Google Builds Mindshare For Dart App Framework With Virtual Machines On Runnable

Posted: Jan 16 2014, 10:26am CST | by


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Google Builds Mindshare For Dart App Framework With Virtual Machines On Runnable
Photo Credit: Forbes

Google announced today that it will distribute working demos its Dart app framework through Runnable, the Palo Alto startup that has been dubbed the “YouTube of code.” Runnable creates virtual machines in your browser in which you can demo live code, rework it and see the results in real time before you decide to incorporate it into your project. Increasingly, developers are wiring together diverse functions from different code frameworks to build their applications and the friction of setting up working environments for each framework in order to try them out is a considerable pain point.

Runnable is a “pain killer” (in Nir Eyal‘s behavioral engineering parlance) because it allows developers to quickly search for and run live code snippets from a “growing online library of code for users to access, test and implement directly into their own projects.” All with zero setup. Once you have a bit of code working the way you want it, you can simply cut and paste it into your own code repository (Github, etc.) And Runnable founder Yash Kumar tells me that ability to push code directly from a runnable to a user’s Github account is the number one requested feature from developers so far, so I would expect to see that functionality available soon.

Beyond being a helpful convenience for developers, the Runnable platform is a powerful medium for code promotion and discovery for the developers and companies behind these code frameworks, languages, databases, etc. Merely by publishing code to Runnable it becomes visible to developers in the same way that putting an app on an app store gets it in front of consumers. For some of the more complex frameworks, like Google’s Dart, the ability to radically increase developer’s ability to try the code out can have a dramatic impact on adoption rates.

According to Dzenan Ridjanovic, associate professor at Laval University, Québec, the Dart language mixes the best parts of JavaScript on the client-side and Java on the server-side and thus manages to be “both an object-oriented and a functional programming language.” It is also, according to Runnable’s Kumar, the “very first time that HTML developers can have access to advanced web development tools,” but also, “a difficult coding environment to set up.” What the new Dart Code Channel will mean for developers is that they can use the most popular 10-15 code examples (there are six live as of this morning) as templates or “scratchpads” for working out app ideas. This is the quickest way to get up and running with Dart (or any other code framework) and will be a big boon for productivity.

Runnable is a perfect example of the kind of startup made possible by the incredible drop in the cost of cloud computation in recent years. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Marc Andreessen remarked, “The new startups today, they don’t buy any of that [hardware] stuff.… Instead, they go on Amazon Web Services and they pay by the drink and they’re paying somewhere between 100x and 1000x cheaper per unit—per unit of compute, per unit of storage, per unit of networking, per unit of software. In retrospect, it’s a miracle that anything worked in the late ’90s given how limited the market was and given how expensive it was. It’s a miracle that eBay worked, it’s a miracle that Amazon worked.”

Kumar got his start working at Amazon and the method that he and his team have developed for spawning virtual machines (VMs) on demand is a key component of the usability of the site. Runnable currently hosts about 4,000 code projects and maintains a waiting list to assure quality control over each publication. Kumar tells me that Runnable currently has 200,000 users a month consuming about 200,000 virtual machines a week (each users session constitutes a VM request.) As the platform grows there will be all sorts of opportunities for developers to figure out novel ways of wiring projects together to create new runnables (as the projects are known.) Down the road, Kumar anticipates that users will have the capability to run multiple projects simultaneously and pass values between them. A quick look at the new Light Table code editor (a separate project from Runnable) will give you an idea of how dynamic an experience this could be.

It is easy to imagine that eventually Runnable’s own API will be a very valuable and useful thing. In the meantime, it is providing a service for API providers. As described on its publishers page, Runnable ”enables organic discovery and adoption” for APIs, libraries and projects. And in an era when many startups forgo a business plan in favor of just building their product outright, runnables have the advantage of being “more intuitive than documentation” and providing developers with “easy-to-understand code that they can modify and run without leaving the browser.” Finally, it claims to help publishers, “discover key insights via analytics [and] learn the full picture on how developers want to use your API, library or project thru metrics collected from real code interactions on Runnable.”

If “software is eating the world,” as Andreessen has said, then Runnable is the high-end restaurant’s kitchen.

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Source: Forbes

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