What's Next for Flutter? A Look at the 2023 Roadmap
Flutter has taken the app development world by storm since its launch in 2017. Its popularity has only grown in recent years, thanks to its fast development cycle, hot reload feature, and cross-platform compatibility. With each passing year, Flutter has continued to evolve and improve, introducing new features and capabilities for developers to take advantage of.
As we look ahead to 2023, it's natural to wonder what's next for Flutter. What can developers expect from this powerful framework in the coming years? What new features will be introduced, and how will they impact app development? The 2023 roadmap for Flutter provides some answers to these questions.
In this article, we'll take a closer look at Flutter's 2023 strategy and roadmap, exploring the key features and improvements that developers can expect to see. We'll examine how Flutter plans to evolve to meet the needs of developers and businesses alike, and how it will continue to push the boundaries of what's possible with mobile and web app development. So let's dive in and explore what's next for Flutter in 2023.
A Road Ahead | Flutter 2023: Strategic Roadmap
Flutter is like a superhero suit for developers, empowering them to create stunning, top-tier applications for any platform with just one set of code. It’s like having the strength of a thousand coders in one.
With Flutter, you can build faster, more efficiently and with a futuristic, high-performance edge that leaves other development frameworks in the dust. At the heart of Flutter is Dart, a powerful programming language that enables essential features like stateful hot reload, turbocharged native and web compilation, and a vast library of tools and packages that help you achieve your coding goals with ease.
Whether you’re creating the next big thing in mobile or building apps for desktop, Flutter gives you the tools you need to create beautiful, responsive and high-performance applications. It’s time to take your development skills to the next level with the incredible power of Flutter.
The mission and statement for which Flutter developers have always strived for is as below:
“Our mission is to build the most popular, highest-quality, and highest-productivity UI toolkit for developers”
Flutter has soared to new heights over the past year, establishing its position as the reigning champ of cross-platform application UI frameworks. With an impressive one in five new mobile apps now built with Flutter, the framework has taken the development world by storm.
As if that weren't enough, Flutter's recent support for Windows, macOS, and Linux, coupled with its growing maturity on the Web and with embedded devices, has paved the way for an ecosystem that's primed to revolutionize industries and accelerate the growth of businesses like Ads, Android, Play, and Cloud. Flutter is more than just a framework—it's a dynamic force that's changing the face of mobile app development and beyond.
Status of Flutter in current market
Flutter has boldly taken the developer ecosystem by storm, achieving a position of unparalleled power. With a massive and ever-expanding user base, incredible customer satisfaction rates, and a beloved brand that outshines all other Google developer products, Flutter is a true force to be reckoned with.
As of January 2023, over 700,000 stunning apps in the Play Store have been crafted with Flutter, with one in five of all new apps utilizing Flutter - a statistic that leaves all other cross-platform frameworks in the dust. Flutter's supremacy is evidenced by the fact that it is gaining market share from other cross-platform frameworks, which have either remained stagnant or decreased in popularity over the last twelve months.
Furthermore, the release of Windows, macOS, and Linux platform support to the stable channel in 2022 has exceeded all expectations, as users have embraced it with unbridled enthusiasm.
The Linux port, courtesy of Ubuntu, is being widely utilized for forthcoming releases of their Linux distribution, including their installer and software distribution tooling. With a potential audience of 12.8 million developers (according to SlashData) and the resurgence of macOS and Windows app stores, desktop provides vast opportunities for Google to usher in a plethora of fresh new developers to our ecosystem.
Desktop is also proving to be a popular option for developers to write and test code, even if their final target is a different platform. The future is looking incredibly bright for Flutter!
While its initial releases were hindered by sluggish startup performance and shortcomings in accessibility and web integration, the team has made significant strides in addressing these limitations. Flutter is now being leveraged by several high-profile clients, such as Rive, Blup, FlutterFlow, Formula 1, and Google FamilyLink, for web production purposes.
