Google has announced that App Inventor for Android, a do-it-yourself tool for building Android applications with no programming skills required, has been put out to pasture. As the company phases out Google Labs, its public test bed for Web app experiments, some Labs projects have been called up to the major leagues. Android App Inventor wasn't so lucky.
This is not the end of the line for App Inventor, though. 'Google will discontinue App Inventor as a Google product and will open source the code,' the announcement says. 'Additionally, because of App Inventor's success in the education space, we are exploring opportunities to support the educational use of App Inventor on an open source platform.'
App Inventor lets users build mobile applications for Android using a graphical interface of buttons and menus, requiring no knowledge of programming languages or command lines. It uses the Open Blocks Java library to create visually-represented blocks of code, so users can just select and insert features from a menu.
App Inventor reflects Google's oft-repeated position of 'openness' by reducing the barriers to people publishing their ideas to the Web. This has made the tool popular among computer science educators and everyday life-hackers alike.
After App Inventor's launch, many were skeptical about the benefits of such a tool, saying it could lead to an influx of 'junk applications.' But MIT Professor Harold Abelson, who contributed to App Inventor's initial development, said its goal was 'to enable people to become creators, not just consumers, in this mobile world,' and it certainly did for some users.
As Hack Education's Audrey Watters reports, the tool was popular among educators who could use the tool to introduce their students to computer science. The comments on the post announcing the news are full of mournful messages from educators. 'This is devastating news for me, a high school teacher,' one commenter writes. 'I've introduced many students to the beauty and joy of computer science by starting them in App Inventor.'
Other commenters are concerned that making the App Inventor code open-source won't be enough to sustain it. 'I fear we can not run this on our own,' commenter James writes. 'No way.'