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Answering the question: "How do I develop an app for GNOME?"

During the GNOME Developer Experience Hackfest this week, one of the major goals we identified was the need to pick a single language to give a simple answer to "how do I write a GNOME app?".

Right now, if you ask that question, you'll get about 8 different personal-preference answers, which drives people away from our platform. Having to potentially evaluate several different languages and their stacks gives potential developers a lot of unneeded extra work.

There was broad consensus in the hackfest for this goal because it allows us to:
  • It allows us to focus when we write developer documentation, fixing bugs in the development environment and the development of tools. This reduces our maintanence costs and enables us to be vastly more efficient.

  • It enables code and knowledge sharing to occur, so that people can easily copy and paste code from existing applications, or find information about common problems and challenges.

  • It provide a coherent and easy-to-follow path for new developers.

  • It allows us to include the full GNOME framework within the language itself.

We spent a long time discussing the different options that are available to us, and there were a variety of opinions. However, at the end of the day, we had to recognize that no language is perfect and there will always be disagreement. The important thing was that we had to make a decision.

It's critical that everyone understands this decision as a plan to elevate the language, bindings, tools, and documentation to a level of quality we have not yet achieved. It is not a decision to abandon any other language bindings. We will continue to distribute other bindings and documentation as we do now and compatibility for the other languages will continue to be developed as they are today by the developers involved with those modules.

Our decision is to support JavaScript as the first class language for GNOME application development. This means:
  • We will continue to write documentation for other languages, but we will also prioritize JavaScript when deciding what to work on.

  • We will encourage new applications be written in JavaScript.

  • We will be working to optimize the developer workflow around JavaScript.

C will remain the recommended language for system libraries.

Why JavaScript?
  • Our language of choice needs to be dynamic and high level.

  • There is already momentum in the GNOME Project for JavaScript -- it's used in GNOME Shell and GNOME Documents.

  • There's a lot of work going into the language to make it especially fast, embeddable, and framework-agnostic.

  • JavaScript is increasingly being seen as a first class desktop programming language -- it us being used in Windows 8, mobile platforms, and for local web applications.

  • JavaScript is self-contained -- it doesn't come with its own set of core libraries, which makes it more convenient for us when integrating it into the platform.

This is the start of a process and there's obviously a lot of work ahead of us. However, prioritizing a single language will enable us to turn GNOME into a compelling platform for application developers in a much more effective and efficient manner.

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A choice is a good choice

(first ... i have nothing to do with gnome. I'm only developping using the gnome platform)
I think many people in comments is this language is the best, or the other. I have to agree with the choice.
Javascript is becoming more and more popular with the web frameworks and web development these days. So, as *entry* language in the gnome ecosystem, it is a great choice.

Of course, who is actually used to program in the gnome libraries would choose python or vala ... if you want performance, or you like, you can choose C or C++. The ones used to program in java, will choose the java bidings. But the point here is ... to choose a language to make it easy for people to *start* developping with the gnome platform, so that all that n00b kids can easilly create an "hello world" message in a confortable way.

Re: A choice is a good choice

to choose a language to make it easy for people to *start* developping with the gnome platform, so that all that n00b kids can easilly create an "hello world" message in a confortable way.

Just to clarify, JavaScript application development on GNOME is intended to support applications up to the scale of iOS/Android/Mac App Store-sized apps at least because that's the approximate scale of application that makes sense on the desktop, tablets, and phones. We're not optimizing just for trivial applications.

Edited at 2013-02-03 03:27 pm (UTC)

Re: A choice is a good choice

Good luck building Photoshop Light Room in JavaScript.

Re: A choice is a good choice

Glad you're capable of reading. If Javascript is a poor choice for such a program (granted that I don't even know what Photoshop Light Room is), they can happily still do it in Python, Vala, C, or any other language that is best suited to it.

Re: A choice is a good choice

His reply was obviously to the claim that Javascript is viewed as a perfecly adequate language for developing large scale applications. We know you can use other languages.

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