Flutter takes flight

No Google I/O this year, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to announce. Yes, I tried for a witty title to let you know that Google’s Flutter now claims to have 2 million users. The question is why?

Flutter is a bit of a mystery to me. I just cannot see why anyone wants it. Almost everything it offers has been available elsewhere and better developed and without the very likely threat that Google will just lose interest and pull the plug. I suppose you can take some comfort from the fact that they haven’t pulled the plug yet on Dart – the language nobody asked for.

Dart is a wholly unremarkable language and a complete failure as a JavaScript replacement mainly due to Google not making it native in Chrome. In fact, you would have been within your rights to expect Google to kill it, but what happened was unexpected – it pivoted and reinvented itself as a way of creating cross-platform apps.

Why do I say that this was unnecessary?

Well, there are already a number of frameworks that let you build cross-platform apps – Cordova and PhoneGap to mention just two in JavaScript. They aren’t hugely popular because they aren’t native and because the world seems to prefer the vague technology that we refer to as PWA.

Flutter isn’t native and at the moment I judge it as still under-provided with nice toys to play with. And yet we have a new blog post which announces:

We continue to see fast growth in Flutter usage, with over two million developers having used Flutter in the sixteen months since we released. Despite these unprecedented circumstances, in March we saw 10% month-over-month growth, with nearly half a million developers now using Flutter each month.

To put this into context, it is estimated that there are around 25 million developers in the world and roughly 6 million Android developers v 3 million iOS devs. This makes 2 million users look reasonably impressive.

What is everyone doing with Flutter?

Well, it is claimed that:

There are approximately 50,000 Flutter apps published in the Play Store, with nearly 10,000 uploaded in the last month alone.

I have to admit to being surprised. It is also claimed that Flutter is growing more important among enterprise devs:

“One recent example is Nubank, the largest digital bank outside Asia with over 20 million customers. After conducting a detailed investigation and analysis of their choices for app development, Nubank selected Flutter and have since been able to unify their front-end development team on a single framework, enabling them to ship new features simultaneously on both iOS and Android.”

I’ve read the study and you need to know that they compared Flutter with React Native and Kotlin Native rather than more mature frameworks like Cordova or Xamarin. I think all three that they considered are a bit young to rely on.

The rest of the blog post goes on to explain how the Flutter team is rationalizing its release schedule and tying it in with Dart.

There you have it. Flutter has taken off – I’m not at all sure why.

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