The web continues to present itself as a promising opportunity for Flutter's growth, with a vast developer community, minimal installation footprint, and the potential to redefine the benchmark for conventional approaches. Despite its relative immaturity in the web space, Flutter's ability to explore uncharted territory speaks to its boundless potential to transform the way developers build and create for the web.
Pointers that Flutter team is looking to improve upon in 2023
First objective is to transition the entire Flutter ecosystem to null safety in a seamless manner, without causing any fragmentation.
They are committed to advancing Dart with great care and precision.
Eliminate jank and other performance obstacles with minimal impact on the user experience.
Achieve unmatched performance across every platform
Make it easier to use system APIs by minimizing any obstacles or difficulties.
Develop a robust supply-chain security system while ensuring that external contributors are not hindered in their contributions.
Develop a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Building on their reputation for quality and aim to expand their reach to design agencies and iOS developers.
Revise the APIs and packages to ensure consistency across all platforms.
In their pursuit to empower developers to build UI with ease and efficiency, they will try to incorporate emerging techniques and tools for UI development, including but not limited to machine learning-based code completion and low-code platforms.
Which are the core planning principles in Flutter’s Vision
Flutter's philosophy centers around prioritizing the user above all else, which translates to a strong emphasis on providing a superior developer experience (which will be elaborated on later).
Flutter's core focus is on empowering developers beyond the walls of Google, however, internal adoption of Flutter remains highly valuable to both Google and the Flutter team. They view internal adoption as a long-term investment that requires patience and dedication. The team is committed to nurturing key internal customers through an approach of slow and steady growth, while simultaneously continuing to attract a growing user base in the public domain.
Flutter's user base spans across a wide range of customers who seek to develop apps for various purposes. However, there are certain customers who benefit the most from its advantages, such as those who aim to target multiple platforms for a seamless and consistent user experience, whether due to limited resources or a strategic approach.
Flutter recognizes the importance of being a reliable collaborator with other teams at Google. Their ultimate aim is to build a symbiotic partnership with app developers and publishers that benefits both parties. Although Google engineers may occasionally develop features that are primarily advantageous to Google, they ensure that such features are not designed in a way that precludes others from providing an equivalent experience.
The Flutter team is committed to creating a delightful and reliable experience for their customers, which, as part of Google, naturally promotes the adoption of other technologies. By sharing a compelling vision that resonates with their customers, they inspire them to embark on a shared journey towards success.
Flutter will be cautious about adding new features and will prioritize getting healthy with their current feature set, due to the challenging macroeconomic environment and Google's mandate to sharpen focus. Any new investments will be validated through UX concept testing.
The Core Strategy of Flutter in 2023
In 2023, Flutter's main objective remains focused on growing its active user base. A well-designed framework or programming language is only valuable if it includes a robust ecosystem of libraries, developer tooling, training, and a thriving developer community. Being part of a larger ecosystem provides developers with career opportunities, networking, and tailored services.
Conversely, stagnant ecosystems quickly fall into decline, as new developers choose offerings that seem to have more potential. For Flutter and Dart, growth is an imperative.
Flutter and Dart are well positioned in this regard, as they have always prioritized the developer experience as a fundamental value. This gives Flutter's platform a competitive advantage.
Their 2023 investments focus on six critical sub-areas of developer experience: performance, interoperability, portability, ecosystem, security, and fundamentals. These areas will help build the most popular, highest-quality, and highest-productivity UI toolkit for developers.
Performance is a major concern for cross-platform frameworks, as some have sacrificed performance for portability. However, the Flutter team is prioritizing performance and has been from the beginning, due to the technical nature of their solution (compiling to machine code).
They need to continue scaling their platform for the future, focusing on completing their investments in Impeller for more fluid mobile results, and a re-architecture for the web to target WebAssembly, support multi-threaded rendering, and reduce payload sizes for faster load and runtime performance.
Performance isn't just about pushing pixels; it also involves generating high-quality machine code and designing features that promote high-performance outcomes, such as their new two-way scrolling API.
Large codebases like those used in Google Ads need to be supported by Dart as well. Improving the edit/compile/debug cycle, providing tooling for issue diagnosis, and optimizing the performance of that tooling are also crucial for overall performance improvement.
