and similar projects become irrelevant. What is certainly obvious is that no other browser manufacturer is going to add native, or rather VM support, for Dart unless it becomes very, very popular and even then commercial interests would probably block its support.