[Haskell-cafe] Why Not Haskell?

Jason Dagit dagit at eecs.oregonstate.edu
Fri Aug 4 14:01:31 EDT 2006

On 8/4/06, Donn Cave <donn at drizzle.com> wrote:
> On Fri, 4 Aug 2006, Hans van Thiel wrote:
> ...
> > 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?
> I can think of several other possible reasons -
> 6.  Instability - available for 15 years, you say, but does the Haskell
>     of 15 years ago support today's programs?  Does standard Haskell
>     even support today's programs?
> 7.  Some difficult concepts, at a level that goes way beyond the commonly
>     used languages.
> 8.  Problems with evaluation model and space that other languages don't
>     have to deal with.
> 9.  Missing libraries

10.  I think most commercial applications are developed for windows
users.  For the last 15 years this has primarily meant the application
ran in windows (this is starting to change but that's another story).
I'm currently using ghc to do windows development for a company I work
at.  I'm often running into "corner" cases where ghc has bugs on
windows or poor support for some MS technology that is assumed when
using other languages like .NET.  Both COM and dlls have problems
right now (but this is getting better monotonically).

11. If you read the History of Haskell paper
(http://haskell.org/haskellwiki/History_of_Haskell) you will see that
haskell was meant as a vehicle for research.  This BTW, would be a
highly relevant read for someone that wants more insight into why
Haskell is not a Java killer.

12. Chicken and the egg.  Having lots of users will attract more users.

13. Some industry programmers don't choose their tools based on
technical worth so much as who is backing them.  I'd like to think
this explains the popularity of C++ and now Java/C#.  I have 2nd hand
information that Bjarne never meant for C++ to escape AT&T or really
even go outside of the domain he was working in (which I recall was
something embedded) but when people found out AT&T had a new OO
capable language they jumped on.  I'm not sure if it's really true,
but watching Java/C# gain popularity it wouldn't surprise me.

14. I've heard arguments that a lot of the people who become industry
devs are really turned off from functional languages during typical CS
theory courses.  I have no idea how anyone could verify this claim,
plus I had the exact opposite reaction.  I was transformed into a fan
of FP by my theory courses.

15. OO is now tried and true in industry.  I would say it's far from
optimal but people do know they can build large applications (say
~100k lines of C++).  So naturally shifting to a new paradigm will
meet resistance.

There also seems to be a lack of programs in the open source world
which are written in Haskell.  We have two big open source projects
that people outside of the haskell community may hear of, pugs and
darcs.    I would say this reflects #6 but I'm relatively new to
haskell so I could be wrong.

Even with all this there are some people that are using haskell
commercially (or lobbying for it).

Joel Reymount
Tim Sweeny*
Galois Connections

* I think Tim is just wanting more of haskell's great features in the
languages he already uses

Also, check the Haskell Communities and Activities Report:

I'm sure I missed someone.

> and more, I suppose.  I'm not saying any of these are necessarily compelling
> reasons not to use Haskell, but altogether, maybe another way to look at it
> is that it's really a strong statement when people decide to bet their
> livelihood on Haskell software development - it isn't the safe choice, and
> it means someone finds the reasons for it very compelling.

Yes, trying to meet deadlines with untrusted tools is scary business.
Not everyone likes to gamble with their jobs :)

I hope that helps,

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