Google adds Kotlin as an official Android programming language

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While Google Inc. debuted all sorts of new products and features at its I/O Conference Wednesday, one more obscure announcement received the biggest cheers at the conference: official support for the Kotlin programming language for Android app development.

Developed by Russian software development firm JetBrains s.r.o., Kotlin is a fairly new programming language that runs on a Java Virtual Machine. It takes the best features of other programming languages to deliver what Google describes as “a brilliantly designed, mature language that we believe will make Android development faster and more fun.” Kotlin itself is not directly compatible with Java but their shared roots make it interoperable, meaning that programmers can code using it and have it work with Android’s underlying JVM support.

Today’s announcement gives Kotlin “first-class” status as an Android programming language, meaning that while previously it was possible to use the language to design Android apps, Google now officially supports it. The new status includes Kotlin tools being included with Android Studio 3.0 by default, including built-in conversion tools.

“For Android developers, Kotlin support is a chance to use a modern and powerful language, helping solve common headaches such as runtime exceptions and source code verbosity,” JetBrains Chief Executive Officer Maxim Shafirov said in a blog post. “Kotlin is easy to get started with and can be gradually introduced into existing projects, which means that your existing skills and technology investments are preserved.”

In addition to adding official Kotlin support, JetBrains also announced that it had agreed to work with Google to establish a no-profit foundation for Kotlin development, though JetBrains will continue in-house development of the language as well.

While today was all about official Kotlin support for Android, JetBrains has wider ambitions for the programming language, with support already available for macOS and iOS. “One of Kotlin’s goals is to be a language that is available on multiple platforms and this will always be the case,” the company wrote in a FAQ. “We’ll keep supporting and actively developing Kotlin/JVM (server-side, desktop and other types of applications), and Kotlin/JS. We are working on Kotlin/Native for other platforms such as macOS, iOS and IoT/embedded systems.”

Image: JetBrains