– Xochielt Sanchez
Answer by Bret Taylor:
GWT was developed at a startup founded by Bruce Johnson and Joel Webber in Atlanta, Georgia. At the time, we had just launched Google Maps, and it got a lot of attention from developers outside of the company because it really stretched the limits of browsers.
Among the many engineers reverse engineering the tricks we used to make Google Maps work, Joel Webber wrote a blog post that more or less perfectly described how all of the hardest parts of the product worked – down to almost impossible to discover details. Lars Rasmussen and I were really impressed, and we ended up inviting them to meet us. It was clear they were some of the smartest web app developers we had ever met, and while their approach was pretty exotic, everyone at Google who met them wanted to work with them.
We acquired their company and it became Google's Atlanta engineering office (now closed I believe?), and GWT launched a while later after they finished developing their prototype into a real product.
Notably, Lars and Jens ended up using GWT pretty extensively on their next project, Google Wave.