Why you can’t use only one functional language: Haskell vs. Erlang vs. Elixir

Haskell vs. Erlang vs. Elixir

An increasing number of developers today incorporate functional programming into their work, including enterprise-level software systems. Unfortunately, many large companies hesitate to adopt the functional programming paradigm on any meaningful scale, despite the opportunities it offers. 

What is functional programming?

Functional programming is a paradigm, a particular way of thinking about software development that is based on several defining principles:

  • Tying everything into pure mathematical functions. The goal is to find simple actions that can be abstracted into functions and then build more complex things from them.
  • Immutable data. You make changes to data by returning a new structure with correct values to reflect the change. In functional programming, developers require immutable changes because of the purity of functions. 
  • Declarative code. The focus is on what to solve, not how to do it. Functional programs must perform each task as if it were the first time without knowing what happened earlier in their execution.

Purely functional programming languages, such as Haskell, are specifically designed for this paradigm and accept only pure functions. And yes, every language is unique. 

Differences Between Functional Languages

Let’s quickly compare Elixir, Erlang, and Haskell to see which functional language suits your project best.

Elixir vs. Erlang

There are several differences between Elixir and Erlang:

  • The operators available in a language determines its versatility. A set of operators allows developers to achieve more by writing less code, making the programming language more versatile. Erlang is more versatile because it has more operators.
  • Programming languages that give developers freedom are powerful. You need more experienced Elixir developers who can use flexibility while following best practices. In Elixir, you can assign the same variable more than once, which is impossible in Erlang.
  • Elixir reduces errors by its design. It defines default values for any argument. In Erlang programming, there is no need to define default values.
  • Elixir offers better and more detailed documentation. Developers have better sources of information if they use Elixir.

For Elixir developers, the main framework is Phoenix. Although there are other frameworks, none are as well-known. Erlang developers can count on more well-established frameworks.

Haskell vs. Erlang

Both languages are popular on the market, but they are different:

  • Haskell is a strong static-typed functional programming language, while Erlang is dynamically typed.
  • Haskell has a more abstract concept associated with academic and mathematical environments, while Erlang is more pragmatic and used in development.
  • Haskell is a traditional general-purpose language with its purely functional aspect. Erlang is more suitable for distributed environments since it plays an important role in the development of applications and has fault tolerance.
  • Haskell is purely functional and does not fit in with the other paradigms. Erlang is a hybrid functional language with dynamic types based on the bytecode concept.
  • Haskell has a more concise syntax better suited for learning, while Erlang syntax is not easy to master.

Now, let’s compare Haskell and Elixir.

Haskell vs. Elixir

Differences between Haskell and Elixir are:

  • Haskell is helpful in research, running mathematical operations, and carrying out complex calculations, while Elixir is used for application development. For example, Pinterest uses fewer servers and is faster with Elixir.
  • Haskell is a language with static type, and the variables are checked at the time of compilation. Elixir has a dynamic type. All variable types are checked at code run-time instead of compilation time.
  • Safer code is comparatively better in Haskell than in Elixir.
  • Haskell can be difficult to learn at first, but Elixir is smooth and can be learned quickly.

Additionally, Elixir is used for backend and full-stack development. Many projects are scripted in Elixir, as it is one of the popular choices for backend development.

Conclusion

Each language is best suited for different tasks. If you need Elixir for your next project, consider hiring a subcontractor. Haskell, Erlang, and Elixir have advantages and disadvantages, but your needs might change over time. Getting a permanent functional developer on your team may be a good option while inviting a dedicated development team is an excellent support to speed up the accomplishment of your goals.

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