Join Transform 2021 to learn about the most important topics in artificial intelligence and business data. Learn more.
Google has released version 2.0 of Flutter, its open source user interface development kit that helps application makers build cross-platform software from the same code base. While the update marks the beginning of a variety of new features, today’s launch event was perhaps primarily designed to highlight Flutter’s ongoing transition beyond mobile devices to support applications wherever they reside: the web, the desktop. and even emerging form factors like folding.
The internet giant first introduced Flutter at its I / O developer conference in 2017. Version 1.0 hit the scene in December 2018 with support for Android and iOS apps, but in the two years or more since then. , Google has extended support (somewhat) to include web apps, MacOS, Linux, Windows, and even embedded devices. However, such support has been offered only in early-stage iterations that were not available to most developers or were not designed for production-grade applications, and that is what is changing today.
Flutter’s web development kit has been in beta since 2019, but today you see it achieve the same citizen status as its Android and iOS siblings. For desktop developers, Google has also transitioned Flutter for Windows, MacOS, and Linux to the “stable” major release, bringing it closer to prime time.
“This is a huge milestone for us, not only because the code itself is now ready for serious production-quality use, but also because in the past it was only available to the small minority of Flutter users who were running the software. pre-launch. development kit, ”Flutter Product Manager Tim Sneath told VentureBeat in a question and answer email.
Using Google’s Dart programming language, Flutter is designed to help developers create applications that feel native to each platform they run on, while sharing as much code as possible to avoid duplication of effort.
There are countless unique platform-specific considerations that developers must take into account when designing applications, including how people interact with their devices (for example, touch and swipe on mobile devices, keyboards, and mice on the desktop), different screen sizes in which users consume content, and even the language they use to write. This is why it has taken time to advance the various Flutter dev kits throughout their release cycles.
“We’ve done a lot of work to get to this stage, including adding internationalization support, for example IME editors for languages like Chinese, new widgets like TreeView and DataTable that are designed for desktop support, and better support for Apple Silicon development machines, ”Sneath said.
On the Linux side specifically, Canonical, the company that markets Ubuntu-related projects, today revealed that Flutter is now its default framework for developing desktop and mobile applications for the Ubuntu operating system. This builds on last July’s announcement from Google and Canonical, which spurred Flutter’s expansion into the Linux arena and prompted Canonical engineers to contribute code to the Flutter project.
As part of this latest expansion, Canonical presented an early demo of a new Ubuntu setup application built on Flutter.
Other notable Flutter updates announced today include a beta version for the Google Mobile Ads SDK, which has been in early pilot mode so far, offering various ad formats for AdMob and AdManager. And Google also rolled out Flutter plugin updates that span various Firebase services, including Authentication, Crashlytics, cloud messaging, and cloud storage.
In the meantime, Dart hits version 2.12 today, with support for null security (or “null security”), which is designed to avoid those non-cowardly exceptions.
Last April, Google revealed that 500,000 developers use Flutter every month. Almost a year later, the company did not provide any updates on that figure other than saying that “adoption continues to grow,” but the flagship number it is promoting today is that there are 150,000 apps powered by Flutter on the Google Play Store. You don’t have access to the same tracking capabilities for other app stores (i.e. Apple) to provide data from other places.
“As an anecdote, we know there are apps where they add a Flutter app for one mobile platform and then reverse it on the other,” Sneath said.
In terms of who you’re using Flutter to build apps, well, Google itself strongly stands behind it. In September, Google Pay started using Flutter, adding Google Analytics, Google Ads, Google Shopping, Google Nest Hub, Stadia, and other Google products already using the development kit. Looking externally gives a better idea of which developers are laying their eggs in Flutter’s basket: They include real estate listing website Realtor.com, Chinese tech titan Tencent, Latin American fintech company Nubank, payment service. Square and wireless audio system maker Sonos.
It’s clear why the underlying premise behind Flutter is a compelling proposition: fast and consistent cross-platform coding. But for larger and more complex business applications, a native software development approach will likely remain the preferred approach for most companies because Flutter is a relatively young framework, with fewer third-party software libraries and packages restricting to developers.
“Ecosystems don’t grow overnight, and Flutter is still a new platform by some standards, but we believe that the 15,000 packages and companies represented previously [e.g., Nubank and Realtor.com] they are evidence of rapid growth to fill the remaining gaps, as they exist, “said Sneath. “We are very encouraged by that continued growth.”
There is clear evidence that businesses are interested in what Flutter has to offer, with Nubank heavily backed by VC getting to publish his full spirit on why he is using Flutter for cross-platform mobile development. According to Sneath, Flutter solves two core challenges for large companies.
“First of all, they find it infuriating that to reach all of their customers, they have to create the same application two, three, even four or more times,” he said. “There is no good parallelism to this duplication: they don’t create multiple billing systems, multiple payroll platforms, and so on. It’s wasteful and generates all sorts of second-order problems – how do multiple applications get simultaneously pushed to multiple platforms? , all development teams have to go at the speed of the slowest, etc. “
The second problem that Flutter solves, according to Sneath, is that companies can invest millions in creating and maintaining a set of corporate brands, but may then be restricted in what they can do with their digital properties due to their built-in limitations.
“Too often the tail wags the dog here – your customer-facing sites are driven by what the framework allows them to do, rather than vice versa,” Sneath said. “They love that Flutter gives them control.”
The open source movement has gained traction over the past decade, and most major tech companies have embraced it to some degree: Facebook has created countless in-house open source projects, while Google is no stranger to open source. Microsoft, meanwhile, has worked hard to prove it is all-inclusive in open source, recently declaring that it is now the accepted model for cross-company collaboration.
And this is a point worth revisiting, while Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, et al. they often face each other as competitors, the open source world is where they play well. Google may be the biggest contributor to the Flutter framework, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. “Of all the people who contributed to this launch, most do not work at Google,” Sneath said. “Of course, Flutter is more than the central frame; there are around 15,000 packages available, the vast majority of which come from non-Google partners such as Amazon, Microsoft, Adobe, Huawei, Alibaba, eBay and Square. “
With the latest version of Flutter, Microsoft has added some notable contributions, particularly around its growing focus on the “foldable” form factor, which can involve devices with dual displays. Microsoft is now releasing code to support these new designs, allowing applications to take advantage of their unique capabilities.
And that highlights why open source makes sense for this project: Google needs full industry and ecosystem buy-in for Flutter to thrive, and if developers can get full access to a codebase, they’re more likely to stick around. .
“The fact that software developers can see the code to the bottom of the stack is a huge plus for a user interface framework,” said Sneath. “Being able to debug layers instead of hitting a black box makes developers more productive. Being able to take a widget or widget and fork it if it doesn’t suit your needs ensures that the framework itself is never a limiting factor. From a purely selfish perspective, being open source means that we get contributions from a talented community. Being able to have our clients submit a bug and fix at the same time, or fix something privately, is another great advantage. “
Flutter 2.0 is now available for developers.
VentureBeat’s mission is to be a digital urban plaza for technical decision makers to gain insight into transformative technology and transact. Our site offers essential information on data technologies and strategies to guide you as you run your organizations. We invite you to become a member of our community, to access:
- updated information on the topics of your interest
- our newsletters
- Exclusive content from thought leaders and discounted access to our treasured events like Transform
- network features and more
Become a member