12 min read
Choosing Between Kotlin and Go: An In-Depth Comparison
For more than 10 years, the two programming languages, Go and Kotlin, have existed in the development space — and they’re still going strong today. In Github’s 2022 list of the top ten fastest-growing languages, they have taken 5th and 9th place respectively, growing by over 20% in usage compared to the previous year.
In this article, we’ll compare Go and Kotlin.
Kotlin vs Golang: History
First, let’s take a look at the history of the two languages: how and when they were created and what their purpose was.
Kotlin is a Java-based open-source programming language developed by JetBrains. The goal was to create a language that would be fully interoperable with Java, yet more concise and easier to read. The two languages are so similar that experienced Java developers can learn Kotlin in a matter of days.
Kotlin was first released in February 2016. In 2017, Google announced its first-class support for using Kotlin for Android development, propelling the popularity of the language. In May 2019, Google stated that Kotlin is its number-one recommendation for Android app development.
Golang, or simply Go, is a programming language developed at Google. The creators aimed to combine the run-time efficiency of C++ with the usability and readability of Python. The invention was a success as Golang developers immediately started praising the progressivity and simplicity of Go.
Go was first announced in 2009, and its version 1.0 was released in March 2012. In 2016, Go was named the TIOBE programming language of the year — an accolade for its fast-growing popularity.
Go vs Kotlin: Popularity
If we check Google Trends, we can see that the overall number of people searching the terms “Kotlin” and “Golang” in the US has risen considerably in 2022.
A similar surge in popularity is seen when we analyze worldwide data:
According to GitHut, Go is currently far more popular than Kotlin:
Go vs Kotlin: Usage
Kotlin has four main use cases:
1. Android app development
Ever since Google announced its support for Kotlin on the Android ecosystem, it has been widely used for building Android apps. In fact, the development of Android apps is the most common usage of the language today — 63% of Kotlin developers use it for this purpose.
2. Server-side development
Kotlin’s second most common usage, after Android development, is building server-side applications. Since Kotlin is interoperable with Java, all tools in the Java ecosystem, including Java libraries, frameworks, and tools (like Spring Boot), can be used for server-side apps built on Kotlin.
3. Mobile multi-platform development
Around 11% of survey respondents use Kotlin for cross-platform mobile development. This number has been steadily growing in recent years.
4. Desktop development
Another 11% of Kotlin developers use the language to build desktop apps for Windows, macOS, and Linux operating systems.
Popular companies using Kotlin are Airbnb, Uber, Netflix, and Google. It’s the official language of over 60 Google apps, including Homes, Drive, Maps, and Pay.
Popular Go use cases include:
- Cloud and network service development
Go is an excellent fit for cloud development and microservices, which requires concurrency — a feature that’s built into the language through goroutines. Idiomatic libraries make creating Cloud APIs simple and fast. Some of the major examples of using Go in cloud development are Kubernetes, Docker, and Prometheus.
- Web development
Golang developers can create fast and secure web applications. It ensures rapid cross-platform deployment with the use of native compilation, goroutines, and URI-based package namespacing. The stocked library of pre-written code makes web development quick and effortless.
- Command-line Interfaces
Fast compile time makes Go ideal for CLI development. Viper and Cobra are two tools commonly used for this purpose.
- DevOps & Site Reliability Engineering
The lean syntax along with fast build and run times make Go a good choice for DevOps and SRE. Moreover, scaling and maintaining larger apps is easier due to automatic garbage collection and documentation generation.
Go is used by many successful companies and startups, including Uber, Lyft, Shopify, LaunchDarkly, Medium, Salesforce, Dropbox, etc.
Kotlin vs Golang: Performance
Go is a high-performance compiled language, which means that its source code is translated into machine code, which is then stored in a separate file. This makes the language faster and more efficient to execute compared to interpreted languages.
Moreover, efficient concurrency mechanisms allow developers to utilize hardware capacities to their fullest while making Go apps highly scalable and fast. Go also partially automates memory management due to automated garbage collection. Some Golang developers also use the functional programming approach with Go to achieve a higher level of readability and testability of the language.
Kotlin is often mistaken for an interpreted language; however, its code is compiled by Java virtual machine (JVM) to machine code at runtime, thus making it a compiled language. JVM is an engine that provides an environment for running programs in Java, Kotlin, and some other languages.
Kotlin eliminates Java’s need for boilerplate code, which makes Kotlin code on average 40% shorter. Moreover, the language creators implemented several successful strategies to decrease the number of errors faced by users, including the notorious Null Pointer Exceptions.
When developers conduct performance testing, comparing Kotlin vs Go, generally the results are the following:
– Go compiles faster than Kotlin;
– Go apps tend to use less memory;
– Kotlin is more expressive — you can express the same notions by writing less code;
Overall, Go is widely regarded as a language with higher performance.
Go vs Kotlin: Pros and Cons
|Concise syntax that can reduce boilerplate code||Longer compile times compared to Go||Simple syntax||Lack of support for runtime reflection|
|Interoperability with Java and the JVM ecosystem||Developers new to the JVM ecosystem may have trouble learning it||Fast compilation and execution times||Limited type hierarchy|
|Support for null safety and type inference||Little support for low-level system programming and embedded systems||Efficient memory management||Non-customizable garbage collection|
|Rich standard library||Loses to Go in terms of performance, especially in high-performance and systems programming use cases||Built-in concurrency||Limited support for functional programming constructs|
|Comprehensive tooling and IDE support||Elaborate ecosystem and strong community|
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Is Kotlin Faster Than Golang?
Golang is one of the fastest languages in existence. It’s faster than both Kotlin and Java since it doesn’t need a virtual machine for code compilation.
Does Kotlin Have a Future?
Even Google is using Kotlin increasingly more often for its tools and solutions. And many Java apps are now being rewritten in Kotlin. Everything indicates that going forward we’ll see even more adoption of Kotlin in the development world.
When Is Kotlin a Better Choice?
Kotlin is better for projects where interoperability with Java is vital. This is often the case with legacy software.
Is Kotlin Similar to Go?
Both languages are open-source but have different architectures. Kotlin is more similar to Java than Go.
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