in Software Development

At Evolution Gaming me and Artsiom work on internal scheduling application, that has a huge ScalaJS frontend. We have to deal with lots of complex date/time logic, both on backend and browser sides.

I quickly realised, that sharing same business logic code across platforms would be a massive advantage. But there was a problem: there were (and still is) no truly cross-platform date/time library for Scala/ScalaJS.

After a small research I settled with a type class-based solution that provides cross-platform java.time.* -like values with full TimeZone/DST support. In this post we will:

  • take a quick look at the current state of date/time support in Scala/ScalaJS;
  • see how to get cross-platform date/time values today with the help of type classes.

Described approach works quite well in our application, so I extracted the core idea into a library, called DTC. If you’re a “Gimme the code!” kind of person, I welcome you to check out the repo.

Prerequisites

I assume, that reader is familiar with ScalaJS and how to set up a cross-platform project. Familiarity with type classes is also required.

The Goal

There’s no solution without a goal. Precise goal will also provide correct context for reasonings in this article. So let me state it.

My primary goal is to be able to write cross-platform code that operates on date/time values with full time zone support.

This also means that I will need implementation(s) that behave consistently across JVM and browser. We’re Scala programmers, so let’s choose JVM behaviour semantics as our second goal.

Current state of date/time in Scala and ScalaJS

So we have our goal, let’s see how we can achieve it.

In this section we’ll go over major date/time libraries and split them into 3 groups: JVM-only, JS-only and cross-platform.

JVM-only

We won’t spend too much time here, everything is quite good on JVM side: we have Joda and Java 8 time package. Both are established tools with rich API and time zone support.

But they can’t be used in ScalaJS code.

JS-only

We’re looking at JS libraries, because we can use them in ScalaJS through facades. When it comes to date/time calculations, there are effectively two options for JavaScript: plain JS Date and MomentJS library.

There’re things that are common for both and make them quite problematic to use for our goal:

  • values are mutable;
  • semantics are different from JVM in many places. For example, you can call date.setMonth(15) , and it will give you a same date in March next year!

There’s also a JS-Joda project, which is not so popular in JS world, but has much more value to JVM developers, because it brings Java8 time semantics to Javascript.

JS Date

JS Date is defined by ECMA Script standard and is available out of the box in any JS runtime. But it has several weaknesses. Major ones are:

  • quite poor API;
  • time zone support is not universal: behaviour depends on environment time zone, and you can’t ask for a datetime value in an arbitrary zone.

Since JS Date is a part of language standard, ScalaJS bindings for it are provided by ScalaJS standard library.

MomentJS

Despite MomentJS values are mutable and still have minor bugs in calculations, it’s quite a good library, especially, if you need full time zone support.

It also has a ScalaJS facade.

JS-joda

JS-joda is implementation of a nice idea: porting java.time.* functionality to Javascript. Though I’ve never used this project, it looks like an established and well-maintained library.

ScalaJS facade is also in place, so you can definitely give it a try in your Scala project.

The only problem with regard to our goal is it still lacks proper DST support. But it’s already in progress, so you can expect it to be fully functional in observable future.

Cross-platform date/time libraries

After a small research, I found three options. Let’s see them in detail.

Scala-js-java-time

This library is the future of cross-platform date/time code. It’s effectively Java 8 time, written from scratch for ScalaJS.

At the time of writing this post, scala-js-java-time already provides LocalTime, LocalDate, Duration , and a handful of other really useful java.time.* classes (full list here).

It means, that you can use these classes in cross-compiled code and you won’t get linking errors: in JVM runtime original java.time.* classes will be used, and JS runtime will be backed by scala-js-java-time implementations.

Problem here, is that we need LocalDateTime and ZonedDateTime in ScalaJS. And they are not there yet.

Spoiler: we’ll be using scala-js-java-time in our final solution for the problem.

Scala Java-Time

Scala Java-Time is a fork of ThreeTen backport project. So it’s main purpose is to provide java.time.* -like functionality on Java 6 & 7.

It is also compiled to ScalaJS, which means we can write cross-platform code with it. And we can even use (to some extent) LocalDateTime!

The only problem is it doesn’t support time zones for ScalaJS yet (providing this support is the main focus of the project now, though).

So this library is close, but still misses our goal by a tiny bit.

Soda time

Soda time is a port of Joda to ScalaJS.

It’s in early development stages and also doesn’t have time zones in ScalaJS, but I still added it to the list, because developers took an interesting approach: they are converting original Joda code with ScalaGen.

So the resulting code really smells Java, but I’m still curious of what this can develop into.

Idea? No, the only option

The reason I’ve given the overview of currently available libraries is simple: it makes clear that there’s only one possible solution to the problem.

