My thoughs on Kotlin

3 08 2011

As a JetBrain’s Fan boy

I’m totally fan of JetBrain’s products. I’m using IntelliJ since the 4.0 version, even I develop a plugin for it. And seriously guys, this people know A LOT of programming languages; JetBrains develop IDE’s for Java, Python, (J)Ruby, HTML, JavaScript, PHP (originally developed by the community) , Objective C/C++, and have plugins for Groovy, Scala, AspectJ, ActionScript/Flex, SQL, JSP (including EL and JSTL), ERB, HAML, LESS, SASS, XML, YAML, Velocity, FreeMarker, Django Templates, Clojure, CFML (same as PHP) and many others. (without count, .Net products)

The development API for those IDE’s is so powerful that the community already contribute with many others (Including some esoteric languages): Arc, Bash, Erlang (this plugin is developed in Scala, EPIC geek) Fantom (very good plugin, seems to be abandoned, :( ), Gosu, Go (exists plans to develop a stand alone IDE using the IntelliJ Community Edition), JFlex, Lua, OCaml, Scheme, Power Shell and many others. Those plugins vary in quality from WOW to Eww!!, but is a good indicator for the quality of the language support on JetBrains products.

But, also Kotlin isn’t the first language that JetBrains develop. BaseLanguage is the language that come with MPS (Meta Programming System). MPS is a implementation of Language Oriented Programming paradigm. In plain English with MPS you can develop your own DSL and the MPS IDE will give you support, How? Extending the BaseLangauge (or creating a new one if you want). MPS isn’t too mainstream (A Hipster tool) but is already battle tested. YouTrack The JetBrain’s issue tracker was developed with MPS.

I think that we’re in good hands, JetBrains have all the experience and the knowledge to create a very good language, and of course with SUPER COOL IDE support from day 0. Also the feedback of the community is HUGE in the Kotlin Site. If JetBrains could embrace the community and listen them, they could develop a very successful language.

As a Scala Fan boy

I love Scala, Scala is my new best friend. I learn in two years with Scala more Computer Science than in five years with Java. Scala is a beautiful language that never end to inspiring me and amazing me (also scaring me).  Since I develop with Scala I’m a better developer; my code, even in others languages, seems to be more thread safe, more functional; but also Scala makes me a better son, citizen  and brother. Scala will lead us to a new golden age of prosperity and peace, a new renaissance of arts and philosophy. A beautiful new world.

But, let’s face the truth (please brothers of the Scala church, don’t kill me as a blasphemous) Scala’s complexity isn’t a Myth. (But I don’t agree with Gavin King)

Let me explain. If you come from a first world country with a very good High School program and Computer Science program like Swiss, Sweden or Norway; Scala isn’t complicated, but for people like me, that come from a third world country, with a Educational System “a little below the average” is complicated. I found myself studying countless hours to have “a little below the average” proficiency with Scala, I’m not complaining, was a VERY fun time, but, seriously guys is complicated.

Scala is more complicated than Java. Sure, you can use Scala as better Java, but is like buy a Lamborghini Gallardo to recharge your iPod, yes it’s works, but you’re losing a lot of features. In the other hand Kotlin IS a better Java, with good additions. A Java developer will be proficient in Kotlin in a fraction of the time, compared with Scala.

But Scala and Kotlin don’t need to be mortal enemies, If we can achieve a good interoperability between Kotlin, Java and Scala, we can have polyglot projects, so we can use the right language for the right type of problem. Also if you want to learn Scala a very natural way will be Java -> Kotlin -> Scala.

As an IntelliJ Scala plugin user

I think that the Scala support IntelliJ support is very good. Some great names in the Scala community are using IntelliJ and they are happy with it. Some FUD spread around the community with the announce of Kotlin thinking that maybe JetBrains will stop the development of the Scala plugin. Guys, this is the real world; the Scala plugin helps JetBrains to sale many IntelliJ licenses… JetBrains never will stop to develop the plugin as long as be good for business. Period

As a IntelliJ Power user

Obviously I use IntelliJ every day, but also I develop plugins. If JetBrains could use Kotlin to be more efficient in their developments all the users will win. But also they can test their new toy in a very hard scenario (Believe me guys, IDE’s are on of the most challenging scenarios for a language, and a developer).

