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Google agitates for a revolution in Web development

At Google I/O, the company urged developers to rethink Web pages in a componentized, composable programming model

By Joab Jackson
June 30, 2014 04:52 AM ET

IDG News Service - At the Google I/O conference last week, the company vigorously lobbied developers to adopt a new programming model, one that could, the company asserted, make it radically easier to build Web applications.

In multiple sessions through the conference, Google engineers spoke about Web Components, an evolving World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standard designed to help organize complex Web pages by providing a mechanism to assemble them using small single-function components.

"Web Components utterly change the Web platform. This isn't hyperbole. This actually changes everything," said Matthew McNulty, a Google engineering manager, during a presentation at the conference, which was held in San Francisco.

The standard could be important because "it introduces a new world where components from different vendors can live together on the same page. Apps can be crafted from parts found on a massive shelf," McNulty. "It's about composability. It gives you just enough of a container that the Web becomes composable."

Google has been working on its own library, called Polymer, that makes it easier to use and extend Web Components. "Polymer does all the hard work to make [Web Components] a cohesive system," McNulty said.

"The idea behind Polymer is to leverage the Web Components standard," said Al Hilwa, an IDC research program director for software development.

Hilwa noted that Polymer is an attempt to bring advanced extensibility to the Web platform, in much the same way that the Java Enterprise Edition and Microsoft .Net allows developers to share components and rapidly build applications using the work of others.

Although work on Web Components has been going on since 2010, the technology now seems to be picking up momentum.

Google's Chrome 36, which will ship in a few weeks and is ready in the beta channel now, will support Web Components. It is the first browser to do so.

"This is a milestone in Web development," said Eric Bildeman, a Google engineer working on the Chrome team, during another presentation on the technology.

In many ways, Web Components finally delivers the advanced coding tools and techniques that developers in other languages have long enjoyed, such as objects, templates and data binding (though the data binding is offered by Polymer, not Web Components itself).

Despite its almost universal use over the past decade, HTML, which provides the basic mark-up format for building Web pages, hasn't been advanced much in terms of helping developers build complex Web applications, Bildeman said.

For instance, there is no one standardized way in HTML to load additional elements into a Web page without help from external technologies such as PHP or Apache modules. Both JavaScript and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) have long offered the ability to call in external files when a browser renders a Web page.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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