"Lambda Dance", Haskell polemic,...

Brian Boutel brian@boutel.co.nz
Tue, 03 Apr 2001 15:36:54 +1200

Jerzy Karczmarczuk wrote:

> 2. You neglect, and I suspect that you do it on purpose, that the main
>    driving force behind the evolution of Haskell is *RESEARCH*. An issue
>    absent from many "popular" languages which are meant to be
> immediately
>    exploitable with very flat learning curve. 

This is not what is said in the Preface to the Haskell Report.

"It was decided that a committee should be formed to design such a
language, providing faster communication of new ideas, a stable
foundation for real applications development, and a vehicle through
which others would be encouraged to use functional languages."

And the first goal:

"1.It should be suitable for teaching, research, and applications,
including building large systems."

I think it is fair to say that Haskell has not been as successful in
achieving its goals as we would have liked. Tbe points made about
libraries are good ones. The problem seems to be the lack of
well-coordinated, well-funded, development resources - and this is a
problem with most open-source, volunteer-staffed efforts. Some of these
are nevertheless very successful, because, despite their weaknesses,
they do the job better that the proprietary competition. Why then has
Haskell not done as well as sendmail or apache? Perhaps because the
battleground is different. To get people to adopt Haskell (or any other
new language) is an issue of availability of people-skills, and
subjective quasi-religious arguments about the merits of one language
against another, not about which of two products does a well-defined
task better. To win that battle you need massive resources and apparent
commitment, as was the case with Sun and Java. Why did Sun do that? Did
it have anything to do with the real merits of Java?