JetBrains Announces Kotlin 1.6
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 17 November 2021

JetBrains has announced the release of Kotlin 1.6 togetrher with several new tools and projects designed to add to and improve the Kotlin ecosystem. The announcements were made at JetBrain's Kotlin 2021 Premier event and include a new faster compiler, WebAssembly support, Kotlin Symbol Processing, a new code coverage plugin, and better support for static analysis. 

Kotlin is the open source language originated by JetBrains and promoted by Google as a first class language for Android to replace or supplement Java.


The announcements started with the new Kotlin compiler, which is now called K2, after the second highest mountain in the world. The new compiler aims to speed up the development of new language features, unify all the platforms Kotlin supports, bring performance improvements, and provide an API for compiler extensions.

The new compiler has changed the type of backend it uses, with a new IR (internal representation) backend that is built around an IR for Kotlin code that acts a bit like bytecode in virtual machines. When the move was first announced, the team said that:

"Having a common backend infrastructure opens the door for more multiplatform compiler extensions. It makes it possible to plug into the pipeline and add some custom processing and/or transformations that will automatically work across all targets."

This release of K2 has new JVM and JS IR backends. Alongside these, K2 has a new frontend that offers better editing features including syntax checking, syntax color use, and faster performance. K2 is also faster overall, and the developers say in their benchmarks runs up to twice as fast.

The Premier Event also saw the first public demo of Kotlin for WebAssembly. This is still under development, but will be a tool for writing code that is optimized for load-time efficiency, size, and predictable speeds. The tool will allow users to write code in Kotlin that can interact with JavaScript applications.

Kotlin Symbol Processing (KSP) was also demoed at Kotlin 2021 Premier. KSP is the result of a collaboration between Google and JetBrains that can be used for building lightweight compiler plugins and doing metaprogramming in Kotlin.

Following on from the event, JetBrains has now released Kotlin 1.6, with improvements including officially released with Stable exhaustive whens, Kover, and a new memory manager for Kotlin/Native. Kover is JetBrain's new Gradle plugin that measures code coverage for Kotlin code built with the Kotlin/JVM compiler.




More Information

Kotlin Premier Event 2021

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 16 June 2022 )