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By | Gavin Clarke 7th December 2007 20:34

Google's next web toolkit thinks it's better than you

Fastest fingers in the West

GWT Conference Just as Microsoft was brushing aside claims that Volta, its latest .NET programming toolkit, is a Google Web Toolkit (GWT) clone, Google has disclosed how it plans to open the gap on rivals with the next release of its popular AJAX toolkit.

GWT 1.5, due in the first quarter of 2008, will produce "better" JavaScript code than manual programming by the industry's best and brightest - in terms of speed, size and manageability of code. GWT 1.5 is also expected to improve compilation of Java code.

GWT co-creator Bruce Johnson told a small gathering of press at this week's GWT Conference in San Francisco: "Based on our testing now, I'd say it [GWT 1.5] produces better code than JavaScript experts can produce by hand".

Johnson called performance a "paramount" issue as networks remain the "weak link" when connecting to online applications and services. One focus for Google is speed of code compilation. "Having smart protocols between the device and server is one area where we could focus more engineering effort," Johnson said.

However, Google is taking a more hands off approach when it comes to building GWT widget libraries. With GWT licensed under Apache, Google expects the community to build most libraries. Google will instead focus its efforts on "the most complex libraries, where we can draw on Google's expertise in the internet."

Also outside Google's plans, according to Johnson, is a GWT port to Google Gears and support for Microsoft's Silverlight, now expected as a second beta next Spring following some version number juggling by Microsoft.

According to Johnson, neither GWT nor Google's GWT development plans have been adversely impacted by the fact that the browsers GWT applications must straddle have different implementations of cross-industry standards and technologies, like JavaScript and vector graphics.

In fact, he appears to believe these differences create an opportunity for GWT. GWT was created to solve lingering usability problems with browser-based internet access, such as web site warnings to users not to hit the back button during a transaction even when the transaction has hung, or Postdata messages that serve to confound and alarm the ordinary internet user.

The toolkit has been downloaded "millions" of times, according to Google, although it has no figures on actual uptake. It does, though, tout Google Maps and Gmail as adopters, along with Lombardi Software's Blueprint modeling tool, DoubleCheck's Sarbanes Oxley compliance software, Gpokr and Kdice as applications and services that have been written in AJAX using GWT.

"GWT is about calling out what it is [wrong] and saying it must be addressed," Johnson said.

"Standards are great and we would love it if they were implemented consistently - if they were some of these mistakes would go way for developers... [however] we have to make a choice: do we stick to that standard at the expense of the end user or do [we do] what's best? Sometimes a behavior or a particular standard is more efficient in some browsers.

"There will continue to be a role for GWT because there are tangible productivity qualities," Johnson said.®

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