[Haskell-cafe] Why Not Haskell?

Hans van Thiel hthiel.char at zonnet.nl
Fri Aug 4 12:17:42 EDT 2006

Hello All,

I'm wondering why I can't find any commercial Haskell applications on
the Internet. Is there any reason for this?
I can think of the following possibilities only:
1) Haskell is too slow for practical use, but the benchmarks I found
appear to contradict this.
2) Input and output are not good enough, in particular for graphical
user interfacing and/or data base interaction. But it seems there are
several user interfaces and SQL and other data base interfaces for
Haskell, even though the tutorials don't seem to cover this.
3) Haskell is not scaleable for commercial use. This looks unlikely to
me, but could this be a factor?
4) Haskell is open source and licensing restrictions forbid commercial
applications. I haven't seen any such restrictions, but is this a
problem for the standard modules?

Are there other reasons why there seem to be just a few thousand
(hundred?) Haskell programmers in the world, compared to the 3 million
Java programmers and x million C/C++ programmers?

The reason I ask is that in the early nineties I wrote a data mining
/machine learning program. This was not a commercial success and since
then I've been working as a free lance IT journalist. As such I covered
the O'Reilly European Open Source Convention in Amsterdam last year and
there I heard of Haskell. I became interested and started learning from
the available free tutorials and Hugs.

As an aside, I'd like to thank all those people. I really appreciate
their work and I'd like to single out Hal Daume III's 'Yet Another
Haskell Tutorial', while not diminishing the other authors in any way.

Meanwhile I kept working on a data mining algorithm in my spare time and
finally I came up with something that appears to work. While I was
learning Haskell, I thought, why not try this part of the algorithm as a
Haskell exercise. I could easily test it in Hugs.
To my own surprise, after only a few weeks of this, I had a working
prototype of my algorithm, printed out on less than 3 pages, using only
standard functions in the Prelude.

So, I'm really impressed by the power of Haskell, and I'm just a

Now I'm trying to come up with a business model for my algorithm and to
avoid the mistakes I made 10 years ago. There is a lot of difference
between a prototype and a working tool, and then there is a lot of
difference between a working tool and a successful commercial
application. Probably it doesn't make much sense to try and develop a
tool in C++ or even Java, but if I have to go on my own on this, maybe
Haskell could be feasible, both for fun and profit.

So, that's the background of my question (while introducing myself to
the Cafe at the same time).

Why hasn't Haskell made it into the business world (yet), after being
available for 15 years, or is this the wrong question?

Many thanks for your comments,

Hans van Thiel

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