So what motivated us to switch to Dart? In this post I’ll try to answer this question and go into how I see Dart as a huge step forward for the web & mobile development ecosystem.
Blossom is a lightweight project management tool for people who craft modern mobile and web applications. It’s basically an online Kanban board for your product team.
From a technical point of view Blossom is a cutting edge single-page web application with Google App Engine as the backend (JSON API).
This situation causes a lot of confusion, apparently not only for me. I wasn’t surprised to find a ton of StackOverflowquestions from people looking for advice. There are also a ton of blog posts that recommend different combinations e.g. mixing CoffeeScript with Sugar.js (love those names).
Higher level frameworks pick different combinations to build their foundation, some even build it completely from scratch.
We also had to go through this decision/evaluation process for Blossom and after weighing the pros and cons of different combinations we went with the following stack.
jQuery – a DOM abstraction layer
CoffeeScript – classes and lexical scoping
Backbone – structure around frontend code and widgets
Brunch – an application assembler that ties all of the above components together
While we were pretty pleased with picking this specific set of building blocks over others that we’ve tried, I find it pretty frustrating that you have to jump through so many hoops in order to arrive at a situation where you can start to get things done. I don’t know how this must feel for newbies to the ecosystem, but I guess the learning curve is rather steep and the question marks are plenty.
Also it doesn’t help that some libraries are assuming a certain set of plumbing while others strive to be agnostic and therefore implement their own plumbing. I don’t even want to know how many different forEach implementations from third party libraries there are in our code base.
And I don’t even want to get into other areas like dependency management between libraries, handling of namespaces or various approaches to modularity (bower, component.io, npm, commonjs, amd, jam, …).
It is a complicated mess. It makes my head swim.
Dart comes with Batteries included
From my point of view Dart solves all of these problems and even goes a few steps further.
This makes Dart a cohesive foundation to build upon. A one stop shop if you will.
Also, if you follow the links above and dig in you will find that Dart not only comes with a ton of infrastructure support out of the box – the actual implementations of these parts are very well thought through by smart people with a ton of experience in API design, software engineering and computer science. The parts fit together and make sense. They are pragmatic and unsurprising. Exactly what I need to be productive.
The cohesive development experience of building stuff with Dart was definitely our main motivation to switch. Being able to focus on making your product better without having to fight the ecosystem feels amazing.
That said there is an additional upside on top of that. Dart is built with performance in mind.
He’s also the guy who brought SIMD support to Dart which enables blazing fast CPU supported Vector Math. This will make a huge difference for people who want to create modern games and graphics intensive applications for the web.
Using Dart in Production
The biggest part written in Dart is responsible for handling invitations to organizations and authenticating users in that workflow. This is an essential part of our application which helps hundreds of our paying customers to organize their product teams.
Even while some APIs are changing from time to time since the language is in its early days it is a worthwhile trade-off for all the good stuff we get from the ecosystem. So far Dart has been a pleasure to work with.
I can’t describe in words how liberating it feels to have a consistent web development experience that makes sense. Hard to say when the last time was when I felt a similar joy & productivity increase in writing web applications. Probably back when I switched from PHP to Ruby (on Rails).
Getting Started with Dart
If you’re curious about giving Dart a try go check out Game of Darts, a set of hands-on tutorials to get you started.
I’m looking forward to a Blossom frontend code base that’s entirely written in Dart. We’ll keep you posted on our progress & also might have some interesting Dart related announcements in the future. Stay tuned :)