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Lucy Oleschuk
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The Main Java Competitor. Why Is Kotlin Still Less Popular than Java Despite All Its Advantages?

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When it comes to development, especially Android mobile app development, there is a “relatively new” player on the market with seemingly huge potential, Kotlin. It’s also a programming language called “the main competitor” for Java. In this article, we will reveal if Kotlin is a better alternative for Android app development, speak a little about its benefits, and let you know whether Java still maintains an edge. The Main Java Competitor. Why Is Kotlin Still Less Popular than Java Despite All Its Advantages? - 1

What Is Kotlin?

Kotlin has been all the hype for quite a long time. It’s a programming language that has gained amazing popularity in recent years, especially among developers looking for a more concise and efficient alternative to Java. But what stands up behind the scenes? Kotlin is a cross-platform, statically-typed language developed by the JetBrains company more than ten years ago and released in 2016. Its popularity was quickly boosted by Google in 2017 when the tech giant made Kotlin an officially-supported programming language for Android development. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that currently, more than 20% of the apps in the Play Store currently rely on Kotlin. That just being said, Kotlin is meant not just for Android apps — it can be also used for front-end and back-end web development, data science, and cross-platform mobile development.

What Makes Kotlin Stand Out

The most important thing that makes Kotlin so attractive is that it’s designed to be more modern and user-friendly than Java, boasting many features that make it easier to write code, reduce errors, and increase productivity. While Java is basically limited to object-oriented programming, Kotlin offers functional programming features as well.

Some of the main benefits of Kotlin include:

  • Great Readability. Kotlin has a more concise syntax than Java, making reading and writing code easier. It reduces boilerplate code, such as semicolons and curly braces, and uses type inference to reduce the need for explicit type declarations.

    By the way, after a small learning curve, a Java developer can easily understand how to write Kotlin very quickly.

  • Null Safety. Kotlin has built-in null safety features that help prevent null pointer exceptions. And as you may have already heard, “Null pointer exceptions, also referred to as “The billion-dollar mistake,” aka it’s one of the most common errors that cause apps to crash when you’re using Java.

    Kotlin is null-safe by default since it doesn’t allow variables to be assigned with a null value.

  • Extension Functions. Kotlin allows developers to add new functions to existing classes without modifying the original source code. This is done using extension functions, which can be called in the same way as if they were part of the original class.

  • Coroutines. By default, Kotlin has built-in support for coroutines, which is a more tempting alternative to threads. Coroutines enable developers to write asynchronous code that is more readable and easier to maintain than traditional callback-based code.

  • Getters and Setters. In Java, developers typically need to use getter and setter functions in order to receive data from variables in the modal classes. In Kotlin, on the other hand, there is no need for getter and setter functions. Developers can simply access all the data by using the variable name itself.

Overall, Kotlin is a modern, high-level, object-oriented programming language that is extremely user-friendly, making it a great choice for novice developers who want to start with something simple and popular. But is it worth the effort if you want to do something really meaningful and unleash the full potential of coding?

What Is Java? Its Main Benefits

Despite all the aforementioned advantages, Kotlin is still less popular than Java. Why? Because Java is a well-established high-level, object-oriented programming language that was released in 1995. And the most significant advantage of Java is that it’s a platform-independent language that can be run on any computer that supports the Java Virtual Machine. Due to its versatility (including app development, enterprise development, game development, big data software development, desktop/web/IoT application development, and many more), Java has also affected the development of other languages, including Kotlin. Admittedly, Java is a foundational programming language that allows for numerous opportunities and add-ons. So, no wonder that from 2015 until 2020, Java was the undisputed #1 programming language in use, and it is still in the top 3. The main benefits of Java include:
  • Portability. As we’ve just mentioned, Java is a platform-independent language meaning that its code can be written once and run on any platform that supports the JVM.

  • Scalability. Java is extremely scalable — it can handle numerous complex applications with no issues. Java is used in a wide range of industries and can be used to build everything from small desktop apps to large enterprise platforms.

