Google hands over control of Google Web Toolkit to steering committee

A multi-party group is taking over the browser apps dev technology in hopes that it will blossom as Eclipse did after IBM relinquished control of the open source tools project

Google is yielding control of its GWT (Google Web Toolkit) for browser application development to a multi-party steering committee, a Google official said on Friday. The company also introduced a release candidate of GWT 2.5, featuring compiler optimizations.

With the GWT steering committee, Google goes from being a gatekeeper to a peer amongst equals, with the committee controlling the roadmap of GWT. "It will no longer be Google as a dictator," said Ray Cromwell, Google tech lead for GWT. He will serve as committee chairperson for the time being. Other companies represented on the committee include Vaadin, Sencha, and Red Hat, and other members include GWT advocates Thomas Broyer, Christian Goudreau, and Daniel Kurka. "We have to be responsive, and we have to think more about what other people [support]," in GWT, Cromwell said at the Google IO conference in San Francisco.

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GWT features a software development kit with core Java APIs and widgets for writing AJAX applications in Java and compiling them to JavaScript. These applications can then run across multiple browsers. The committee already has had a couple of meetings and has decided to move the GWT repository from Subversion to Git. Cromwell said. GWT also moves to two official branches: a master dev line trunk, for testing out bleeding-edge capabilities, and a beta branch, which will hold new capabilities selectively taken from the dev line trunk branch.

Google's handing over control of GWT to the committee is similar to when IBM relinquished control of the Eclipse open source tools project, which is now under the jurisdiction of the Eclipse Foundation, Cromwell acknowledged. "Eclipse is now more of a vibrant community than it was when only IBM controlled it."

GWT 2.5, the last Google-directed release of the toolkit, boasts a host of improvements. "Out of the box, with no changes to your code, you can just compile your application. You're going to get substantial code-size reduction," Cromwell said.

A Super Dev Mode capability in GWT 2.5 allows for fast refreshing and compiling to JavaScript in seconds. Source-level Java debugging and mobile browser debugging are featured as part of Super Dev Mode as well. The upgrade also includes Elemental, an experimental library providing lightweight, to-the-metal Web programming. It is primarily targeted at mobile development and leverages HTML5. A final version of GWT 2.5 is expected in less than a month. GWT downloads can be found at the GWT website.

In addition to maintaining GWT, Google has been developing its Dart language, which shares a GWT goal of enabling structured Web programming, but Google is not replacing GWT with Dart anytime soon, Cromwell explained. Support for GWT will continue and developers should continue to use it, he said. He expects the GWT steering committee to ensure GWT has a healthy future. GWT was first released in 2006.

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