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EPFL’s home-grown programming language Scala has won this year’s Programming Languages Software Award. The honor is awarded by ACM SIGPLAN each year to an individual or an institution to recognize the development of a software system that has had a significant impact on programming language research, implementations, and tools. Scala was originally developed by Professor Martin Odersky in 2004 at the School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC). Professor Odersky now heads the Scala Center, an open-source foundation for the software based at EPFL.

The award was presented at the annual SIGPLAN PLDI (Programming Languages Design and Implementation) conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on June 24. The event was marked by the presence of several Scala collaborators and EPFL students.
Scala won the distinction because of its widespread acceptance by the programming language community. Among its early adopters were Twitter and LinkedIn, which helped Scala widen its reach. Today, Scala forms the basis of the popular Apache Spark data analytics platform. According to the SIGPLAN award citation, Scala has also served as the basis for research on metaprogramming, macros, staging, and embedded domain-specific languages, including DSLs for machine learning and GPU execution (Delite and OptiML).

The main advantage of Scala is that it presents a combination of object-oriented and functional programming in one concise, high-level language. Its static types help avoid bugs in complex applications, and its JVM and JavaScript runtimes enable users to build high-performance systems with easy access to huge ecosystems of libraries.
Although co-owned by EPFL and the commercial Scala entity Lightbend, contributors around the world—including many companies, organizations, and individuals—are continuously developing the code to push the frontiers of its language evolution.