How High Can Kotlin Go?
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 22 November 2023

Having entered the Top 20 of the TIOBE Index in September 2023, Kotlin has continued its upward trend. Is it going to break into the Top 10 any time soon? Could it emulate Python and rise to the top?


Kotlin is still a young language, having been under development at JetBrains since 2010. It was announced to the public as a new alternative to Java in 2011, at which time our report stated:

Given that that language doesn't express a single big idea, the question of its success probably depends on how all of the features fit together - or not. After all the world hardly needs yet another programming language let alone another JVM-based language. 

It was open-sourced under an Apache 2 licence in the following year and in retrospect this is one of its key strengths. It now has a large community of contributors which means that it is constantly evolving and improving. 

Of course, the big boost for Kotlin came in 2017 when Android Studio added support for Kotlin and Android development stopped being exclusively Java and Google embarked on its "Kotlin First" policy.


All-in-all, 2017 was a big year for the infant Kotlin. It entered the Top 20 of the TIOBE index, albeit briefly, and we saw the publication of the first edition of Programmers Guide To Kotlintargeted at Java programmers wanting to benefit from Kotlin's features, and of Android Programming in Kotlin: Starting With An App. 

It was in September 2023 that Kotlin reappeared in the TIOBE Top 20, again at #20. However, this time instead of dropping out immediately it has continued to climb - to #18 in October and now to #15 in November.

In his monthly update, which has the headline "Kotlin still on the rise in the TIOBE index" Paul Jansen asks:

Where will the progress of Kotlin stop? Kotlin is fully interoperable with Java, thus being a direct competitor of the Java programming language. That doesn't only hold for developing apps for Android. Every Java domain has become an opportunity for Kotlin nowadays. Kotlin fits in the modern programming culture of expressive languages that have a strong type system and avoid occurrences of null pointer exceptions by design. Based on my experience, I am pretty sure Kotlin can reach a top 10 position. If it can become part of the "big 4" remains a question that is still to be answered.

Some clues as to Kotlin's future in the TIOBE index are to be found in its chart which shows that while it has had a dramatic increase only since April 2023, its general trend before that was up, suggesting it is far from having peaked.


Now let's looking at the languages that Kotlin would need to overtake:


Kotlin and MATLAB are tied in terms of Rating at 1.15% but Kotlin's year-on-year change is stronger than MATLAB's (0.68% compared to 0.14%) so it should swap places with it perhaps next month and it could even surpass Go at the same time.

If you find this surprising look at Go's latest chart which indicates it may well have found its level in terms of rating and is likely to be in the range #10 (which it occupied in March and April 2023) to #14 fairly consistently:


Next come two very different languages, veteran Fortran and kid's block programming Sratch. They are currently experiencing even higher year-on-year growth than Kotlin and so might get into (or back into) the Top 10 next month, especially as Assembly is in decline and about to lose its place there. However, in the longer term I would expect Kotlin to surpass not only these three but also Visual Basic. Kotlin 2.0 is in beta and release of a major version, expected in the first half of 2024 may be what's needed to propell it up the rankings even faster.

While I am confident that we'll see Kotlin in the Top 10, maybe within a year or at least within 3 years, being in the range #7 to #9 with a rating around 2% could be its natural endpoint. Yes, it is the best JVM language, but it's not going to be easy for it to overtake Java itself, due to how entrenched Java is.


It is likely that Java, currently the lowest of the "big 4", is going to continue to drift downwards, and may even swap places with C# to put it in #5. However, even if it continues to lose its share of the ratings, there's a big gap between the top and bottom halves of the Top 10 table.

Personally I'd be very happy to see Kotlin "do a Python" and make it way to the top in a sustained way. Certainly the TIOBE Index is something of a law unto itself and that's why it is such fun to follow it.  


More Information


Related Articles

Kotlin - Another Java Alternative? 

Kotlin Re-Enters TIOBE Index Top 20

Go In Top 10 On TIOBE Index

Languages Closely Tied At Top of TIOBE Index   

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