This month’s TIOBE Index statistics no doubt had the Java community clenching their fists discretely under their desks in a tiny* gesture of joy, with James Gosling’s language once again topping the charts. Java’s re-entry to number one can be largely attributed to the rise of Android, which has powered a 3% rise in popularity for the language since last October. But whilst Java and C circle between the gold and silver spots, the real mover and shaker story this time round was Scala.

Having languished in the 30s and 50s range for the past few years, according to TIOBE’s latest report, the object-oriented JVM language is at last poised to enter the top 20 “for the first time in history” (which, by the way, is all of 12 years), and now stands at number 25 in the chart.

TIOBE Managing Director Paul Jansen explained to InfoWorld that this is boost in popularity for Scala is something he believes is long overdue. Jansen attributes this uplift in part to a trickle of multinational companies taking the reactive language for a test ride, explaining, “There has been a positive vibe on Scala for many years now, but industry was a bit reluctant to adopt Scala because it wasn’t mainstream yet and functional programming languages such as Scala were considered academic toy languages until recently. Now we see that multinationals are trying out Scala for some of their development.”

Another factor that may be driving up this apparent adoption curve is that, as Typesafe founder Martin Odersky said in his recent ScalaDays keynote address, Scala is no longer a “single play language.” This is thanks to the advent of the Scala.js compiler, which allows the language to be compiled to JavaScript for the first time. Now available in version 0.6 and declared non-experimental, Scala.js already plays nicely with existing JavaScript libraries, and works at a high speed.

There’s also an emergent ecosystem of open source software, including Play, Mesos, and Slick, to name but a few, which all run on Scala – and a host of powerful applications that run alongside these. And let’s not forget the advent of Java 8 last year, which introduced many die-hard Java-ites to the awesome power of functional.

Whilst Scala may be far from a Java killer, the signs are good that it may soon ditch its cumbersome academic reputation for good.

*Note: We say tiny because, as is often remarked, different rankings often come up with wildly varied results, and TIOBE’s methodology comes under frequent scrutiny. That being said, in this case, we believe it’s at least a good indication of an increase in interest in Scala. 

Scala Scales Up TIOBE Index

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