  • Garbage collection. One of the main perks is that Java has automatic memory management through its garbage collection feature. This means that developers don’t need to manually manage memory allocation and deallocation. Hence, the reduction of memory leaks and other memory-related errors.

  • Large community. Java probably boasts the largest community of developers out there. This makes it the easiest language that can help companies find solutions to tricky problems and learn from other developers.

  • Security. Java has quite good built-in security features, such as a sandbox environment that isolates untrusted code from the rest of the system. This prevents malicious code from causing harm to the system or stealing sensitive information.

Which is to say, Java is a widely-used language that provides many benefits to developers, including portability, a large community, built-in security, automatic memory management, and scalability. And these benefits make it a popular choice for devs who need to create complex apps that run on multiple platforms.

Key Differences: Kotlin vs Java

No denying Java and Kotlin are two popular programming languages used in software development. While Kotlin can boast of such advantages as concise syntax and support of both object-oriented and functional programming, Java still has significant benefits. For one, Java has been around for more than two decades and has a vast user base, which means it has more resources, support, and documentation available, making it easier to learn. In addition, there are numerous codebases written in Java. From all this, it’s easy to conclude that the majority of companies have invested significant resources in developing, testing, and maintaining Java code, making it difficult to justify switching to Kotlin. Furthermore, Java has a wealth of libraries and frameworks that are not yet available in Kotlin, which makes it quite challenging for developers to swap for Kotlin. Whereas Kotlin is more user-friendly than Java, it still has a tricky learning curve that can be difficult for developers who’re used to simple syntax and programming paradigms of Java and other similar languages.
Compilation timeSlowPretty fast
Null safetyYesNo
Development speedFastFaster than Kotlin
Lambda expressionYesNo
Community supportLimitedVery large


One more point in terms of Java is that it’s been in the development scenario for quite a long time. Accordingly, there is long-term support for Java, meaning that if anything goes wrong, developers can fix it with a patch. Dissimilar to Java, Kotlin has no versions with long-term support. Although both Kotlin and Java programming languages provide plenty of documentation, it’s much easier to find a needed tutorial for Java because it has been in use for a longer time. Another reason Kotlin is less popular than Java is that many existing codebases are written in Java. Not to mention, Java has a wealth of libraries and frameworks that are not yet available in Kotlin. When it comes to “independence,” Java wins too. The thing is that the majority of applications can be developed entirely in Java without any performance or productivity issues. Kotlin, in its turn, requires additional tools. Last but not least. Stability. Although Java has been around for more than two decades, it’s still evolving. The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is constantly being updated, and new features and APIs are being added to Java. Java is also open-source, which means that developers can contribute to its development and create new tools and frameworks. This continuous evolution means that Java remains relevant and continues to be a popular choice among developers.

Summing It All Up

Without a doubt, Kotlin lets you enjoy many features that aren’t available in Java. For instance, Kotlin can help you avoid those pesky NullPointerException errors. Additionally, it supports data classes and lambdas, meaning it can make your code more concise and expressive. So, if these are the things you cherish the most, you may be really interested in exploring and learning Kotlin. Yet, Kotlin does have some drawbacks — it can’t provide as much support from the Android community as Java does. Plus, there are still many kinks that should be ironed out if you decide to write code with Kotlin as it’s a fresh language. On the other hand, Java is a stable language that has been around for many years and hasn’t been leaving the top 5 programming languages for a long while. Big companies choose Java because they have selected it before, and their partners picked Java before, and millions of other developers and development teams picked Java before as well. Ultimately, many programming experts admit that Java is having an enormous rolling momentum. That’s why we suggest that you gravitate towards Java. Not only because Java’s huge community and a host of open databases can help you learn it faster as the first programming language. But also because you’ll have the chances of landing your first “programming” job quicker. Of course, Kotlin is cool, but Java still rules the world, and there will always be a place for a skilled Java specialist. That’s the catch! The Main Java Competitor. Why Is Kotlin Still Less Popular than Java Despite All Its Advantages? - 2