Kotlin, a programming language, has gained an astounding amount of interest among developers in the past four years — especially following Google’s #IO17 announcement supporting it as an official language for Android apps. So what makes this language so special, what are the benefits of Kotlin, and how can it help your business?
What is Kotlin?
Kotlin is a programming language for the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and can, therefore, be used anywhere Java is used today (which is virtually anywhere). This includes server, client, web, and Android development. It’s developed by JetBrains who are currently working to bring Kotlin to embedded systems and iOS as well, potentially making it a one-stop language for all application areas.
What makes Kotlin so popular among developers is its clean language design and powerful features. Its goal is explicitly not to introduce new concepts, but to bring together programming language features that have proved to be beneficial for large-scale projects.
Who’s using Kotlin?
Although Kotlin can be used anywhere Java is used (and soon in more places), it is currently predominantly used for Android app development, spurred on by Google’s official support. Companies using it to stay competitive include Google, Trello/Atlassian, Pinterest, Kickstarter, and Uber to name just a few.
The Benefit of Kotlin
1. Kotlin allows writing less code
Less code is important but there is readability that also should be considered and desirably improved. With Kotlin, you receive them both. JetBrains did their best to make the language as concise as possible, and they managed to do it.
Less code, when done right, results in fewer bugs. When you let the framework take care of certain mundane aspects of coding, you can focus on more important things. It is all about high readability, simplicity, and the facilitation of the app development process.
2. It solves developer challenges
Kotlin came from the industry, not academia. JetBrains needed a simpler tool than Java to work with its main product, called IntelliJ IDEA, totally written in it.
They investigated the alternatives, stayed unsatisfied, and decided to invent their own language. The goal was to get an effective tool that could be used together with Java and work everywhere where Java can.
So, Kotlin solves challenges faced by programmers. For instance, the type system helps you avoid null pointer exceptions. Research academic languages tend to not have null at all, but this is of no use to software engineers working with large codebases and APIs which do.
3. Adopting Kotlin is easy
If you want to facilitate the product maintenance or streamline custom Android app development, you can assign two or three engineers to move the project, starting from a small part of the codebase.
4. Kotlin is fully compatible with Java
Another advantage is that the Kotlin programming language is fully compatible with Java. The developers have access to all Java frameworks and libraries while writing more clear and concise code.
So, Android engineers can use both languages when building a mobile product as well as migrate their applications from Java to Kotlin.
Even if you have a large Java-based project with millions of code lines, you can easily convert it to one file at a time and you’ll see everything still successfully compiling. Here in BLAKIT, we write our code in Kotlin and use Java only for maintaining old projects.
5. It imposes no runtime overhead
The standard library is small and tight: it consists mostly of focused extensions to the Java standard library. Heavy use of compile-time inlining means functional constructs like pipelines of map/filter/reduce compile similarly to an imperative version of the same code.
6. Has a strong community
JetBrains is constantly improving its language. It’s committed to the project, has a large and highly competent team working on it, has a stable business model, and is even converting parts of its own flagship product to use it.
7. Kotlin suits for the multi-platform development
What’s more, the founders added Gradle support so that you can write Gradle files in it. They are actively developing Kotlin/Native, which allows building iOS applications. This way, you can even write native apps in this language, too.
8. Kotlin development offers more safety
The developers integrated into the semantics the principles that prevent a variety of common mistakes usually happening during the program execution. Another reason for Kotlin’s higher-level safety (compared to Java) lies in its benefits.
The business benefits of switching to Kotlin
Being more fault-proof, the app will become easier and cheaper to maintain. It also facilitates faster development because it is much more concise — rough estimates show that it can cut as much as 40% lines of code compared to Java.
Fewer lines of code = less time spent on coding = less money spent on development. Oh, and there’s an automatic Kotlin-to-Java converter, too, which you can find here.
It is also becoming more and more universal, so you will be able to transfer your app from one platform to another if need be. Lastly, the framework is new, efficient, and exciting, which attracts good developers.
It enables the implementation of the same tasks with less time and effort. When the code is more simple and easy to understand, errors are more difficult to make and much easier to find, so the chances for them significantly decrease.