>Welcome to the third part of our series on the history of the Haskell language. To ensure a truly comprehensive understanding, we strongly encourage you to explore the previous chapters of this enthralling series:
Part 1: The Outline - Beginnings (1990 - 2000)
Part 2: Haskell and the Rise of Functional Programming (2000 - 2015)
The history of Haskell dates back to the mid-eighties when there was a growing interest in lazy functional languages. At that time, a research committee was diligently working on designing a language suitable for teaching, research, and application development, as well as constructing large systems. This language needed a clear and formal syntax and semantics, be freely available to all, and be based on widely accepted ideas now captured in “Haskell 2010-Language Report” by Simon Marlow.
From Niche to Mainstream
Initially gaining popularity in academic and research circles, Haskell has expanded to meet the needs of the industry too. One significant contributing factor to this shift was the increasing prominence of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology.
In 2009 there was a public announcement of Haskell 2010, introducing updates to the language that incorporated commonly used features such as hierarchical module names or foreign function interface (FFI). Although a planned formal specification update for 2020 was ultimately discontinued, Haskell gained recognition for its practical application in various systems, and its value extended beyond purely scholarly or scientific purposes.
From the early days, the biggest proponents were companies representing the traditional FinTech niche - the programming language is highly appropriate for banking solutions and any other situation where code safety is paramount, years before the rise of blockchain.
In 2017, Cardano, a public blockchain platform, was launched. The developers behind Cardano chose Haskell as the primary language for development due to its strong type system, expressive abstractions, and ability to handle complex systems. This decision received praise as it enabled the creation of clear, concise, and elegant code that is easy to maintain and comprehend.
A Community That Provides Support
The Haskell community stands out for its distinctive structure, which differs from those supported by major corporations such as Java, Kotlin, Rust, or C#. Instead, the community thrives due to the dedication of volunteers who contribute their personal time, independent of any business interests. This organic growth has allowed the Haskell community to expand steadily without relying on a central sponsor.
In 2010, the Haskell.org committee was established, primarily to develop and maintain the infrastructure of haskell.org while also engaging in community projects like hackathons and programs such as Google Summer of Code and Summer of Haskell. These bring together Haskell developers to collaborate, learn, and create innovative projects.
Today the committee is dedicated to shaping the infrastructure and community-driven initiatives that support the language's evolution. This includes managing communication channels and providing resources for newcomers and experienced developers. The committee's efforts ensure that Haskell.org remains a reliable and up-to-date source of information for the community.
During the Haskell Exchange Conference 2020, Simon Peyton Jones announced the formation of the Haskell Foundation. The foundation's primary goal is to facilitate the adoption and use of Haskell in production environments, improve its documentation, and highlight success stories. The Haskell Foundation plays a crucial role in removing barriers to entry and enhancing the Haskell ecosystem. By fostering collaboration among developers, researchers, and industry professionals, the foundation aims to provide a unified voice for the Haskell community and facilitate the resolution of typical challenges faced by users of the language.
While Haskell may require more effort to grasp than other programming languages, investing time and effort is worthwhile for individual developers looking to enhance their skills and craftsmanship. Despite its reputation for being challenging to learn, primarily due to significant differences from commonly used languages, Haskell offers a valuable growth opportunity. A wealth of knowledge resources is available, and individuals and industry entities continue to promote Haskell education. What's more, initiatives such as hackathons, conferences, and meetup groups, help enthusiasts come together, share their knowledge, exchange ideas, and contribute to the growth and development of the language.
This focus on practicality and usability helps bridge the gap between academia and industry, making Haskell more appealing for real-world software development.
Haskell is gaining popularity in academic and industrial circles thanks to the efforts of its community. They promote the creation and upkeep of libraries, frameworks, and tools. Additionally, they highlight success stories and advantages to encourage the adoption of Haskell. These actions demonstrate the language's value in efficiently and reliably solving complex problems. Ultimately, they shape the future of Haskell and solidify its position as a powerful tool for building reliable and efficient software systems.
Thanks to all the efforts, learning the language has become more accessible - as a result, the language has gained popularity and is now being adapted for use across multiple software niches.
At Obsidian Systems, we take pride in being a team of enthusiastic Haskell users and advocates. We frequently work with businesses new to Haskell and help them build products using this language. We advocate for Haskell and showcase how it can be a great choice for startups looking for cost-effective and efficient software development and maintenance. Additionally, we develop and maintain valuable open-source software. Visit our GitHub profile to learn more about Reflex and Obelisk.