EPFL sets up center for Scala programming language
Twelve years after it was designed at EPFL, the Scala programming language is used by more than a half million developers around the world and by companies like Twitter, Netflix and Swisscom. EPFL has now set up a center to further develop this open-source language.
Martin Odersky, an EPFL professor, wrote the Scala language by combining two opposing branches of programming. “This started out as a research project aimed at fusing two approaches – object-oriented programming and functional programming – in a third way,” said the researcher. Scala offers the best of both worlds in a modern, effective and high-level language that developers can use to concisely and elegantly express current programming models.
The Scala language, whose name comes from scalable, is not particularly difficult and can be used for large-scale projects. It can also work alongside existing systems, something that makes it appealing for companies. All these features underpinned its success, particularly in industry: it was released in 2004 and now has over 500,000 developers worldwide. It is used by companies like Twitter, Netflix, Swisscom, the Swiss stock exchange; banks and financial institutions; and media concerns like the New York Times and Huffington Post; and Spark, the largest data science project in the past 10 years.
To ensure this important language receives the long-term support it needs, EPFL is launching the Scala Center today with the support of five partners: IBM, Goldman Sachs, Nitro, Lightbend and Verizon. The center, based at EPFL, will be devoted to improving the language. “Our main goal is to ensure that the Scala language is always freely available to everyone,” said Heather Miller, the director of the new center. EPFL will focus in particular on fine-tuning Scala as a programming tool. “EPFL must coordinate and guide developers in the open-source community in the effort to improve the language, its tools and its documentation,” said Dr. Odersky. “There are so many discoveries remaining to be made in our field, and I hope that EPFL will contribute to this in the future.”
The Scala Center will also develop MOOCs. EPFL’s first MOOC on Scala, “Functional Programming Principles in Scala,” is given by Dr. Odersky and is the school’s most popular online course. EPFL also just launched a series of four courses on the Scala language, part of a mini-degree on Coursera. This specialization covers functional programming principles in Scala, functional program design in Scala, parallel programming and Big Data analysis with Scala and Spark.