Why I don't like the Google Web Toolkit

Just wrapped up the first day of the Rich Web Experience which wound up with a discussion between Stuart Halloway, Alex Russell, and myself about Google Web Toolkit. I’ve never been a fan of treating JavaScript like Assembly or some other low-level language, as if it’s something to be compiled down to versus truly understanding, which is exactly what GWT does.

Alex made the point that GWT does what it does very well, to which I really can’t argue. It does a good job of providing an interface for Java developers to write JavaScript and handles a lot of the cross-browser ugliness in a completely transparent way. My problem is really that this encourages people to use Java instead of learning JavaScript.

A problem in the industry right now is the lack of good JavaScript developers. Since it’s easier to find Java developers, it makes sense to take advantage of that. GWT leverages the vastly larger pool of Java developers and uses them to write JavaScript, which is an interesting approach to the issue. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem: the lack of good JavaScript developers. The same number of JavaScript developers exist but the amount of people outputting JavaScript has increased…this doesn’t seem right to me.

In order to create more good JavaScript developers, we need to convince good programmers to learn it. We shouldn’t be giving up the fight and accepting that the current set of good JavaScript developers are all that we will ever have. We, as the JavaScript developers of today, should be encouraging other to learn how to do what we do so that the pool of good JavaScript developers increases.

GWT is, I believe, an intriguing proof-of-concept and a unique way to do things. I find it impressive in a purely academic sense but I would never use it for anything I work on (and I’d probably revolt if someone tried to force me down that path).

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