Jefferson Kenji Takahashi
Why Kotlin Is the Future?
It is an exciting time to be an Android developer. A big reason behind this excitement is the official support that Google has extended to the programming language Kotlin. Kotlin gives developers the features they asked for. It is a statically-typed programming language that can run on the Java Virtual Machine. It is an open source, general purpose and pragmatic computer programming language that combines both the object-oriented and functional programming features within it. Kotlin was developed in 2011 by the programmers of a software development company called JetBrains in Russia and was then augmented by several open source developers. Kotlin is relevant today because of two reasons. It has been developed as a solution to the problems that Android developers have faced over a period of time. Therefore, it answers most of the main issues that surfaced in Java, providing developers with inter-operability, safety, clarity, and tooling support. But, the reason why it is touted as a tour-de-force in the Android app development ecosystem is because major tech giant and the parent company of Android, Google, in its annual developer conference ‘Google I/O 2017′ announced that Kotlin is now an official Android language and Google will provide its first-class support for Kotlin on the Android platform. With Google itself becoming Kotlin-oriented, major developers are moving towards adopting it, and since many Java apps are now being rewritten in Kotlin, it is viewed as the future of building Android apps. Just the way Swift ensured the death of Objective C language in the past, today, Kotlin is all set to push out Java from the Android app development ecosystem. And, this is why this language is creating all the waves in the world of Android app development. Kotlin’s evolution began in in Russia in 2011. It’s parent company, JetBrains, was looking for a replacement to Java to use in their products due to some inherent limitations Java imposed on their developers. With little change in sight, they decided to look for a new Java compatible language since they already had a significantly big-sized existing Java code base. Out of the several available Java Virtual Machine (JVM) languages, they found Scala to be the most suitable to their requirement of static compilation. But once they started trying out Scala, it ended up being quite slow in terms of compilation speed in addition to lacking a good Integrated Development Environment (IDE) support. And, hence, JetBrains decided to write their own language known as Kotlin. The excitement around Kotlin is generated by the fact that Google has lapped it up as the go-to language for Android app development. The prime reason for this adoption was its modernity – in terms of its power, flexibility and democratic approach. Kotlin is also interoperable with the existing Android languages. Kotlin takes ideas from the community. It is built from a need to find answers that developers did not get from Java. As an open source project, the fact that Oracle is making Java a paid language will not have any adverse impact on Kotlin’s bright future.
Design Challenges Faced by Kotlin
Kotlin did face its own design challenges in the development of the language. One of the first challenges that Kotlin programmers faced was that of the nullability in the type system. The solutions that came from Kotlin programmers were too much of a hassle. After several iterations, the Kotlin team came up with the platform types. This is the current version that Kotlin uses now.
Java Fixes in Kotlin
Kotlin has fixed many of the nagging issues present within the Java language. For example, the null references in Kotlin are controlled by the type system. Kotlin has proper function types and it has no raw types. The arrays in Kotlin are invariant. Kotlin also does not have checked exceptions, such as what Java has.
The Key Benefits of Adopting Kotlin
One of the reasons why organizations today are adopting Kotlin for their Android app development requirements is because it is the officially supported language for writing Android apps. But for many developers, Java has been a fairly workable language for years. They need to know of the several high impacting benefits of adopting Kotlin before they can take the plunge. Transitioning to Kotlin is one of the best decisions an organization can make. This is due to the following reasons:
1. Kotlin Offers Brevity
One of the major reasons why developers prefer Kotlin over Java is the brevity that Kotlin offers. Java seems quite verbose in comparison. Brevity ensures that there are lesser errors in code. It also means a much faster rate of production.
2. It Is Open Source
Since 2012, JetBrains declared Kotlin to be an open-source project. As an open source language, a developer can expect high-quality development, all the while getting great support from the Kotlin Slack team.
3. It Is a Mature Language With a Great IDE Support
Kotlin has gone through several stages of alpha and beta improvements before its final release. This means that even before it released officially, it was already being used in several projects. It was aimed to be practical in usage with proven features from other programming languages and a world-class IDE support. The IDE plugin works smoothly in the case of Kotlin and allows several of Java’s popular features.
4. It Provides an Easier Way to Develop Android Apps
Kotlin is a simple yet powerful language that is notches ahead of Java. While Java suffers from some rigid issues, the other programming language Scala is heavy with slow compilation time. The library required to write Android apps with Kotlin is very small and doesn’t increase the method count very much.
5. It Is a Swift Language for Android App Development
Kotlin is seamlessly integrated with Android Studio, and this makes it fast. A Kotlin project can be set up to function in less than 10 minutes, even for a first timer. Android 2.3 simply requires a plugin to integrate seamlessly with Kotlin, while Android 3.0 is fully integrated with it. Just like Java, it can work from the IDE. It can also debug easily without any hiccups. All these features work in tandem with many other things that Java is capable of doing and Kotlin replicates them well.
