ngx-translate and ngx-translate-extract – Internationalization Made Easy

It’s a bit surprising that there so many libraries offering internationalization for Angular applications. It’s surprising because there the Angular cookbook describes a well-thought approach to internationalization. Unfortunately, ng-xi18n was broken last time I checked, so let’s explore another library today. ngx-translate is a simple but useful library for supporting multiple languages. And ngx-translate-extract makes working with ngx-translate even easier by extracting texts to be translated automatically.

What’s the difference between ng-xi18n and ngx-translate?

Talking of ng-xi18n: there’s a big difference to ngx-translate. ng-xi18n has been developed with professional translators in mind. In particular, this library uses the well-known XLIFF standard. Developers probably tend to think this standard is clumsy. It’s XML, and it’s sort of bloated. ngx-translate, in contrast, uses slime Json file to map one language to another. The backside being it supports fewer use-cases than XLIFF.
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Mocking HTTP Services With Angular Generically

Angular has been designed with testing and mocking in mind. This includes mocking HTTP services in general, and mocking REST services in particular. The Angular team even provides a fairly generic mock HTTP service. That service is a horn of plenty of good ideas. The only problem is the limited scope of the solution. It’s meant to serve the needs of the documentation of Angular. The team even promises that the service may break at any point in time.

In other words: it pays to implement your own generic mock HTTP service. That’s what we’ll do today.
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UI Survey 2017: Java vs. JavaScript

Recently, I’ve seen a number of surveys covering the popularity of Java and Java UI frameworks. Most surveys show that either Spring or Java EE is more popular. However, they don’t answer two important questions: is Java becoming more or less important? Currently, I’m mostly interested in UI frameworks, so the next logical question is: what is the market share of Java UI frameworks compared to JavaScript UI frameworks?

To my disappointment, I didn’t find a clear answer, neither by researching the internet nor by asking the question on Twitter. So I’ve started to gather information myself. That wasn’t easy, so most of the article is based on indirect hints and educated guesses.

Oops!

My first surprise was when I learned about ng2-bootstrap in December 2016. At the time, Angular2 itself was still brand-new. So it won’t surprise anyone that the third-party libraries had a hard time catching up. In other words: At the time, ng2-bootstrap was a promising library, but it still had a long way to go. Compared to BootsFaces, it’s still a tiny library. In early April 2017, it consists of merely 17 components, as opposed to the 74 components of BootsFaces.

Nonetheless, ng2-bootstrap had been downloaded 70.000 times in December, give or take a few. In early April 2017, the download counter even shows 204.000 downloads per month. Compare this to 2.000+ downloads of BootsFaces per month. Oops! Such an unfinished library is 100 times more popular than the fire-proven BootsFaces?

Of course, BootsFaces is one of the smaller JSF frameworks, but even the so, ng2-bootstrap seems to be more popular than all JSF component libraries together. My curiosity was piqued.

Trendscouting

Another indicator of the popularity of a framework is Google Trends. I’ve compared the number of search requests of JSF and Spring MVC:

Comparing the Google Trends of JSF and Spring MVC
Datasource: Google Trends (www.google.com/trends)

Both frameworks seem to be roughly equally popular. JSF used to be much more popular in the past, but it has lost a lot of popularity in recent years.

Actually, the dwindling number of search requests may have a different reason. In 2004, there were three times as many search requests to JavaScript than today. But it’s unlikely JavaScript is used less today. It’s much more likely that developers ask other questions today. Or maybe they simply ask less question because they’ve learned how to work with JavaScript. The same may hold true for JSF. I’m even told JSF is gaining traction again.

Adding Angular and React to the equation

However, adding AngularJS and React.js to the trends analysis changes the image radically. There are 10 times as many search requests for React.js and 20 times as many search requests for AngularJS:

Comparing the Google Trends of Angular, React.js, JSF, and Spring MVC
Datasource: Google Trends (www.google.com/trends)

Again, that might simply mean that there are twenty times as many problems with Angular than with JSF. Plus, the search may be biased by my selection of search keywords. For instance, both Angular and JSF are “topics” of Google Trends, while React.js is categorized as a “JavaScript library”. Spring MVC is merely a search term. So it’s hard to say whether “Spring” or “Spring MVC” is the better keyword to find out about the UI framework of Spring.

