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Contextual Abstractions: Extensions

· 3 min read
Scala 2 => 3 Series

This is a part in an ongoing series dealing with migrating old ways of doing things from Scala 2 to Scala 3. It will cover the What's New in Scala 3 from the official site.

Check the Scala 2 => 3 tag for others in the series! For the repo containing all the code, visit GitHub. There are code samples for both Scala 2 and Scala 3 together, that are easy to run via scala-cli.

This post is centered around retroactively extending classes.

In Scala 2, extension methods had to be encoded using implicit conversions or implicit classes. In contrast, in Scala 3 extension methods are now directly built into the language, leading to better error messages and improved type inference.

Extensions are one of my favorite things to use in Scala. Personally, I like the ability to add functionality to "upstream" resources implicitly, but call that functionality explicitly. To me, it makes it less likely to break things during a refactor when you don't have to un-ravel a mysterious series of implicit def methods / conversions that you might not realize are being called.

The preface

For this example, let's say that we have some upstream domain model from a service we use but don't control.

case class UpstreamUser(id: Long, created: Instant, lastSeen: Instant)

In our service, we have a concept of when a user goes "stale" based on usage - but other services also have this notion, and differing beliefs about what conditions make a user stale - so we can't ask the upstream service to implement this for us on our model. Perhaps our model of what a stale user is changes over time as well.

Our conditions for a user going stale are:

  • A user was created over a year ago
  • A user hasn't been seen in the last week.

With that in mind, we could write some logic such as

import java.time.Instant
import java.time.temporal.ChronoUnit._
def isStale(created: Instant, lastSeen: Instant):Boolean = {, DAYS).isBefore( &&, DAYS).isBefore(

but calling that everywhere becomes a bit cumbersome, and it would be great if we could attach that functionality directly on UpstreamUser.

Scala 2

In scala 2, we can use an implicit class to achieve our goal. An implicit class should have only one constructor argument, of the Type that is being extended. It also needs to be housed in something, typically an outer object. This can make setting up implicit classes feel a bit "boilerplate-y".

object UpstreamUserExtensions {
implicit class ExtendedUpstreamUser(u: UpstreamUser) {
def isStale: Boolean = {, DAYS).isBefore( &&, DAYS).isBefore(

Now, with ExtendedUpstreamUser in scope to implicitly add our new functionality, we can (explicitly) call upstreamUserInstance.isStale as if it were on the model directly.

Scala 3

In Scala 3, it works much the same, but with less boilerplate. Instead of declaring an implicit class, you declare an extension: extension (u: UpstreamUser) where the argument matches the Type you're adding functionality to. This doesn't need to be housed in an object either!

The corresponding Scala 3 code would look like:

extension (u: UpstreamUser) {
def isStale: Boolean = {, DAYS).isBefore( &&, DAYS).isBefore(

and then we'll get the same upstreamUserInstance.isStale functionality as before.

Final Thoughts

Although the looks of the code have changed, if you're used to Scala 2 implicit classes, Scala 3 extensions will probably be a welcomed ergonomics change, with a familiar feel for usage.