6. It Is Reliable Due to its Evolutionary Process
One of the reasons Kotlin came into existence is because its parent company, JetBrains, had some specific requirements from a programming language that they were going to use themselves. It has practical value for its parent company, which uses it for its own line of products. This also makes them interested in further developing it. With Google support, two innovative companies are working together towards its development. Kotlin has not only put in major efforts in the initial conceptualization of the language as its history suggests, but it is also making significant alterations to it for its future success. Features like the Kotlin Android Extensions, libraries like Anko, continuous library size optimizations and build times — all of these suggest that JetBrains is committed towards the further development of Kotlin for Android app development. JetBrains released its first official release in February 2016 and the second one Kotlin v1.2 in November 2017. The team is continuously working on its backward compatibility and is committed towards the release of better and improved versions of the language.
7. It Is Critical That Developers Move Away From Becoming Obsolete
Once developers started using Kotlin, they came across the fact that using a modern language made their work processes more efficient and their minds more creative. Java has been around for ages and, in a way, has become obsolete. Using a modern language allows for a different way of thinking, which is critical for a developer as it reflects in their work. It also makes the developer more versatile as their propensity to understanding and using similar programming languages increases. All these elements add value to a developer’s profile.
8. It Is Much Safer Than Java
Kotlin is considered to be a much safer option than Java. One of the major problems with Java lies in the design of the language itself, which leads to extra work and, hence, more money and time being spent on the project. For example, nulls are the most error-prone points when working with Java. In fact, bug managers face 90 percent of the errors being the ‘Null Pointer Exception.’ Whereas, in Kotlin, nulls do not exist unless otherwise stated. No variable by default can be set to ‘null’ in Kotlin. If a developer wants a variable to accept ‘nulls,’ he has to mark the type with a ‘?.’ From there on, the compiler will force the developer to check the ‘null’ before doing anything with the variable. Due to this, a ‘Null Pointer Exception’ does not occur in Kotlin.
9. It Is Easy to Learn
Being similar to other Java compatible languages, Kotlin is easier to learn. It is also easily understood and read by someone stranger to the language as the code is easier to understand. This, in turn, helps it keep away from errors as well. JetBrains kept it a priority to ensure that the transition from Java was simple to do, as they had to implement it for their own products. It is a language that closely resembles what a Java developer already understands. The only complex part of Kotlin is those elements that Java lacks. Kotlin opens up possibilities for developers to be more creative and solve problems differently. This also makes it fun to learn.
Why Businesses Are Gravitating Towards Kotlin
For a business, moving to a new tool is a well-thought decision. Any new tool being deployed aims to solve an existing problem in a simpler and better way. Several businesses recently have shown their support towards Kotlin by embracing it for Android app development. There are several reasons behind this adoption. One of the reasons is the confidence that has been built-up around Kotlin due to Google officially supporting the language. This support will widen the Android app development ecosystem that will provide enhanced technical support and other capabilities to the businesses. It also means more sharing of knowledge across the community of Android app developers. Secondly, businesses can migrate to Kotlin incrementally, making the whole process easier for everyone. This, along with the ease of learning the language, removes any adoption related barriers. Kotlin is all set for a bright future in the Android app development eco-system. The lower cost of development and maintenance of Kotlin projects is a big plus for any business. It has a plethora of great language features and offers a brevity that ensures higher quality with a faster turn-around time. Finally, as the Kotlin ecosystem expands further, the availability of Kotlin developers would also not be an issue anymore. As more businesses gravitate towards Kotlin, Google and the Android community will continue to promote Kotlin and place less emphasis on Java. Also, the fact that Java is moving to a paid model is no more an issue with Kotlin being an open-source project. Kotlin is here to stay and businesses must take cognizance of that if they haven’t already. Choosing the appropriate Android app development technology stack is an important step towards app development for any business. Kotlin provides an effective solution due to the speed, accuracy, scalability, and stability it offers to solve complex business challenges. Kotlin has already been adopted by several major organizations like Prezi, Basecamp, Amazon Web Services, Pinterest, Coursera, Netflix, Uber etc. Developers like Expedia, Flipboard, Square and many more are also using Kotlin majorly for their Android productions.
To Sum it Up!
Kotlin is 100 percent interoperable with Java, which means it is possible for small to large organizations to transition themselves to Kotlin. However, it needs to be a well-planned task and requires the expertise of developers and their experience in dealing with similar projects in the past. A good way to start is to start step-by-step and, thereafter, build on it. Kotlin is a developer-friendly language, and it will allow them to conceive newer solutions to regular problems.