Be that as it may, the trends are impressive. Plus, I’m working with Angular2+ on a daily basis. It’s a good framework, not a source of problems. Still, the huge quantity of Google searches may simply mean the developers are still learning how to use Angular. But I believe the trend also indicates that Angular and React.js are more popular than Spring MVC and JSF.

What about other frameworks?

I know that there are countless other UI frameworks, both in the Java realm and the JavaScript universe. I’ve limited my research to these four frameworks because they seem to be the most popular ones. I’ve entered quite a few other frameworks in the search bar. That didn’t change the results significantly, so I didn’t include them in the charts.

Trends of programming languages

Another indicator is the popularity of JavaScript and TypeScript. In many rankings, JavaScript, Java, and C are the most popular languages. Even if the Tiobe index indicates that JavaScript and TypeScript are much less popular than Java: Java is a general purpose language, while JavaScript and TypeScript are still being used almost exclusively in the browser. It’s possible to write server or desktop applications using JavaScript, but if I’m not mistaken, that’s still a small niche.

The last indicator is the strategy of PrimeFaces. Recently, they spend a lot of time developing the JavaScript offsprings of their JSF framework. I gather that has something to do with market shares.

Wrapping it up

For some reason, it’s hard to find information about the market share of Java and JavaScript UI libraries. Such surveys are sparse, and most of them concentrate either on Java or JavaScript. So much of this article is speculation. Nonetheless, I’m under the impression that the JavaScript UI market is five to ten times larger than the Java UI market.

Come to think of it, that’s not surprising. Java UIs are almost always used with Java back-ends. Client-side web application can be used with any back-end. That includes .NET, SAP, databases with REST APIs and even PHP. Plus, JavaScript is the language of choice for web designers.

However, I’m surprised that Angular seems to be so popular in the JavaScript world. Angular specifically targets enterprise applications, and that’s only a small fraction of the JavaScript applications. I reckon much of the rise of Angular and – to a lesser extent – React.js is at the expense of traditional server-side web frameworks.

By the way, that doesn’t affect my commitment for BootsFaces. Even if the estimated community of roughly 10.000 developers is small in comparison, that’s still the population of the village I’m living in. And it’s a lot of fun to help so many developers!

Dig deeper

Java Web Frameworks Index February 2017 by RebelLabs
Spring MVC vs. JSF
Spring MVC vs. JSF vs. Angular vs. React
License of the Google Trends screenshots

Newsflash: “Secure” in Your Browser’s URL doesn’t Always Mean “Safe”

This is a topic I consider important enough to abandon the “non-commercial-only” policy of BeyondJava.net. I hardly ever quote from or link to professional web pages unless they are so ubiquitous you can’t avoid them or there’s a good reason to do so. Web security definitely is one of the best reasons. Today, Wordfence – a professional company providing a popular WordPress security plugin – has published an interesting blog post about the green “secure” bar in your browser’s URL.

Secure vs. safe

Cutting a long story short, “secure” doesn’t mean the same as “safe”. That’s particularly annoying for Spanish and German users because these languages don’t distinguish between secure and safe. (Chances are that this holds true for many, if not most, other languages, too). Users read a green “secure” in the address bar and feel “safe”.

But in reality “secure” means that the connection between the client and the server is secure. That’s great. It means that nobody can intercept the messages and manipulate them. But that’s all it means. It does not prevent the server from being malicious.

Revoking security certificates

The good news is that when a malicious website is discovered, the certificate guaranteeing the security of the connection usually is revoked, and the server is added to a blacklist. But that takes time, and it’s not guaranteed it’ll ever happen for a particular malicious website. Plus, Wordfence reports that the revocation of a certificate does not or not always result in a red address bar. You can see the revocation, but this information is buried in the developer tools. In other words, it’s invisible to most casual users.

Stay alert!

It’s a good thing that Google has added the “secure” and “insecure” bars to the browser’s address bar, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be careful. Keep looking at the address bar. Keep looking for anomalies. Nowadays, fake URLs are increasingly clever, but even so, you can spot most of them if you’re alert. The Wordfence blog covers the topic in much more detail and has a few interesting examples of fake URLs.

