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JetBrains' New Kotlin Release Cadence: Date-based, Not Feature-based

There's a lot going on this week in the Kotlin community. JetBrains, the Prague-based maker of the venerable code-centric Java IDE, IntelliJ IDEA, and creator of Kotlin, is hosting an online event focused on the programming language.

Kotlin 1.4 (named, obviously, for the latest release) is a three-day event, underway now (Oct 12-14) that's bringing together Kotlin experts to share insider insights with the global developer community.

Most of the speakers are JetBrains people, but fans of the company's must-read blogs will recognize many of names on the speaker roster, including: Kotlin lead Andrey Breslav; Stanislav Erokhin, Kotlin's head of development; Egor Tolstoy, Kotlin product manager; Roman Elizarov, team Lead in Kotlin language research; and Hadi Hariri, the company's developer advocate. Also speaking: Florina Muntenescu, Android developer advocate at Google and Sébastien Deleuze,  Spring Framework committer at Pivotal.

Still time to log on.

Meanwhile, JetBrains officially announced a new release cadence for Kotlin and the IntelliJ Kotlin plugin. According to JetBrains' Kotlin community manager Alina Dolgikh, users can expect new releases of Kotlin 1.x every six months. These releases will be date-driven, not feature-driven, Dolgikh said in a blog post, which brings the language into what has emerged as something of a standard release cycle for software development tools over the past few years.

"Since Kotlin 1.0 came out in 2016, we've built our release schedule around new key features in the language," Dolgikh said. "This meant that, until big language features were ready, we would not release anything at all. As a consequence, we delivered changes and improvements once a year or sometimes even less frequently. The language has evolved more slowly than we would like, and release dates have been somewhat unpredictable for the users. The main goal of the new date-driven release cadence is to accelerate the delivery of important language updates."

There are three types of Kotlin releases: feature, incremental, and bug-fix. The new cadence will mostly impact the feature releases. Major IDE features will arrive in releases synchronized with IntelliJ IDEA, she said. Dolgikh provides a useful  diagram of the new Kotlin release cadence in her post.

The Kotlin IDE plugin will be released simultaneously with the Kotlin language release, she said, and every time IntelliJ IDEA is released. Why?

"Nowadays, major changes in the Kotlin IDE plugin depend on the IntelliJ Platform more than on the Kotlin compiler," she explained. "So, from now on, new versions of the Kotlin plugin will ship with every release of the IntelliJ Platform, as well as with new versions of Kotlin."

"Kotlin is evolving quickly and we're keen to remove any obstacles preventing the team and the community from achieving their goals," Dolgikh added. "Today we've introduced two major process improvements, and we believe they will speed up the language progress even more."

Kotlin ranked 13th among the most popular languages for professional developers in the StackOverflow Developer Survey 2020, and it cracked the Top 20 in the most recent RedMonk Programming Language Rankings. The Kotlin developer community claims that more than 30,000 members are exchanging "knowledge and support" on Slack and Reddit, and the official Twitter account has more than 90,000 followers.

Created by Prague-based JetBrains, Kotlin is a statically typed language that compiles to both JVM byte code and JavaScript. JetBrains has claimed that Kotlin is 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. It's also less verbose than Java, which means devs can write less code with a more readable syntax.

JetBrains unveiled Kotlin at the 2011 JVM Language Summit in Santa Clara, CA, and later released it for distribution under the Apache 2 Open Source License.

Posted by John K. Waters on October 14, 2020