Programmer and project leader Lars Bak detailed the project in a talk today at the Goto conference in Denmark and in a blog post. Dart is geared for everything from small, unstructured projects to large, complicated efforts--Gmail and Google Docs, for example.
"If we want to focus on making the Web better over time, we have to innovate," including with new programming languages, Bak said in an interview today.
Google also unveiled a Dart language site that includes open-source tools for writing Dart programs, code samples, and tutorials; libraries of supporting software; the Dart language specification; and forums for discussion.
Bak bristled at some of the complaints about Google's approach to creating Dart in-house and not through a more collaborative approach.
"I don't buy the argument that before writing any line of code or designing any features, you put it in a standards committee, because that would just be a lot of screaming," Bak said. "You have to have coherent design before you start adopting Dart as a standard."
Making a standard is a goal, though. "It will be fairly lonely to create a standards committee when there's only us in it. We first have to get the backing of other partners before we can make a standard that's useful," he said.
Google is releasing Dart now for the next step in its maturation: outside feedback and participation. "We hope the other browser vendors will be excited," Bak said, adding that today is the first that Google has shared details about Dart with them or others.
Google is evaluating the best way to integrate Dart directly into its Chrome browser, something Bak is keen on. One reason: it will enable a "snapshotting" technology that dramatically improves a Web app's startup time. Snapshotting involves taking an application and "serializing" it into a single block of data.
Here is Bak's quick description of Dart's design goals:
Building Dart into Chrome could let Google build Dart versions of its advanced Web apps that--if the language lives up to its billing--could be better than those Web apps today.
"Google has a lot fairly big Web applications. That includes Gmail and Docs. I hope many of these apps will be converted into Dart," Bak said. But he cautioned that this is his personal option, not an explicit plan.
Google also is trying to gain a foothold for Go, a programming language geared more for native software that today would most likely be written with C or C++.
Dart is designed to address several shortcomings Google sees with Web programming today, according to the Dart technical overview:
The priority right now is to hear what the rest of the world thinks and to get them participating in Dart's development, Bak said.
"At this point it is mostly the language we are focused on," he said. "We hope to get positive feedback on the language."
Updated at 3:53 a.m. PT with comments from an interview with Bak.