Date Patterns Cheatsheet: Moment.js and Java’s SimpleDateFormatter

More and more projects seem to abandon Java as a front-end programming language in favor of JavaScript. Usually, they keep with Java as the backend programming language. Most of the time, both ecosystems exist peacefully. But there are sources of confusion. One of them being dates and times.

Does this sound familiar? Yes, you’re right. Dates and times are a pain point of Java since day one. JavaScript just adds another layer of complexity to this.

Moment.js is a very popular library to deal with dates and times in JavaScript. So I’ve assembled an interactive cheatsheet helping you to convert the formats into each other.
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UI Roundup 2017: Polymer

Two years ago, Polymer looked like an equal competitor to AngularJS. At the time, it wasn’t clear which one would win the race. Truth to tell, it’s not clear today. The JavaScript world is incredibly volatile and capricious. But the numbers I collected clearly indicate Angular (nowadays without JS) is much more important. At the same time, they indicate that Polymer is here to stay.

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Angular Takes the Sting out of Writing Components

It’s astonishing how simple writing web components is with Angular. In a way, this shouldn’t be a surprise: components are the building blocks of every Angular application. However, last week we wrote a component I already knew to be difficult to implement in merely an hour or two. That was really a surprise.

Our choice was a multi-choice select box. There are plenty finished components out there. However, Angular 2+ is still young, so there are few (if any) native Angular multiple-choice boxes we can use. Integrating a component based on other technologies like jQuery is possible, but usually, it takes some time and it’s always a compromise. So I reluctantly agreed when my co-worker suggested to quickly write our own component. “It’s simple”, he said. “It ain’t much work”. It’s true. It wasn’t.

Key to success: template language

The key to success is the clever template language of Angular. More often than not, I’m unhappy with template languages because they always feel clumsy. Angular’s template language doesn’t. Of course, that’s simple because it doesn’t aim to be a general-purpose language. It’s been written specifically for a single purpose, and it serves this purpose well.

I don’t have the source code at hand, so let me sketch our source code from memory. The multiple-choice combobox consists of an input field, which is always visible, and a pane containing the options. The pane is hidden most of the time. So the HTML code (or rather: pseudocode) looks like so:

<input [(ngModel)]="selectedValues" 
       (onfocus)="optionsVisible=true"
       (onblur)="optionsVisible=false">
<div [attrs.visible]="optionsVisible">
  <div class="checkbox" *ngFor="let option in options">
    <label>
      <input type="checkbox" [(ngModel)]="option.selected"
             onchange="updateResult()"> 
      {{option.value}}
    </label>
  </div>
</div>

This little snippet reads and writes like plain vanilla code. But in reality, it’s revolutionary. It takes a lot more code in Java to write an equivalent JSF component. I also compared this code to my AngularPrime/Dart framework I wrote a couple of years ago. Dart is a fine language, but it took much more time and effort to write a simple component.

The component class

Of course, the HTML code is useless without the TypeScript glue code. But again, this code is fairly straight-forward. The sketchy pseudocode looks like this:

export class Option {
  label: string
  selected: boolean = false
}

@Component({
  selector: "multiple-choice",
  templateUrl: "multple-choice.html"})
export class MultipleChoice {
  @Input() options: Options[]

  @Output() result = new EventEmitter(string)

  optionsVisible: boolean = false

  updateResult(): void {
    let result = options.filter(option => option.selected).
             reduce((option, previous) => previous + "," + option.label, "")
    result.emit(result)
  }
}

Another key to success: @Input and @Output

We’re almost there! All we need to add is a little CSS file to arrange the panel properly below the input field. Everything else is handled by Angular: we can pass the list of options to the component using the @Input decorator, and @Output sends the result to the outer component:

<multiple-choice [options]="colors" 
                 (result)="setSelectedColors($event)">
</multiple-choice>

Wrapping it up

Of course, I’ve omitted some details to keep things simple, and I’ve shown only pseudocode. But even the real source code is surprisingly simple. Angular focuses on writing components. Therefore, it makes writing components as simple as possible without sacrificing power. I had the opportunity to compare different approaches, and I’m astonished by the ease of use of Angular.

