When you trace the history of Flutter, you can see a new standard for multi-platform development coming into focus. Year by year, tracking the announcements, demos, and reveals at industry events provides important context into how far Flutter development has come and where it's going next.
In a relatively short time, Flutter has become developers' go-to choice for building multi-platform apps. In the five years since 2018, the ecosystem around Flutter has grown and thrived, with ongoing support from Google.
As of May 2023, the Flutter team reported that more than one million published apps use Flutter. Showing Flutter's dominance of the multi-platform space, that figure is greater than the proportion of new apps developed on all other multi-platform frameworks combined.
We here at Very Good Ventures are especially proud and excited to chronicle the story of Flutter because we've been there every step of the way. We've had the incredible opportunity to have a presence at each of these milestone events, often collaborating directly with Google to showcase the power of Flutter.
Now, from 2017 to 2023 and beyond, let’s take a look at the highlights of Flutter's time in the limelight.
2017: The Release of the First Commercial Flutter App
The Hamilton app was developed by VGV's founding team during their tenure at the now-closed Posse, with Hamilton being VGV's inaugural client. This significant collaboration led to the creation of the Hamilton app, marking a momentous milestone as the first Flutter-based app outside of Google. The efficiency and remarkable productivity of Flutter played a pivotal role in the app's development, enabling it to launch swiftly on both iOS and Android within a mere three months.
2018: The Beginning
This was the year when Flutter made a major impact for the first time. Though the year-defining event occurred in December, there was plenty going on behind the scenes in the run-up to the show. From the very beginning, Very Good Ventures was there, providing hands-on support for Google in a high-stakes role.
Flutter Live '18 (December 2018)
At the Flutter Live '18 conference, Flutter received its initial spotlight, letting development teams know they had a new option for their multi-platform efforts. Google's team revealed that Flutter had reached version 1.0.
This landmark was accompanied by showcases of features such as Flutter Desktop Embedding, showing that Flutter was not simply for Android and iOS mobile development. Flutter’s vision for the future involved true multi-platform development.
Very Good Ventures helped Google pull off a "wow" moment by revealing that the keynote slides were running in a desktop Flutter app. Flutter Slides was a collaborative project between Google and VGV, and the code was released for developers to explore.
2019: Mainstream Breakthroughs
In 2019, developers proved that Flutter's ability to bridge the desktop and mobile worlds was ready for primetime. This was a year of debuts across multiple events, and once again VGV was at the vanguard.
Google I/O '19 (May 2019)
During the Google Developer Keynote at the 2019 I/O conference, the New York Times KENKEN app made its debut. This puzzle application, developed by VGV in collaboration with The New York Times and Google, represented a significant milestone as one of the first major Flutter apps available on the web.
Flutter Interact (December 2019)
At the 2019 Flutter Interact conference, Google unveiled Flutter 1.12. Features included in the new version included improved support for advanced features across iOS and Apple, along with upgraded support for add-to-app. The latter feature makes it easier to add Flutter modules to existing native platforms, letting developers try out Flutter in an existing native app, rather than starting from scratch.
Other announcements at the show included the beta release of Flutter for web, which had been available to the community in an earlier release since May. The same event saw the alpha reveal of Flutter for macOS, further expanding the reach of Flutter-based apps.
Buoyed by these releases and more, the Flutter development community grew and stayed active in 2019.
2021: Stability and Evolution
Following a year of gatherings thwarted by the pandemic, 2021 is when the story of major Flutter events resumes. Of course, things were hardly "back to normal," and conferences were still virtual. With that said, there was a flood of releases and announcements throughout the year, and VGV was on hand to usher Flutter into its new era.
Flutter Engage (March 2021)
The big news out of Flutter Engage, held online in March, was the launch of Flutter 2. In the time between the 1.12 and 2 releases, the Google team had deepened their commitment to true multi-platform development. Flutter 2 supported six platforms: iOS, Android, web, macOS, Windows and Linux.
In addition to the big Flutter 2 reveal, the development team also announced that Flutter on the web had achieved stability. The development team noted that rather than a static website-building tool, Flutter’s web support is primarily a way to make rich interactive app experiences truly multi-platform.
The Dart language received an update, too, with the 2.12 release coinciding with several new DevTools launches. Dart 2.12 brought null safety, alongside early explorations into static meta-programming.
Flutter Engage also showed off a theme that would be prominent in the years ahead: Flutter as the basis for experiences that go well beyond the standard mobile-desktop dichotomy. Toyota presented its new vehicle infotainment systems powered by Flutter and enabled by the Embedder API.
Google I/O '21 (May 2021)
Just two months after Flutter Engage and the release of Flutter 2, Google revealed Flutter 2.2 at Google I/O. With the release, null safety became the default setting for Flutter. Other announcements at the show included desktop development improvements, the release of new DevTools and a payments SDK update.