In order to cater to the requirements of professional developers, Flutter needs to focus on simplifying its integration with existing apps and platforms. While it is important to push for disruptive innovation, it is equally crucial to not let outdated technical limitations hinder progress. Hence, Flutter needs to make conscious efforts to reduce any hindrance to adopting the platform.
To cater to the needs of professional developers, Flutter aims to make integration with existing apps and platforms easier. Their efforts for Android focus on seamless integration with the underlying operating system by reducing the costs of calling Jetpack libraries, minimizing memory buffer copies, and simplifying embedding Flutter into Android projects.
For iOS, they plan to improve compatibility with the latest iOS releases by updating the Cupertino widget set, modernizing the package ecosystem with Swift Package Manager, and enhancing performance. Additionally, they are working on improving interoperability with Swift and Objective-C code through FFI.
For Windows and macOS, Flutter will complete their work on platform views to embed content from other SDKs into Flutter apps. Additionally, they plan to improve accessibility and add multi-window support. Though third-party libraries for UI such as Fluent and macos_ui exist, these improvements will make Flutter a more comprehensive and self-sufficient platform for desktop app development.
This effort involves various aspects of the project, such as the Dart language, runtimes, libraries, the Flutter engine, framework, and package ecosystem.
To fulfill its promise of being the best way to create UI on any platform, Flutter and Dart must continue to support a wide range of processor architectures, instruction sets, and platforms. This is a crucial aspect that Flutter customers look for, and the team is committed to investing in it.
Flutter's primary target for 2023 is WebAssembly, specifically the upcoming WasmGC support for garbage-collected languages. While WasmGC is not yet supported by major browsers, Dart will have a binary target for the web alongside desktop and mobile platforms once it's complete.
The Flutter team is also working on supporting new processor architectures, such as ARM for desktop-class operating systems that are increasingly moving to ARM. They are also exploring RISC-V to support Flutter and Dart in embedded scenarios, and potentially in Android in the future.
Portability also extends to the UI. While Flutter has provided features to help developers create apps that automatically adapt to the user's device, they are continuing to simplify this task to make it easier to write apps with Flutter.
Flutter is not just a standalone solution, but it needs support from the industry to provide developers with a complete full-stack experience. To achieve this, Google has invested in vertical toolkits to complement the core engine and libraries of Flutter.
One such toolkit is the casual game toolkit, which has driven adoption and investment from others in the industry. Flame, for instance, is a popular offering for 2D games that builds on the core Flutter framework by providing constructs such as sprites, particle effects, sound, physics, and collision detection. Over 15,000 games that use Flutter have been released to the Play Store as of November 2022, which indicates an increase of 59% over the previous 12 months.
In 2023, Flutter plans to release a second vertical toolkit, developed by a partner and co-funded by the Google News Initiative, that is focused on news. This toolkit will provide news publishers with an application template that implements common features, such as onboarding, content feed, article pages, paywalls, ads, and notifications, as an alternative to AMP. The toolkit is informed by research from the Google News team.
In addition to these vertical toolkits, Flutter is building partnerships with others who are investing in tooling to support Flutter and Dart in 2023. These partnerships include design tools like Supernova, Figma, Widgetbook, and Rive, as well as low-code and cloud-based development tooling like FlutterFlow, Codemagic, Zapp, and Codelessly. Flutter is also looking to collaborate with GitHub, Realm, Canonical, Linaro, and others to ensure that they participate in and connect with the broader ecosystem.
Security is a growing concern in the open source community, and Flutter is not immune to potential vulnerabilities. To address this, Flutter plans to strengthen their build system by enabling code signing and reproducible builds for all public releases, with a goal of complying with SLSA-4 standards.
They also plan to provide tooling to help developers build secure applications, such as provenance attestations and a structured approach for documenting vulnerabilities in packages.
Another area of concern is the analytics data collected by Flutter. In 2023, they plan to unify and clarify the instrumentation across Flutter and Dart, making it clearer what data is being collected. They will also publish anonymized and aggregated data for the community to increase trust and build confidence in the open source projects.
