Science and Engineering

Why Haskell?

The protocols that compose Cardano are distributed, bundled with cryptography and require a high degree of fault tolerance. On the best days, there will still be Byzantine actors, malformed messages and faulty clients unintentionally causing some form of havok on the network.

First, we wanted a language that enjoys a strong type system where we could easily use tools such as Quickcheck and more elaborate techniques such as Refinement Types while having a reasonable expectation of fault tolerance. An Erlang style OTP model satisfies the latter whereas languages like Haskell and Ocaml satisfy the former.

With the introduction of Cloud Haskell, Haskell gained many of Erlang’s advantages while not surrendering its own. Furthermore, Haskell’s modularity and composability has allowed us to use a lighter weight bespoke library called Time Warp for Cardano.

Second, Haskell’s libraries have evolved greatly over the last few years thanks to extensive work of commercial entities like Galois, FP Complete and Well-Typed. As a consequence, Haskell can be used to write production applications24.

Third, PureScript’s rapid evolution has provided a much needed bridge to the JavaScript world akin to what Clojurescript has given Clojure. We expect PureScript will be especially important when it comes to getting Cardano to work in a browser and developing mobile wallets.

Fourth, with respect to dependency resolution, Haskell in the last several years has enjoyed a significant social and technological effort led by technologists like Michael Snoyman through a platform called stackage that is both easy to use and well supported by FP Complete.

Fifth, beyond adequate dependency resolution, we aim for our software builds to be reproducible. In other words, with the same configuration values and dependency versions it should produce exactly the same build artifacts. Through stackage, we have been using NixOps to achieve reproducibility with great success.

Finally, the talent pool of developers specializing in Haskell is reasonably large — compared to its peers — and quite well-trained with the right mix of academic and industry credentials. It also acts as a competency filter as it is uncommon to find experienced Haskell developers without detailed knowledge of computer science.


24: Bryan O'Sullivan provides a nice talk about Haskell's industrial use here.

Last updated: July 17, 2020 11:40 UTC

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