There’s no cross-platform library with full time zone support. And for JavaScript runtime there’s only MomentJS, that really fits our requirements. All this leaves us with nothing, except following approach:

  1. We define some type class, that provides rich date/time API. It’s a glue that will allow us to write cross-platform code.
  2. All code, that needs to operate date/time values, becomes polymorphic, like this:
  3. We provide platform-dependent type class instances: java.time.* -based for JVM and MomentJS-based for ScalaJS.
  4. We define common behaviour laws to test the instances against. This will guarantee, that behaviour is consistent across platforms.
  5. MomentJS API is powerful, but it has to be sandboxed and shaped to:
    • provide immutable values;
    • provide JVM-like behaviour;
  6. There’s a limitation, that we can’t overcome without some manual implementation: both JS libraries don’t support nano seconds. So we’ll have to live with milliseconds precision.

We won’t go over all of these points in this article. DTC library does the heavy lifting for all of them. In following sections we’ll just glance over the core implementation and example.

DateTime type class

Let’s just take a small subset of java.time.LocalDateTime API and lift it into a generic type class. We’ll use simulacrum, to avoid common boilerplate:

 

First of all, a total order for DateTime values is defined. So we can extend cats.kernel.Order and get all it’s goodies out of the box.

Second, thanks to scala-js-java-time, we can use LocalTime and LocalDate to represent parts of the value. Also, we can use Duration for addition operations.

For now, let’s just view it as a glue for LocalDateTime. We’ll get to time zone support a bit later.

Cross-compiled business logic

Having our new type class, let’s define some “complex” logic, that needs to be shared across JVM and browser.

 

With syntax extensions in place, the code looks quite nice.

More over, you can notice, that nothing here says, if time should be local or zoned. Code is polymorphic, and we can use different kinds of date/time values, depending on the context.

Now let’s get to the flesh and bones: type class instances.

Type class instances

Let’s start with JVM instance, as it’s going to be quite simple. Follow comments in code for details.

 

With MomentJS it’s going to be much more interesting, because we’ve obliged ourselves to provide values, that are comfortable to work with for a functional programmer.

To enforce immutability, we won’t expose any moment APIs directly. Instead, we’re going to wrap moment values in a simple object, that will be immutable:

 

Several notable things here:

  1. We make both constructor and underlying value private to make sure there’s no way to modify object internals. We’ll provide a custom constructor later.
  2. Notice month value adjustment to provide JVM-like behaviour. You will see much more of such things in DTC, I even had to write a couple of methods from scratch.
  3. To compare two moment values, we use their raw timestamps.

Now it’s trivial to define DateTime instance for our MomentLocalDateTime:

 

Now have everything to run our generic domain logic on both platforms. I’ll leave it as an exercise for my dear reader.

Now let’s discuss some aspects of making this thing work for zoned values as well.

Time Zone support

Not much time is needed to realise, that we need separate type classes for local and zoned values. Reasons are:

  • They obey different laws. For example, you can’t expect a zoned value to have same local time after adding 24h to it.
  • They have different constructor APIs. Zoned value needs time zone parameter to be properly constructed.
  • Zoned values should provide additional APIs for zone conversions.

On the other side, most of querying, addition and modification APIs are common to both kinds of date/time values. And we would like to take advantage of that in cases we don’t really care about a kind of the value and wish to allow using both.

This leads us to following simple hierarchy:

  1. LawlessDateTimeTC (which we initially called DateTime) that contains common methods, specific to all date/time values.
  2. LocalDateTimeTC and ZonedDateTimeTC will extend LawlessDateTimeTC and provide kind-specific methods (constructors, for example).

This -TC suffix is ugly, but name clash in JVM code is worse :).

We will also have to provide a cross-compiled wrapper for time zone identifiers, because java.time.ZoneId is not yet provided by scala-js-java-time, and we don’t really want to pass raw strings around.

Everything else is just an evolution of core idea. Full implementation and more examples are available in the DTC repo.

Note on polymorphism

A side-effect of this solution, is that all your code becomes polymorphic over the specific date/time type. While most of the time you’re going to use single kind of time (zoned or local), there are cases when polymorphism becomes useful.

For example, in an event-sourced system, you may require zoned values for most of the calculations within the domain, as well as commands. But, at the same time, it can be a good idea to store events to journal with UTC values instead.
With type class-based approach, you can use same data structures for both purposes, by just converting between type parameters of different kinds.

Conclusion

Though polymorphic code can look scary for some people, described approach give us following advantages:

  1. Truly cross-platform code, that operates on rich date/time APIs with time zone support.
  2. Polymorphism over specific kind of date/time values.

If you’re working with date/time values in Scala on a daily basis, please, give DTC a try and tell me what you think!

Thanks for reading! 🙂