GWT and standards compliance

This is a sort of „standard“ question when it comes down to the topic web frameworks, Java and finally the Google Web Toolkit (GWT).

My first though is, what exactly is meant with „standard“?

A short look at Wikipedia shows:

Open Standard: An open standard is a standard that is publicly available and has various rights to use associated with it, and may also have various properties of how it was designed (e.g. open process). There is no single definition and interpretations do vary with usage.

De facto standard: A de facto standard is a custom, convention, product, or system that has achieved a dominant position by public acceptance or market forces (such as early entrance to the market). De facto is a Latin phrase meaning „concerning the fact“ or „in practice“.

Internet standard: In computer network engineering, an Internet Standard (STD) is a normative specification of a technology or methodology applicable to the Internet. Internet Standards are created and published by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).

No, no,  no! Not that kind of standard, right? Ah, ok, the Java EE standard!

Again, looking at Wikipedia you will find the following under „nomenclature, standards and specification„:

Java EE is defined by its specification. As with other Java Community Process specifications, providers must meet certain conformance requirements in order to declare their products as Java EE compliant.

Java EE includes several API specifications, such as JDBC, RMI, e-mail, JMS, web services, XML, etc., and defines how to coordinate them. Java EE also features some specifications unique to Java EE for components. These include Enterprise JavaBeans, Connectors, servlets, portlets (following the Java Portlet specification), JavaServer Pages and several web service technologies. This allows developers to create enterprise applications that are portable and scalable, and that integrate with legacy technologies.

Which leaves us just a few options: the Servlet/ JSP and the JavaServer Faces specifications. While the Servlet and JSP specifications focus on how to handle HTTP request/ responses, the JSF specification defines a GUI component model for web applications.

The problem here is: there is no room anymore for another „compliant“ web framework – JSF made it into the Java EE specification – end of line. But, despite of a wide industry support, JSF is not the only web framework being used today by Java developers. And to make things a little more trickier, typical Web 2.0 web applications do not render the UI on the server side but in the browser.

Fancy „Web 2.0“ applications are not written in Java. Rich user interfaces are being rendered completely in the browser, avoiding the server roundtrip and minimizing latency. How? By simply using DHTML (technologies defined by the W3C).

So is this the end of Java? No! You will find people using Java backends for „Web 2.0“ applications. But even as a backend technology we won’t be abiding by the rules of standard compliance by using RMI or SOAP to communicate: it is common to send lightweight JSON over HTTP. All you need for that is a Servlet and a little bit of JSON <-> Java objects mapping. People developing RIAs and using JSON back and forward to the server are measuring latency in milliseconds.

So, if you will be building a Web 2.0 application, don’t look for a specification at the Java EE side. It is the wrong side, as Java is actually the backend, not the frontend. That brings us back to the first standards I cited above: open standards, de facto standards and internet standards.

This is how things were before JSF, and this is how things became after Web 2.o.

So, back to the question, is GWT standard compliant or not? Well, besides of those blue boxes on the picture above I would say yes!

  • The compiler is not standard, but I would not know what a standard compiler would be or mean to development anyway
  • The GWT-RPC mechanism is highly GWT proprietary, don’t use it if you don’t like it. But it is my belief that there aren’t too many developers out there that can code something better than GWT-RPC by hand…

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