What Is Haskell Used For?

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Haskell Fields<br>
Haskell Fields<br>

Haskell is a high-level, statically-typed, purely functional programming language. But it is often seen as a language which is not used in production. Well, obviously we are using Haskell at ersocon, our CMS is powered by Haskell and since you are reading this article, it is used "in production". No a huge example, I know. So what else is Haskell used for?

Known for its strong emphasis on correctness, conciseness, and mathematical logic, Haskell offers a distinctive approach to software development. This article delves into the various applications and uses of Haskell in the modern programming landscape.

Theoretical and Educational Use

One of Haskell's primary uses has been in the academic and theoretical realms of computer science. Its basis in lambda calculus and strong type system make it an excellent tool for teaching concepts related to functional programming and type theory.

Haskell's pure functions – functions without side effects – provide a clear and straightforward way to teach the principles of function composition and data transformation. As such, it is often used in computer science curricula to introduce students to these advanced topics.

Data Analysis and Scientific Computing

Haskell's strong type system and lazy evaluation model make it a suitable choice for data analysis and scientific computing. In these fields, the correctness and robustness of the code can be critical. Haskell's type system helps in catching errors at compile time, reducing the risk of runtime errors in complex data processing.

Additionally, the language's support for concurrent and parallel programming allows for efficient handling of large datasets and computationally intensive tasks.

Financial Industry

The financial sector has shown a growing interest in Haskell, primarily due to its emphasis on code correctness and reliability. In areas such as risk management, algorithmic trading, and financial modeling, the accuracy and consistency of code are paramount.

Haskell's immutable data structures and pure functions help in maintaining consistency and predictability in financial applications, reducing the likelihood of costly errors.

Web Development

While not as common as languages like JavaScript or Python in web development, Haskell is used in this domain as well. Frameworks like Yesod, IHP, Servant and Snap enable developers to build robust and efficient web applications. The type safety and concise syntax of Haskell contribute to the development of secure and maintainable web services and APIs.

  1. IHP (Integrated Haskell Platform): IHP is the latest and most modern web framework for Haskell that aims to make web development simple, fast, and enjoyable. It provides an integrated development environment (IDE) specifically designed for Haskell, streamlining the development process. IHP focuses on productivity, offering features like automatic code reloading, a type-safe database query builder, and built-in support for common web development tasks. The framework is built on top of Haskell's strong type system, ensuring that many common web development errors are caught at compile time, thus enhancing the reliability and maintainability of web applications. IHP's approachable design and comprehensive tooling make it an attractive option for both newcomers and experienced Haskell developers looking to build web applications.
  2. Snap: Snap is a Haskell-based web framework known for its simplicity and performance. It provides a modular system where developers can choose from a range of libraries to suit their specific needs. Snap is designed to be flexible and efficient, making it suitable for anything from small personal projects to large, complex web applications. The framework includes a high-performance HTTP server and a templating language called Heist, which allows for clear separation of logic and presentation in web applications. Snap's emphasis on performance and modularity, combined with Haskell's type safety and functional programming features, make it a robust choice for web development projects.

Cryptocurrency and Blockchain

In recent years, Haskell has found a niche in the development of cryptocurrency and blockchain technologies. The Cardano blockchain, for example, is written in Haskell. The language's features, such as high-level abstractions and strong type safety, are advantageous in creating secure and reliable decentralized applications.

  1. Cardano: Cardano stands out as a prominent blockchain platform that extensively uses Haskell. Developed by IOHK (Input Output Hong Kong), Cardano aims to create a more secure and scalable blockchain. The choice of Haskell for Cardano's development is driven by the language's emphasis on security and high assurance code. Haskell's strong type system and mathematical underpinnings contribute to the creation of a robust and error-resistant platform, which is crucial in the blockchain domain where transactions are irreversible and security is paramount. Cardano leverages these strengths to offer advanced features such as smart contracts, which are essential for a wide range of decentralized applications.
  2. Plutus: Plutus is a smart contract platform developed by IOHK for the Cardano network. It provides a secure and robust environment for writing smart contracts on Cardano. Plutus is built using Haskell and provides a Haskell-based development environment. This allows developers to write high-assurance smart contracts with the tools and techniques familiar from Haskell. The use of Haskell in Plutus emphasizes the importance of correctness and security in the blockchain space, especially when dealing with smart contracts that handle valuable assets and sensitive data.

Both these examples demonstrate how Haskell's features, particularly its emphasis on type safety and functional purity, make it well-suited for blockchain and cryptocurrency applications where security, reliability, and correctness are of utmost importance.

Software Tools and Compilers

Haskell is often used in the development of software tools and compilers. Its ability to express complex operations concisely and its powerful type system make it an excellent choice for building tools that require high levels of correctness and reliability. GHC (Glasgow Haskell Compiler), the most widely used Haskell compiler, is itself written in Haskell.

  1. GHC (Glasgow Haskell Compiler): GHC is the most widely used Haskell compiler and serves as a prime example of Haskell's use in software tools and compilers. It is itself written in Haskell, showcasing the language's capability for creating complex and robust systems. GHC is known for its high performance, extensive optimizations, support for numerous extensions, and interactive programming environment through GHCi. It plays a crucial role in the Haskell ecosystem, not only as a compiler but also as a tool for research and development in programming language design.
  2. Elm Compiler: Elm is a functional programming language for front-end web development, with a syntax and design heavily influenced by Haskell. While Elm is a separate language, its compiler and core architecture exhibit Haskell's influence. The Elm compiler is known for its user-friendly error messages, which help developers quickly understand and fix issues in their code. Elm's architecture promotes reliability and maintainability in web application development, and its compiler plays a crucial role in translating Elm code into efficient JavaScript, enabling high-performance web applications with fewer runtime errors.

Both GHC and the Elm Compiler exemplify how Haskell's principles and concepts can be effectively applied in the development of compilers and software tools. GHC stands as a testament to Haskell's power in creating complex language tools, while the Elm Compiler reflects Haskell's influence in shaping tools that bring functional programming advantages to broader domains such as web development.


Haskell's unique characteristics, such as its pure functional nature, strong static typing, and emphasis on correctness, make it suitable for a range of applications, especially those where reliability and correctness are crucial.

So the next time someone askes you "What is Haskell used for?", you will have several examples at your disposal. Of course there are more, but putting them all in one article is not my goal here.

From educational purposes to practical applications in finance, web development, and scientific computing, Haskell continues to be a valuable tool in the programmer's toolkit. Its growing role in areas like blockchain technology further demonstrates its versatility and potential for future applications.

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