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Scala and Java often spark intense debates among developers. Both programming languages have carved out significant roles in custom software development, but how do they stack up against each other? This article explores the intricate world of Scala vs Java, dissecting the features, advantages, and limitations of each. With this research, you can make an informed decision about which language suits your needs best.

What is Scala?

We start our comparison with Scala, a brainchild of Martin Odersky released in 2004, which stands out as a unique blend of object-oriented and functional programming paradigms. The name Scala is derived from “scalable language”, and true to its origins, it is a programming language that goes full circle – from simple functions and codes to complex formulas.

A computer programming language showing a function

It runs on the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and is known for its concise syntax and powerful features, which aim to increase developer productivity and software quality. 

Many common programming tasks that would take dozens of lines of code in Java can be achieved in just a few lines of Scala code. This conciseness and expressiveness make Scala an appealing language for many developers.

Advantages of Scala

Scala has some significant benefits that are worth considering:

Scala has several web frameworks that provide more functionality than typical Java web frameworks. Play Framework, in particular, offers a rich system for building web applications.

Disadvantages of Scala

Scala is a powerful language, but it does come with some downsides you should consider before diving in:

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What is Java?

Java is a popular, object-oriented programming language, mainly used for mobile app development, building web apps, software, and other applications. Created in 1995 by Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle), Java allows you to write once, and run anywhere – meaning the same Java code can run on multiple platforms like Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Java is widely used because of its cross-platform capability, relative simplicity, stability, and security. Some well-known websites and applications built with Java include Gmail, Netflix, and Minecraft. However, Java can be slower than native languages like C++ since the JVM has an extra layer of abstraction.

A person using a computer, with lines of code on the screen

Advantages of Java

In the Scala vs Java debate, Java has the historical advantage. It has been around for over 20 years, so it has a lot going for it:

Disadvantages of Java

Since Java has been around for so long, it shows its age when compared to newer languages like Scala. As a Java developer, you’ve probably run into a few frustrations with the language by now:

This might not be a deal-breaker for most applications, but it’s a crucial factor to consider in memory-limited environments.

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Scala vs Java: Key Differences and Similarities

When deciding between Scala vs Java for your next project, there are some key factors to consider. The two languages have a lot in common, sharing a platform (JVM) and object-oriented features, but also differ in meaningful ways.

SimilaritiesDifferences
Run on Java Virtual Machine (JVM), so both languages are compatible with Java libraries and tools.Scala’s syntax requires fewer lines of code than Java to accomplish the same outcomes.
Object-oriented, supporting features like classes, inheritance, and encapsulation.Java has limited functional features and has only started supporting functional programming in 2023. Scala has first-class support for functions, allowing you to pass them as arguments and return them from other functions.
Static typing, catching issues during compile-time.In Java, you must declare the type for every variable. Scala is statically typed but supports type inference, freeing you from the “type ceremony.”
Practical for building robust, enterprise-level apps.Scala compiles to bytecode for the JVM. But Scala code is not always compatible with Java. Some Scala features don’t map directly to Java.
Access to a diverse ecosystem of open-source libraries.

How to Choose Between Java and Scala

When deciding between Java and Scala for your next project, there are a few factors to consider:

Community support

Java has been around for over 20 years and has a huge community of developers. This means there are tons of open-source libraries and resources available. If you have a question, chances are someone else has already asked and answered it. Scala is a younger framework, and while it has a rapidly growing community, it still falls short compared with Java’s community.

Performance

Java may have a slight edge in terms of performance metrics. The Java Virtual Machine (JVM) has been undergoing optimisation for years. However, since both Scala and Java compile to bytecode for the JVM, performance differences are often negligible. For most applications, either language will work great.

Functional programming

Scala fully supports functional programming, with features like higher-order functions, immutability, and lazy evaluation. Java has added some functional features in recent years but is still primarily an object-oriented language. Scala is the better choice if you want to leverage functional programming techniques.

Conciseness

Scala is more concise than Java, meaning you can implement the same logic with fewer lines of code. This can make Scala programs quicker to develop and easier to maintain.

Learning curve

Java’s simplicity can prove advantageous for developers looking for simplicity and efficiency. The learning curve for Scala is steeper due to some of its advanced features, making it more demanding.