Newsflash: Saving HTML Pages or Snippets as an Image

There’s a nice JavaScript project allowing you to save HTML snippets as an image. I didn’t test it yet, but the Fiddles look nice (for instance, this one).

Basically, the library traverses the DOM, using an HTML5 canvas to draw the elements it finds. In other words, it’s an HTLM rendering engine written in JavaScript. Most likely, that means that the library only supports a small fraction of the giant set of HTML attributes and elements. But still, it seems to support many common use cases.

Another approach is putting foreign objects into an SVG and to draw that SVG image into an HTML5 canvas. The foreignObject is currently only partially supported by most browsers, but even so it seems to do the trick for many common usecases.

The Dark Path?

It always pays to listen to Uncle Bob Martin. He’s clearly someone who’s got something to say. But that doesn’t mean I always agree. Today, I don’t. And I consider it interesting why we disagree.

I’ve just read Robert Martin’s post“The Dark Path”. He picks three innovative traits of Kotlin and Swift: strict null checks, strict exception handling and making classes final (in Java speech) or closed (in Kotlin lingo) by default. It’s an interesting post I recommend to read. Uncle Bob shortly explains these features, continues with complaining about languages becoming too complex because they try to fill each leak of their predecessor languages, and closes with an ardent call to write tests. Like usual, he arguments very convincingly. It’s hard to disagree after reading the article. Yet I do.
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How to Use a JavaScript DataTable in an Angular Application

Fork me on GitHubThere are several data table widgets for Angular, but none of them matched our project’s needs. I’m sure that’s simply a matter of time. Angular2 is young, and the third-party libraries are even younger. They simply didn’t have enough time to accumulate features and maturity. So why don’t we use one of the seasoned JavaScript data tables?

As it turns out, Louis Lin had the same idea creating the Angular DataTables project. It looks promising, but at the time of writing, it was only 26 days old. So the feature list is pretty short. When you’re reading this article, things have probably improved. However, today I don’t want to tell you how to use a third-party data table. Instead, I’ll tell you how to do it yourself. Before we start to wallow in the source code, let’s start with what developers usually do: a short market survey. If you’re in a hurry, skip that section or jump directly to the source code of the demo on GitHub.
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Charts with Angular: ngx-charts (Formerly: ng2d3)

Originally, I wanted to write an article about ng2d3. That’s a fine library bringing the power of D3.js charts to the Angular2 world without the price. D3 requires you to adopt a special programming style. You have to learn and use a new programming paradigm, the data-driven programming style. ng2d3 doesn’t require such a thing. You just pass it the data, and it’ll draw the diagram for you.

The only problem with ng2d3 is that it doesn’t exist anymore. More precisely, when I started writing, the team published a new major version (including a couple of breaking changes) and changed the name of the project. Now it’s called ngx-charts. In the view of the new semantic versioning strategy of Angular, the name makes a lot of sense. Calling a framework “ng2-something” won’t work when Angular4 will have been published, skipping Angular3 altogether.
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How to Use BootsFaces and PrimeFaces in the Same Project

I’ve always promoted BootsFaces as a companion framework for PrimeFaces, but many developers report it’s difficult, if not impossible, to combine these two frameworks. Things are particularly nasty if you’ve already got a (possibly huge) PrimeFaces application. Some developers report that even adding a single BootsFaces component will distort your application’s layout. So I’ve decided to examine the problem more closely and to do something about it. This article sketches how to integrate BootsFaces components into a PrimeFaces application. I’ve also created a project at GitHub demonstrating the idea. Note that this article doesn’t show how to use a PrimeFaces component in a BootsFaces application. Of course, that’s almost the same problem, but the source codes below only consider the first use case.
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What’s New in BootsFaces 1.0?

BootsFaces 1.0 has been released. Actually, we’ve already published the first bugfix release, BootsFaces 1.0.1. I was a bit shy to proudly announce the 1.0.0 version because we had so many obstacles to overcome. Apart from the usual obstacles like exhausting projects at work (and they were exhausting this time!), there were also the earthquakes in Italy, which kept at least one of our team members busy, although they didn’t suffer any physical harm.

