Unfortunately, there is no official GWT roadmap. In the past we used to foresee the future of GWT by reading between the lines. There are many sources of information, like:
- reading the logs in the repository commits
- discussions on the gwt google user group,
- issues and the respective comments,
- google+ postings
But recently the team started using Git – like many others. Some team members left. And then there is Dart, and people started saying GWT is dead, like Heinz-Joachim Belz after visiting the Google Developer Day 2011 in Berlin:
Dart is to be watched. If this project takes flight, it will almost certainly replace GWT (see below). (…)
In the long run, GWT is dead: No single mention in the sessions I visited, apart from (anxious) questions by visitors of the Dart session. Google’s Dart advocate asked about Dart’s relation to GWT underlining that many former GWT developers are now working on Dart is telling, I guess.
This is just one of many postings stating concerns about the future of GWT.
So, is GWT dead? Here is a compilation of recent comments and statements from the GWT team.
First, there is the official statement from Bruce Johnson in the official GWT blog:
Dart and GWT both share the goal of enabling structured web programming. In fact, many of the same engineers who brought you GWT are working on Dart. We view Dart as an ambitious evolution of GWT’s mission to make web apps better for end users, and we’re optimistic about its potential. As Dart evolves and becomes ready for prime time, we anticipate working closely with the GWT developer community to explore Dart.
Meanwhile, rest assured that GWT will continue to be a productive and reliable way to build the most ambitious web apps — and even games like Angry Birds. Key projects within Google rely on GWT every day, and we plan to continue improving (and open-sourcing) GWT based on their real-world needs.
Eric Clayberg joined the GWT team (as team manager) after Google acquired Instantiations (the company behind GWT Designer). His comment to whether GWT is dead or not:
I can assure you that GWT is not “dead” at all. Not even close! Quite the contrary, GWT is quite healthy, and the GWT team continues to focus on making GWT a great choice for building structured web applications now and in the future. If you have the need to start a new web app project, GWT would be an excellent choice, and there is no reason to avoid it. The goal of Dart is also to be an excellent choice for building the same kinds of apps (and more). Both can certainly coexist (and likely will for a long time).
You should not read anything into the fact that many former GWT developers are working on GWT. Google is a big place and a lot of folks have worked on GWT over the years. In fact, GWT has been a training ground for many folks working on exciting new technologies at Google (including Dart). The GWT team is fully staffed, and we have very ambitious plans for GWT’s future. GWT is used by many large, important projects within Google (and outside Google), and that is unlikely to change any time soon.
Only time will tell if Dart will actually replace GWT at some point. That depends more on the developer community than it does us. I am a fan of both technologies and would recommend either of them (depending on your specific needs right now).
So it looks like both Bruce and Eric are reacting to community concerns and publicly making statements.
In the follow-up comments Ray Cromwell provides some insight on the upcoming release GWT 2.5:
The next release or two of GWT may include more core improvements than the last few point releases of GWT so far, consider:
1) Compiler optimizations that reduce code by size by 30% uncompressed, and 15% gzipped
2) SourceMap support and Source-Level Java debugging in Chrome (and hopefully Firefox)
3) A “super draft mode” that can recompile many apps in under 10 seconds and most under 5
4) New “to the metal” “modern browser” HTML bindings
5) Testing framework that makes GUI testing delightful
6) Incremental compile support to speed up production compiles
So code will be getting smaller, faster, easier to debug (in some situations) and test, and compiles will go quicker. This reflects somewhat the shift in GWT team composition, but as people ramp up on other parts of the SDK (e.g. MVP stuff), I’m sure there will be improved responsiveness to fixing bugs in that area as well.
Ray also provides some insight on the GWT team losses:
The loss of Ray Ryan and Bob were a big set back (unrelated to Dart), and we have people trying to get up to speed on their contributions to maintain them, but honesty, we rely on many of our top external users like Thomas Broyer and Stephan Haberman to fill the gap until that time. (Thanks guys) Turnover is natural and happens at all companies, and it’s always rough.
So, in my opinion, GWT is not dead.
There is an impressive list of google projects that are built using with GWT shared by GWT team members.
GWT is, in my opinion, the best framework to build web applications for the web, the web as it is today. The web may change – maybe Dart really takes off and does change the web. But this is another story…
GWT 2.5 RC1 is out. I am test-driving the release and collecting impression and release information here.