Both languages have their place. For large and established companies heavily invested in Java, staying the course is the logical choice. However, Scala is an intriguing option if you’re building a new app and want the benefits of concise, functional code. The good news is that with the shared JVM, you can use them side-by-side on the same project, giving you the best of both languages.

Java vs. Scala: Use Cases

Scala or Java, which language should I learn?” This is not just about picking a programming language; it’s about aligning your learning journey with your career goals and interests. 

Who should learn Scala?

The Big Data Enthusiast

If you’re captivated by the world of big data, Scala should be your go-to language. Why? Because Scala has become synonymous with big data processing, thanks to its compatibility with Apache Spark – a leading big data processing framework. It offers the ability to handle large datasets efficiently, making it a favorite in the big data realm.

The Multi-Paradigm Programmer

Scala is a hybrid language that elegantly combines functional and object-oriented programming paradigms. If you’re someone who appreciates the flexibility of using both paradigms in your coding practices, Scala will be a rewarding learning experience.

The Efficiency Seeker

With its concise syntax, Scala allows you to do more with fewer lines of code. This leads to not only an increase in productivity but also a reduction in the likelihood of bugs. If you’re about writing clean, maintainable code efficiently, Scala is your ally.

The Career Advancer

Professionals aiming to advance in tech sectors where Scala is prominent – like data science, big data analytics, and backend web development – will find learning Scala highly beneficial. Companies like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Netflix, which rely heavily on Scala, are always on the lookout for skilled Scala developers.

Who Should Learn Java?

The Enterprise Developer

Java is a stalwart in large enterprise environments. Its robustness, security features, and scalability make it the backbone for countless large-scale business applications. If you aim to work in a corporate setting or in industries that rely on enterprise-level solutions, Java is indispensable.

The Android App Developer

Aspiring to create the next big Android app? Java is where you should start. Despite the emergence of Kotlin, Java remains a fundamental language for Android app development, supported by a vast array of libraries and tools.

The Cross-Platform Crusader

Java’s “write once, run anywhere” philosophy makes it a perfect match for developers focused on creating cross-platform applications. Its platform-independent nature means your Java code can run on any device that supports the Java Virtual Machine (JVM).

The Beginner

For those new to programming, Java can be an excellent starting point. Its strong community support, extensive documentation, and widespread use in academia make it a language that’s both accessible and widely taught.

A straightforward illustration featuring two side-by-side desks, each representing a programming language, Scala vs Java

FAQs

Let’s shed some light on the leftover burning questions in this debate – Capaciteam expert developers have all the insider info.

Is Scala hard to learn for Java developers?

Not really. Since Scala runs on the Java Virtual Machine and is object-oriented like Java, much of the syntax will look familiar. However, Scala also incorporates functional programming concepts that may take some getting used to. The good news is Scala code tends to be more concise so you can do more with less! With time and practice, Scala can become second nature for Java devs.

Is Scala slow because it runs on the JVM?

No, Scala’s performance is comparable to Java’s. While the JVM does impose some overhead, Scala’s static type system allows for advanced optimisations. Benchmarks show Scala can even outperform Java on some tasks! The JVM also provides useful benefits like memory management, security, and portability across platforms.

Will Scala replace Java?

Unlikely. Java and Scala have co-existed for years, and both continue to thrive. Java is still extremely popular, especially for enterprise applications. Scala is ideal for building reactive, scalable systems that require a combination of object-oriented and functional concepts. Many companies use them together, with Java for legacy systems and Scala for new microservices. Instead of replacing Java, Scala is more likely to complement it.

Which offers more job opportunities: Java or Scala?

Java still has many more positions, given how widely used it is. However, Scala adoption is growing quickly, especially for data science, streaming data, and web services. Companies like Twitter, Netflix, LinkedIn, and Apple all use Scala. Some Java roles may prefer Scala knowledge. Learning both will make you a strong candidate for the widest range of opportunities.

In Summary

For better or worse, Scala and Java have a symbiotic relationship. Scala builds on Java’s strengths while addressing some of its limitations. Knowledge of both will prove beneficial to any developer. So, rather than looking at them as “Scala vs. Java” – focus on mastering both and combining them to build intricate and comprehensive software.

Read also: Top Programming Languages to Master in 2024