Be that as it may, BootsFaces 1.0 (and 1.0.1 in particular) is a great step to maturity. It’s the first version we officially call “production-ready”. Truth to tell, we were always convinced you can safely use BootsFaces in production. But most versions we’ve published in the past focused on features. This time we tried to focus on stability instead of new features when we prepared the 1.0 version. I counted 26 bugfixes that were important enough to open a bug ticket. Plus, almost twenty minor enhancements and three new components. However, we also added one or two major improvements, such as adding support for both horizontal and inline forms.

Download coordinates

Before starting the long list of details, let me provide you with the download coordinates:

Add these lines to your project’s pom.xml:

<dependency>
    <groupId>net.bootsfaces</groupId>
    <artifactId>bootsfaces</artifactId>
    <version>1.0.1</version>
    <scope>compile</scope>
</dependency>

Add this line to your project’s .gradle build file:

compile 'net.bootsfaces:bootsfaces:1.0.1'

The BootsFaces project comes with both a Gradle build file and a Maven build file. The Maven pom.xml is the easy way to get started and should suffice for most purposes. Only if you want to tweak and optimize BootsFaces, you need the Gradle build. In particular, the Maven build doesn’t generate the CSS and JS files itself, but relies on the output of the Gradle build. By the way, that’s the reason why we keep the generated file in GitHub.

In any case, the URL of the repository is https://github.com/TheCoder4eu/BootsFaces-OSP.

Update Dec 27, 2016: Bugs

During the last couple of days, we’ve found and fixed a couple of bugs. If you happen to run into a bug, check our bug tracker if we’ve already solved the bug, and check out the sneak preview version of BootsFaces 1.1.0-SNAPSHOT. Strictly speaking, this version is not intended to use productively. Use at own risk. Of course, BootsFaces is published under an Apache V2 license, so every version of BootsFaces is published on an “as-is” basis, without any warranties. The difference between the snapshot and the final version is that we’ve tested the final version more intensively.

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How to Connect HTML Elements With an Arrow Using SVG

The other day, had a list of items on the left-hand side, and another list of items on the right-hand side. Some of these items are connected, some of them are not. Wouldn’t it be nice to show this by connecting the item with an arrow?

At first, there’s nothing new here. We’ve been drawing and connecting boxes, circles and arbitrary shapes in the IT business for ages. Just think of flow charts or organigrams. There’s even a nice PrimeFaces component for that.

The problem is that my application was an Angular2 application, not a JSF application. Plus, the PrimeFaces component, which is really nice, didn’t match my requirements. I didn’t want to display a flow chart. The boxes I wanted to connect contain live data and even images. So the task is to connect arbitrary <div /> elements with an arrow.

At first, the task seems a bit intimidating, but once I’ve started to delve into it, it became surprisingly simple. Simple enough I can even provide the source code at the end of the post.
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Electron Brings JavaScript to the Desktop

Let’s continue my “Java on the desktop” series with something that’s not Java, but interesting nonetheless. Electron is a framework wrapping your HTML5 application in a native window of your operation system. Other than most projects in the JavaScript universe, Electron does not follow a “mobile first” approach. Quite the contrary, it’s fairly opinionated in that it supports only three platforms: Windows, OSX, and Linux. This includes access to your computers file system and access to the Windows registry via third-party NPM modules. If I’ve got it right, it even allows you to install your application as a Windows service, which is kind of scary. You know, not too long ago every security expert recommended deactivating JavaScript in the browser because of alleged security risks. Obviously, we’ve come a long way.
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How to Wrap BootsFaces (or JSF in General) as a Native Desktop Application

When I showed the draft of my last post (the “Java on the Desktop” survey article), my friends surprised me by saying that nowadays desktop applications are sort of exotic. Everybody’s doing mobile or at least web applications. But the good old desktop has fallen into oblivion. That’s pretty strange, given that most of us do most of their daily work at desktop PCs or decent-sized laptops.
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Java on the Desktop

For some reason, the vast majority of developers has accepted the browser as the operation system for their applications. While there are some good reasons for this, I never really bought into it. HTML5 has eliminated most of the pain point of web applications, but I still insist that most customers don’t really want to use a web application. We’ve taught them to accept to open the browser to do their daily work, but there are still quite a few disadvantages to this approach. The “old stagers” among you know how many obstacles we had to overcome before the browser became a really useful operation system for writing applications. Just for the fun of it, let’s start this article summarizing some of them:

  • How to deal with the “back” and “forward” buttons in a web application?
  • How to print a document from a web application? Most developers export documents to be printed as PDF files, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to print documents without this detour?
  • How to import an Excel file into your application?
  • More generally speaking, web applications run in a sandbox preventing access to low-level resources such as your computer’s file system.

