Java IDE Maker JetBrains Creates New JVM Language

JetBrains, the Prague-based maker of the venerable code-centric Java IDE IntelliJ IDEA, has introduced a new JVM-targeted programming language. Code named "Kotlin," it's a statically-typed language developed for industrial use, the company said.

The company is comparing Kotlin to Scala, Gosu, Ceylon, Fantom -- other statically typed languages targeted to run on the JVM. It claims that the language will be more stable at runtime than Java because it can statically check weak points and supports things like variable type interface, closures, extension functions and mix-ins.

Jetbrains project leads Andrey Breslav and Dmitry Jemerov answered the obvious question, "Why do we need a new statically typed language?" on the company Web site: "We know that Java is going to stand long, but we believe that the community can benefit from a new statically typed JVM-targeted language free of the legacy trouble and having the features so desperately wanted by the developers."

Kotlin was unveiled at the recent JVM Language Summit in Santa Clara, Calif., during a presentation entitled, "Project Kotlin, a new JVM language to rescue Java developers?" In a blog posting on the day of the presentation, Jemerov wrote that the company had been working on the project for almost a year.

"With Kotlin, we're building upon the many years of experience creating development tools for different languages," he wrote, "and hoping to provide a language which is productive enough for today's environment and at the same time simple enough for the ordinary programmer to learn.

The Kotlin language is definitely a work in progress. It's currently under active development and "nowhere near mature enough to be used by anyone outside of the development team," Jemerov wrote, adding "What you can do today is read the language documentation and leave feedback on the design of the language -- what features you like, which ones are missing, what's confusing and so on." He said the company is building "first-class IDE support" for Kotlin in parallel with the development of the language itself.

Breslav and Jemerov have made some examples of Kotlin syntax available on its Hello, world! Web page here.

The JetBrains team plans to release a Kotlin beta near the end of 2011, and will release both the compiler and the development tools as open-source under the Apache 2 license.

"There's still a huge amount of work ahead of us, and we're excited to hear what you guys think about our latest endeavor," Jermerov said. "So let the discussions begin!"

According to Wikipedia, Kotlin is the name of a Russian island located near the head of the Gulf of Finland, 20 miles west of Saint Petersburg in the Baltic Sea. One of JetBrains' development offices is located in Saint Petersburg.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].