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Google Web Toolkit: Finally Java Has Been Put into JavaScript!

GWT has given the Enterprise market the confidence and creditability to start harnessing the browser

For many years, Java and web developers alike have had to explain to the unwitting that JavaScript had absolutely nothing to do with Java. It was one of the great marketing gaffes of the mid-90s. They were no more alike than chalk and cheese. But in the last six months, I've had to lay down my placard and walk away from the picket line with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. Finally Java has been put into JavaScript.

I have a great respect for Mother Nature. No matter what you throw at her, she has a wonderful way of always balancing the books and our world's favourite accountant is at it again.

For many years, Java and web developers alike have had to explain to the unwitting that JavaScript had absolutely nothing to do with Java. It was one of the great marketing gaffes of the mid-90s. They were no more alike than chalk and cheese.

For years I fought this fight, standing at the frontline with placards denouncing any JavaScript wannabe as a charlatan demanding they find their own name. We had Java first and goddamn it we weren't going to have it plastered just any-old-where (that said, let us skip neatly past the fact that Sun has tried to apply Java to absolutely everything from Linux distributions that didn't have Java to their now infamous JAVA stock symbol).

But in the last six months, I have had to lay down my placard and walk away from the picket line with a smile on my face and a skip in my step. Finally Java has been put into JavaScript. Now when we say those words 'Java'-Script, we can actually say the Java part with true conviction.

Of course I am talking about Google's GWT framework, which is now about to enter its 1.5 release. My hat is truly off to Google for taking this rather bold approach and providing a world class framework within which to code scalable and manageable JavaScript applications, without actually having to use JavaScript! Genius!

Naturally it would be easy for me to churn through some words here and detail all the great features of GWT. But I won't. The real power that GWT has brought to the world of RIA is opening up the door to a whole legion of Java developers that wouldn't historically dare touch JavaScript due to its complete lack of structure, object orientation and type checking.

In many respects the world of Java has a lot to teach the JavaScript community. We've faced (and solved) the same problems that JavaScript is facing. For example, Java's cross-platform issues are JavaScript's cross-browser issues. The problems of rendering JavaScript within IE and Firefox is not dissimilar to Java's issues with, say, Windows and Linux. We solved the problem by developing abstractions, and worrying about the fine detail at a later stage.

This is how GWT operates. Peek inside their JAR file and you'll discover a whole host of different class implementations depending on the browser runtime the JavaScript will be running. No more do we have to worry about Safari vs Firefox vs IE, we just get on with the business of developing our solutions and leave the logistics to GWT.

But GWT is more than just a framework - it's John Wayne's, Rooster Cogburn US Marshall, riding the Wild West trying to bring a modicum of law and order to a structureless land. GWT has given the Enterprise market the confidence and creditability to start harnessing the browser as a proper alternative user interface.

There is a subtle irony in all of this. The Java community wants to get back into the browser space again and eat at Flash and Silverlight by introducing JavaFX. It wants Java developers to get back to developing browser apps. But has Google's GWT maybe made JavaFX somewhat redundant? JavaScript once more bites Java in the bum.

Back to the placards I go!

More Stories By Alan Williamson

Alan Williamson is widely recognized as an early expert on Cloud Computing, he is Co-Founder of aw2.0 Ltd, a software company specializing in deploying software solutions within Cloud networks. Alan is a Sun Java Champion and creator of OpenBlueDragon (an open source Java CFML runtime engine). With many books, articles and speaking engagements under his belt, Alan likes to talk passionately about what can be done TODAY and not get caught up in the marketing hype of TOMORROW. Follow his blog, or e-mail him at cloud(at)

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Most Recent Comments
robbiecheng 07/21/08 12:06:47 PM EDT

The RPC calls in GWT is very similar to calling XMLHttpRequest functions in JavaScript. Moreover, the application includes client codes, and server codes. The programming model is quite primitive. With ZK, developers NEVER make an RPC call and handle the returned data manually. Take a look at a comparision between ZK and GWT.

tomslot 06/11/08 08:16:20 AM EDT

Regarding the GWT plugin for NetBeans 6.1 (GWT4NB):

Just go to the menu option Tools->Plugins->Available Plugins and search for GWT, then choose to install the plugin.

NN 06/10/08 06:47:46 PM EDT

Yeah it looks good but not many cool widget library and if you add that download time will increase but without it is okay.

You have to produce big line of code if you are doing small AJAX things and try developing big apps which has page type navigation (let says web1.0) and try GWT into it you will not use it again.

Appcelerator shine in that regard where web1.0 or existing site can be converted into Web2.0 without much sweat. Also CSS styling need extra knowledge of GWT or UI designer should no know about Java (little)

Flex is cool but plug-in base and you don't develop web1.0 in Flex.

Anyways it depends lot on what you like and requirement of project but many other frame work competing in web2.0 field.

Ista Pouss 06/10/08 07:04:19 AM EDT

Once upon a time with Netbeans 6.0 I install GWT with some netbeans plugins. It was GWT 1.4.60.

Now my Work Station is Netbeans is 6.1, the GWT plugin has disapeared, but no my GWT project, and it's GWT 1.5 RC1.

How can I install this RC1 on my application GWT 1.4 with Netbeans ?

Kelly Norton 06/10/08 04:39:10 AM EDT

Since the previous release of GWT, we've seen a lot of really great applications that demonstrate what is possible when you are able to focus on the user and stop worrying so much about browser quirks and other Ajax obstacles

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