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Angular2 Component Libraries

A good third-party component library can give your application development team a boost. This article collects a list of popular UI component libraries for Angular2. It goes without saying that this list can never be complete, so it’s probably going to change and expand over time. If you know of a useful Angular2 widget library, don’t hesitate to leave a comment so I can complete the list.

By the way, this list is just that: a list. I’m adding a short introduction to each library, but it’s not the same as a review. I’ll postpone that to follow-up articles. If you like or dislike on of the library, I’d like to hear from you, especially if you also add a short explanation.

General purpose widget libraries

  • Ionic was already a well-known UI framework in the AngularJS 1.x age. There’s also an Angular2 port. Ionic comes with a CLI tool which simplifies getting started. It also provides its unique layout which blends in nicely with the look and feel of many current mobile devices. There’S a nice tutorial at scotch.io.
  • PrimeNG is an offspring of the well-known PrimeFaces JSF library. It’s an open source project hosted at GitHub. At the time of writing (Oct 07, 2016) I counted some 70 components, providing enough widgets for writing an enterprise application. Like PrimeFaces, PrimeNG is a commercial library. In this particular case, this means you can get the library itself for free, but you can order a support plan. There’s a PrimeNG PRO with commercial support and premium templates like Ultima NG. For some reason, the team didn’t make their pricing public yet, but they told me they already have a couple of very big customers. Judging from the list they showed me I daresay to call PrimeNG a great framework even if I haven’t used it myself.
  • ng2-bootstrap is a component library that combines the grid system and the theming of Bootstrap with Angular2. At the time of writing (Oct 07, 2016) it supports 15 components and both Bootstrap 3 and Bootstrap 4. 15 components doesn’t sound much, but the tool box contains most components you need. A co-worker of mine uses it for their current project and reports that they a happy with it.

Widget libraries providing individual components

Talking of data tables: PrimeNG has a fairly powerful data table. I didn’t compare it to the other data tables in this list, but I think they all play in the same league.

Commercial widget libraries

Since I don’t want to spend money on commercial libraries just to test them, let’s suffice to mention these libraries.

  • KendoUI is the Angular2 offspring of the well-known KendoUI library. So it’s not surprising that it looks fairly complete. Prices start at 999$ per developer license.
  • Wijmo 5 is also a library with a long history. Hence the Angular2 offspring also seems to offer almost everything you need. Prices start at 695$ per license.

Is Java Going to Become Invisible?

In a sense, Java has vanished from the client many years ago. With the exception of Android, the vast majority of Java runs on a server in a data center. From the average user’s perspective, Java has become invisible. When we talk about Java UI programming, most people think of Spring MVC, JSF and Ozark.

I’m still trying to make sense of the new Java EE 8 plans Oracle revealed at JavaOne a couple of weeks ago. My first impression was that the new focus on cloud computing means that Java is going to molt again. The Java EE 8 roadmap proposal indicates just that.
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The Rise and Fall of Scala

There seems to be a consensus in the Java community that the Scala programming language is already on the decline. I consider this a pity because I always enjoyed programming in Scala. Actually, I even started this blog to support alternative JVM languages like Scala. But the market has decided differently. Moshe Kranc has written an excellent analysis about the rise and fall of Scala. I found Moshe’s article interesting enough to summarize it and to add a couple of thoughts of mine.

Before I start

However, I’ve also read some of the 169 comments to Moshe’s article, so I’d like to add a few words. First of all, I’m really fond of the Scala language. I’m not trying to write an anti-Scala article. Quite the contrary. I’m following the fate of Groovy and Scala for at least ten years now, and I’m still puzzled why the industry doesn’t adopt one of these languages. In many aspects, both languages are clearly superior to Java.
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