As a business man

I have my own company (an one-man-army operation) I’m the Chairman, CEO, CTO, Sales manager, Development manager, Help Desk operator, architect, developer and tester. If I want to survive competing with other companies (big and small) I need a extra advantage, a secret weapon. My secret weapons are my tools (for more info on the subject you can read this post from Paul Graham). With IntelliJ, Spring Framework, Spring Integration and others, I actually defeat some bigger companies, with more developers, resources and money; delivering projects in a fraction of the time and costs with more quality. Scala provides me a huge competitive advantage… as long as I work alone.

But my little baby is growing, in less than a year I’ll  contract a few developers to achieve more bigger projects. Teaching Scala to a development team could be very challenging and frustrating and I COULD lose part of my advantage. But Kotlin seems to be a safer bet, More similar to Java, better integration, better IDE support, a huge productivity boost compared to Java… Kotlin could give more business value than Scala… heartbreaking history but true

But also if the language is successful (and have all the factors to be a success) there’s a lot of opportunity business waiting for us: Books, conferences, seminars, courses, libraries, tools, frameworks, certifications, t-shirts, mousepads, mugs and others, in fact a new beautiful world.

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8 responses

3 08 2011

I program in Scala last 2.5 years and I could not agree more.

3 08 2011

I think the thing your missing is that Kotlin will be nowhere Scala’s maturity and stability in terms of compiler, library, tooling, build systems, consulting, training, available skills and third-party offerings in a year from now.

Additionally, also the dozens of books which Scala _does_ have won’t just appear when Kotlin will be released.

Apart from that, I just don’t buy the claims about “better integration”, “more simlar to Java”. Bashing Scala seems to be popular for language inventors at the moment. Providing actual facts and examples? Not so much.

The question really is: Should the Java ecosystem stand still for another ten years, waiting for Kotlin to be usable, just to figure out if we want to go froward with already-existing language A or vaporware language B?

3 08 2011

I think you are underestimating Jetbrains. Those guys wrote stable Scala plugin for Idea in about 6 months.

3 08 2011
Mike Heath

I think the thing your [sic] missing is that Scala will be nowhere Java’s maturity and stability in terms of compiler, library, tooling, build systems, consulting, training, available skills and third-party offerings in a year from now.

According to this logic, we shouldn’t even attempt any language innovation. Scala’s not perfect. Get over it. Kotlin won’t be perfect either. There’s nothing that says there should be only one programming language.

I’m happy to see what’s happening in the Scala space. I’m also happy to see what’s happening with Kotlin, Ceylon, JRuby and Rhino. If people are willing to innovate in the programming language space, we should let them and we will all benefit from new ideas.

5 08 2011

Hey Mike, no need to get so defensive about it. :-)

My main point is that we shouldn’t paper over the fact that one language has received more than 10 years of bugfixing, testing and maintenance and the other one is still not existing yet. This won’t change over night.

You characterization that I’m against language innovation is just very far away from reality. I love new languages, but I can’t see where Kotlin qualifies here. It has a slightly different syntax and slightly different semantics compared to Scala, it is neither easier to learn or understand nor more powerful in it’s abstraction.

I just argue that imho it is questionable if the whole JCM ecosystem should be thrown back 10 years again because some people want Scala-but-not-quite it.

25 01 2012
noblepaul (@noblepaul)

Scala took a long time to reach where it is. It’s partly due to the complexity of the language itself and partly due to lack of focus on what is essential. Still i find the tools lacking

Kotlin is very much similar to java . And even if there are not many libraries or tools we can just use the java libraries and be productive. And the best thing is that you will have an IDE from day one.

I’m a Scala user for the past 2 years. IT IS A COMPLEX LANGUAGE. it is hard to write ‘good scala’ code because the language is so different from all other popular languages . So I welcome a language which is easy ,even if it is less ‘powerful’ than scala

3 08 2011
Steven Calderon

yeah! same here, i try a lot to learn scala but… emmm.. scala makes me feel a bit stupid.

Regarding to “secret weapons” in the last few months i feel in love with jetbrains products especially with webstrom and pycharm, these products makes me feels like a “cool” developer :D

i hope have a bit of free time to learn kotlin, just4fun

4 08 2011
Julián Duque

Nice article Mario, but since the announcement of Kotlin all has been a huge FUD an Flamewar… The important actor here is the JVM not the language, as you say it is important to have polyglot projects and use the best features and frameworks of languages that uses the JVM. For example think of a project like Twitter who uses a Ruby frontend and a Scala Backend with Java libs. Think of a project build with Spring Framework and Akka and a JRuby on Rails frontend it would be nice if the tools and frameworks worth using for that project. These are secret weapons as you say!

I hope that Jetbrains stop seeing Scala as rival and vice versa and the community join forces to optimize the JVM and to focus in a real interaction.

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