The event also provided a powerful showcase of just how many teams are using Flutter. VGV was very much among these, teaming up with Google for a powerful new demo on the web: I/O Photo Booth. The app served as a showcase for building high-quality apps with Flutter and Firebase.
2022: Opening New Windows
Despite the rapid roll-out of new Flutter versions and capabilities in 2021, the pace stayed rapid in 2022. The Google development team continued to move Flutter toward true multi-platform support, with a fully featured focus on Windows to go along with the existing mobile, web and Mac capabilities.
Flutter Update: Windows (February 2022)
Google displayed its commitment to Flutter's Windows compatibility with this special-purpose virtual event, called specifically to announce advancements in support for the platform. The 2.10 update for Flutter brought full support for building Windows apps within Flutter.
The Windows compatibility launched with hundreds of plugins and thousands of packages available, allow developers to build powerful software immediately. Now, engineering teams can include specialized desktop features alongside functionality that works across mobile and desktop platforms.
Google I/O '22 (May 2022)
The annual Google I/O conference once again delivered major updates for Flutter. In 2022, this meant the release of Flutter 3. With this release, developers gained full support for building web and macOS applications in Flutter, following up on the addition of Windows three months earlier.
In addition to expanding full development capabilities to all six platforms, the Flutter 3 update was accompanied by new Dev Tools, and the release of Dart 2.17, as well as deepening partnerships with other technology tools.
To appeal directly to developers who may be wondering how to make practical use of Flutter, Google I/O also saw the launch of Put Flutter to Work. The demonstration app is meant to make it easy to see the power of Flutter by integrating a ready-made module into an existing Android, iOS, or web application.
Google I/O in 2022 also highlighted using Flutter for game development with the release of the Flutter Casual Games Tool Kit. That pack of development tools is designed to help engineers use Flutter for game creation, an increasingly popular function. VGV worked in collaboration with Google on I/O Pinball, a game built with Flutter and Flame, acting as a proof of concept for building beautiful and performant 2D games.
2023: Looking Forward
With five years of steady progression and new features in the books, Flutter is in a position of strength as of 2023, picking up market share from other frameworks such as React Native. Developers' commitment to Flutter development is a key ingredient in maintaining momentum.
Flutter Forward (January 2023)
The Flutter Forward conference represented a chance to bring developers from around the world together to celebrate the latest releases and updates. Both Flutter 3.7 and Dart 3 alpha debuted at the show, alongside specific, targeted capabilities such as element embedding for the web.
Two projects at the show involved input from Very Good Ventures. In collaboration with Google, the VGV team worked on Flutter News Toolkit, an open source template to help developers create article-based apps, with capabilities such as monetization and search alongside frequently updated text content feeds.
VGV also worked on Holobooth, an updated take on the I/O Photo Booth demonstration web app from 2021. This new version shows off integrations with Firebase, Rive and machine learning with MediaPipe and Tensorflow.js.
Google I/O ‘23 (May 2023)
The growing momentum of Flutter was apparent at Google I/O this year. With Flutter being relatively stable, the team concentrated on improving its existing capabilities, and streamlining its integrations. In addition to the exciting news that there are now over one million published Flutter-based apps, there is a renewed focus on exploring new technologies, particularly WebAssembly. WebAssembly (Wasm) brings the performance of native code to the web and enables Flutter to render three times faster in the browser.
Flutter 3.10 was also highlighted during the Developer Keynote. It provides numerous advantages for the web, including faster load times, enhanced shader performance, and element embedding.
VGV worked in collaboration with Google on I/O FLIP, a card game designed by AI, which was showcased on stage. The game incorporates a number of Google tools, including new generative AI technologies. It uses Flutter, Firebase Cloud Firestore, and Cloud Run for the application. The card images were pre-generated with DreamBooth on Muse and card descriptions were pre-generated with the PaLM API.
Fluttercon Berlin(July 2023)
Fluttercon had developers, designers, and Flutter enthusiasts from around the globe gather in Berlin. The conference had keynotes, insightful sessions, and engaging discussions, setting the stage for a future of innovation and collaboration within the Flutter community.
Todd Volkert, Engineering Director for Flutter, gave an update at the event on some stats for Flutter during his keynote: there are now 6,00,000+ Flutter developers and 1,100,000 Flutter apps on the market. It’s clear that the Flutter community is just getting started!
An Unlimited Future
Between the steady reveal of new features, the helpful and creative developer community, and the growing momentum of companies adopting Flutter, the future looks promising. We look forward to continuing to show the world what’s possible with Flutter and working with clients on enterprise apps.