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InfoQ Homepage News Roundup: Scala as the long term replacement for Java

Roundup: Scala as the long term replacement for Java

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Scala has been receiving much attention lately as a possible candidate to replace Java in the future. James Strachan creator of Groovy advocates in favor of Scala as James Gosling, creator of Java and Charles Nutter JRuby Core Developer, have done in the past.

James first explains the things he doesn’t like about Java:

Java is a surprisingly complex language (the spec is 600 pages and does anyone really grok generics in Java?), with its autoboxing (and lovely NPE's hiding in there), primitive types, icky arrays which are not collections & general lack of polymorphism across strings/text/buffers/collections/arrays along with extremely verbose syntax for working with any kind of data structure & bean properties and still no closures (even in JDK7) which leads to tons of icky try/catch/finally crapola unless you use frameworks with new custom APIs & yet more complexity. Java even has type inference, it just refuses to use it to let us save any typing/reading.

This issue becomes even more pressing with there being no Java7 (which is even more relevant after Snorcle - I wonder if javac is gonna be replaced with jdkc? :). So I guess javac has kinda reached its pinacle; closures look unlikely as does any kind of simplification or progression.

He seems impressed by Scala to the point of saying that he wouldn’t have created Groovy in the first place, if Scala was available back then:

I can honestly say if someone had shown me the Programming in Scala book by by Martin Odersky, Lex Spoon & Bill Venners back in 2003 I'd probably have never created Groovy.

There are of course parts of Scala that he’s “not keen on”:

With any language there's gonna be bits you love and bits you're not so keen on. Early impressions of Scala do seem like there's a bit of an attempt to use a few too many symbols :-; but you don't have to use them all - you can stick to the Java-ish OO side of the fence if you like. But then I guess longer term its probably better to use symbols for the 'special stuff' to avoid clashing with identifiers etc.

I'm not a massive fan of the nested import statement, using _root_.java.util.List to differentiate a 'global' import from a relative import. I'd have preferred a child prefix. e.g. if you have imported com.acme.cheese.model.Foo then to import model.impl.FooImpl i'd prefer an explicit relative prefix, say: import _.impl.FooImpl which would simplify things a little and more in keeping with Scala's attempt at simplifying things and removing cruft (being polymorphic to import java.util._).

In any case, James overall opinion about Scala is far better than Java’s:

However compared to all the massive hairy warts in Java, these downsides of Scala are tiny compared to the beauty, simplicity and power of Scala.

As Adam Bien has reported in his blog, even the father of Java, James Gosling seems favorable towards Scala:

During a meeting in the Community Corner (java.net booth) with James Gosling, a participant asked an interesting question: "Which Programming Language would you use *now* on top of JVM, except Java?". The answer was surprisingly fast and very clear: - Scala.

Charles Nutter, JRuby Core Developer thinks that Scala is most likely candidate to replace Java, compared to  Groovy and JRuby:

Scala, it must be stated, is the current heir apparent to the Java throne. No other language on the JVM seems as capable of being a "replacement for Java" as Scala, and the momentum behind Scala is now unquestionable. While Scala is not a dynamic language, it has many of the characteristics of popular dynamic languages, through its rich and flexible type system, its sparse and clean syntax, and its marriage of functional and object paradigms. The supposed weakness of Scala as being "too complicated" or "too rich" can be countered by developing coding standards, creating more robust editors and tools, and by better educating polyglots on how best to use Scala. Scala represents the rebirth of static-typed languages on the JVM, and like JRuby it has also begun to stretch the capabilities of the platform in ways Java never could.

Scala was one of the main themes in this year’s JavaOne, with several related sessions and even an open space conference which followed the last day of the main conference.

What do you think, is Scala the most suitable contender to take Java’s place in the near future or is Java the Last Big Language (LBL)?

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