Apart from focusing on developer growth, Flutter needs to prioritize the fundamentals to ensure its success. This includes addressing issues related to documentation, engineering velocity, UI fidelity, technical debt, and customer complaints.
Although Flutter and Dart's documentation is considered a significant strength, it is fragmented and spread across too many different sites, making it difficult for developers to access. Flutter team needs to invest in refining the existing content, adding more samples, and improving the platforms like dartdoc to increase their velocity. They must also address any long-standing infra debt and customer issues.
Furthermore, the issue backlog of Flutter is growing, with over 10,000 open issues in 2022. This poses two challenges: it dampens customer interest as they perceive Flutter as a buggy platform and results in dissatisfaction as customers feel that their reported bugs do not get addressed quickly. Therefore, the Flutter team needs to invest more in refining their existing features to address these issues effectively.
How can Flutter and Dart maximize their value to Google?
Beyond fostering a contented community of developers, it is imperative for the Flutter team to ensure an optimal delivery of value for Google's ecosystem, and in fulfilling their accountability to shareholders and leadership, striving to cultivate a thriving environment for Google's diverse range of products.
Flutter, Dart, and internal customers
Flutter and Dart's adoption in Google is a key aspect of our mission, and we have a specialized team committed to this endeavor. Although we don't anticipate a complete transition of Google applications to Flutter, given the disruptive and costly nature of app rewrites, we choose to promote its adoption within Google teams due to a multitude of factors:
Using Flutter and Dart within Google is critical to proving their efficacy and ensuring high-quality experiences can be built with these tools, as well as allowing for rapid iteration on improvements through internal feedback.
This helps demonstrate a positive return on investment for Google's investment in the products, making developers more productive and ultimately paying for themselves. The ability to inspect and test customer code aids in building a better product and gaining insights into real-world usage. Additionally, Flutter and Dart are essential to the success of many Google products, making them crucial to achieving overall goals.
In the year 2023, Flutter will remain committed to supporting teams to succeed with Flutter and Dart. This will involve both proactive and reactive efforts, such as developing requested features for large internal teams.
For e.g. improving app compilation scalability, facilitating integration of internal plugins, and enforcing accessibility and performance standards, as well as expanding Flutter's web capabilities to offer rich UI features within established internal web applications using frameworks such as Angular, thus allowing teams to harness the power of Flutter within their existing solutions where appropriate.
How does Flutter aid Google’s reputation?
Flutter benefits Google by creating a happy customer base that's receptive to Google's products. However, Flutter remains open-source and welcomes contributors from various companies, including competitors, to foster a collaborative environment. This approach has proven fruitful, as Google's investment in Flutter is lower than it would be for a closed-source project of its size.
Flutter can ease this tension by prioritizing customer success over short-term gains. They must avoid making choices that would harm the customer and focus on providing them with the best options to succeed with Google. This can be earned by trying strategies such as:
Flutter aims to bridge the gap by prioritizing customer success, offering solutions like FlutterFire for Cloud and Firebase integration and hosting guidance. They also plan to help iOS developers transition to Android with Play revenue streams. In collaboration with the Android team, they will create pathways for Android development.
With Ads, Flutter will continue to broaden support for mobile ad formats, target gaming campaigns, and invest in deep-linking. They will also provide a custom toolkit incorporating ads and Firebase for news publishers. Flutter will partner with Geo to expand the maps plugin, integrating client-side directions and improving the Google Maps developer documentation.
Summarizing Flutter’s roadmap
Flutter plans to maintain their quarterly stable release cycle in 2023, aligning with their goals for the year. They will kick off the year with Flutter Forward in January, where they will showcase early progress in all areas to encourage customers to invest in their future.
Flutter also aims to offer monthly beta releases to provide developers with early access to features at a faster pace. As Flutter evolves, the focus will shift towards beta releases as the testing ground for new features, much like Chrome. This will encourage early adoption and reduce the pressure for teams to deliver features by a specific deadline.