James Williams

Why Spark Will Not Ignite For Me

Tags: Groovy Java

Let me first share this great comment someone on Reddit said about creating an open source project:

"if you made an open source project, you're automatically awesome; if your implementation is sound, you're doubly awesome. It doesn't matter if somebody thinks that your idea is flawed - you never know until you try." /via dcapacitor on @proggit

In that respect, I tip my hat to the creator of Spark, a Java Sinatra-inspired microframework but I can't endorse it as a solution.

Let's first look at the Hello World code:

import static spark.Spark.*;
import spark.*;

public class HelloWorld {
   public static void main(String[] args) {
      get(new Route("/hello") {
         public Object handle(Request request, Response response) {
            return "Hello World!";

It is definitely more concise than a traditional J2EE app, it is bloated compared to a similar Sinatra or Groovy Ratpack application. Way too much scafolding to get to the actual work at hand. Linked here is a less trivial example. You'll see how as the app grows in size, it begins to go out of control.

One the Why? page for Spark, Spark's creator incorrectly states:

Why not use Sinatra?

*If you're an experienced programmer in functional languages you should definitely use Sinatra. However, if you're a Java developer and want to get the benefits you get from Sinatra but you don't want or have the time (money) to learn a new language, Spark is a really good alternative!*

*Edit: Page was edited to remove references of functional programming.*

**Firstly, Ruby is not a functional language and that shouldn't matter anyways.** The greater problem with the statement is that it is conflating the concept of routing as the only benefit of Sinatra. Yes, routing is a plus but it is also the middleware that helps Sinatra to shine. As you can see with the non-trivial Spark examples, you get routing which is new, but everything else is the same old Java. Currently, it doesn't have a built-in template engine or seemingly any other niceties for static file serving, etc. I'm unsure that someone who would be looking for a solution that is trailblazing against the status quo would be someone that felt that exploring a new language was something they didn't have time for.

Should we always teach seeking knowledge is never a wasteful enterprise?