Battleground: Functional Programming – Haskell vs. Erlang

Have you ever considered the contrasting features of Haskell and Erlang? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these two powerful functional programming languages? And how do they perform in real-life applications? These questions not only illustrate the complexity of the eternal war amongst programming languages but also pose valid concerns for programmers contemplating their choice of language.

There has been a significant debate in the programming world surrounding the choice between Haskell and Erlang. As per IEEE Spectrum (2020) and InfoWorld (2021), the main problem lies in the inherent differences in their paradigms: Haskell is lauded for its expressive and mathematically elegant code, while Erlang gains its popularity from concurrency handling and fault tolerance skills. Further analyzing this conflict, it becomes clear that the competition is directly linked to the unique requisites of various business domains and personal coding preferences. Consequently, the need to make an informed decision has never been so crucial.

In this article, you will learn about Haskell and Erlang as separate entities – exploring their characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses. Parallelly, it will also delve into comparing and contrasting their features, including syntax, type systems, concurrency, and garbage collection, to provide a clearer perspective.

As a bonus, this article will also offer insights from industry experts, presenting real-world scenarios where either of the two languages emerged victorious. This comprehensive analysis will help you decipher and decide which language plays a better suit for your specific programming needs.

Battleground: Functional Programming – Haskell vs. Erlang

Definitions and Understanding: Haskell vs. Erlang

Haskell is a standardized, general-purpose pure functional programming language, with non-strict semantics and strong static typing. It places strong emphasis on purity, allowing developers to create highly abstract and concise applications.

Erlang on the other hand is a general-purpose, concurrent, functional programming language, as well as a garbage-collected runtime system. It’s designed for developing robust systems that continue to function despite errors.

Fire and Ice: Why Haskell is the Dragon and Erlang is the Night King in the Functional Programming Battle

Strengths and Features of Haskell

An unequivocal titan in the realm of functional programming, Haskell reigns with its heavy emphasis on static typing and pure functions. What sets Haskell apart is its ability to write high-level abstractions with ease. With Haskell, you canvas the bigger picture and write a program that taps directly into a mathematically driven way of constructing it. It, therefore, makes error handling more manageable, making Haskell a preferred choice for critical systems handling massive data.

Haskell’s lazy evaluation is another compelling trait. It only computes what is glaringly necessary, making computation exceedingly efficient. Moreover, its strong type safety minimizes the chances of runtime errors, which subsequently enhances the reliability of a system developed in Haskell. Furthermore, the ability to create domain-specific languages within Haskell adds to its flexibility, while monad for I/O operations maintains purity in functional programming against all odds.

Erlang: The Powerhouse of Concurrency

Bearing its roots in telecommunications, Erlang has robust tools for creating distributed, fault-tolerant systems becoming a premium choice for multi-core and distributed systems. It relies predominantly on the Actor model of computation which runs isolated lightweight processes that communicate via message passing. This paradigms’ core strength lies in its execution that guarantees no shared state and hence, no menacing race conditions.

Here are some of the notable features of Erlang:

  • It offers hot-swapping, an ability vital for telecom systems where the aim is near-zero downtime.
  • Erlang’s preemptive scheduler ensures that processes get an equal share of CPU time. This aspect is of great importance in real-time systems.
  • Erlang’s process creation and message passing are extremely cheap, allowing millions of processes to exist at the same time.

As we pit Haskell and Erlang against each other, we uncover their strengths, features, and possible applications. Whilst Haskell provides a rigorous framework structure for developing large and complex software applications, Erlang excels at running concurrent processes. Each exhibits its respective strength in the world of functional programming, fuelling the contest for supremacy. However, the crucial fact that emerges is that the best language choice will always depend on the specific task, project scale, and other requirements.

Spar in the Cyberspace: Haskell and Erlang Trade Blows in the Functional Programming Arena

A Thought-provoking Encounter: Haskell vs. Erlang

Isn’t it intriguing, how two entirely individual languages, both under the same functional programming realm, can stir up such an intense discourse? The dual between Haskell and Erlang is far from a shallow comparison of trivial technicalities. Rather, it delves deep into the foundation of functional programming, unearthing the profound implications of choosing one over the other. Haskell, a purely functional programming language, implements lazy evaluation as its core idea to optimize computation, while Erlang, initially conceived for real-time systems, is known for its robust, fault-tolerant design and hot swapping capacity.

The Core Conundrum in Choosing a Functional Language

The crux of the Scala-versus-Erlang battle rests on a fundamental paradox. On one hand, we have Haskell, a language that guarantees every expression’s consistency by not involving state or mutable data. It revolutionizes the way programmers construct optimized algorithms with its lack of side-effects and mathematical computation assurances. On the other hand, we have Erlang, famed for its suitability for concurrent programming, as it allows processes to operate independently without shared memory, maintaining constant communication through message passing. It’s a significant dilemma: should you prioritize the mathematical certainty of Haskell or the systemic robustness of Erlang?

Exemplifying Superior Tactics in the Functional Realm

Leading examples from both academia and industry illuminate the strengths and applicability of these languages. Haskell’s prowess can be seen in Cardano, a proof-of-stake blockchain platform utilizing Haskell’s high assurance properties to build a secure, decentralized infrastructure. On the flip side, Erlang’s capabilities shine through in the telecom sector – a prime example being WhatsApp, which handled 54 billion messages a day in 2014 using Erlang technology. These cases underline the idea that the choice between Haskell and Erlang isn’t a simplistic binary; each language provides unique benefits tailored to the project’s needs. To harness the maximum potential, one must understand their project’s requirements, analyzing areas like the need for concurrent programming or data consistency requirements, before making an informed decision.

Storm of Swords: Haskell and Erlang Clash in the realm of Functional Programming

The Battle of Supremacy: Who Takes the Crown?

Is it really possible to determine a winner in the unfoldment of Haskell vs Erlang in the field of functional programming? The crux of the matter is, both languages have their unique strengths and weaknesses, and their supremacy stake is often a matter of the specific use case at hand. By virtue of its strong static type system, Haskell emerges as a power player when it comes to creating safe, reliable, and maintainable code. On the flip side of the coin, Erlang takes the baton in the realm of concurrent and distributed systems – its hot swapping capability means systems can remain up and running while software updates are being executed. Though, Haskell’s quick type-checking and eventual bug reduction make some lean towards it, Erlang’s strength in dealing with real-time and distributed systems—a characteristic essential in today’s heavily interconnected world—cannot be discounted.

Encountering the Challenges: Squaring off on the Problem front

Despite these individual strengths exhibited by Haskell and Erlang in the landscape of functional programming languages, they are not without shortcomings. One of Haskell’s significant hindrances is its steep learning curve as some concepts such as monads can prove quite complex for beginners, thereby creating an entry barrier. Accordingly, this can affect the pace and ease of software development. Similarly, for Erlang, although it majestically handles distributed and concurrent systems, it struggles with computationally intensive tasks. This is largely due to its design emphasis on fault-tolerance and concurrency, which compromises on execution speed.

Unearthing Best Practices: A Model for Success

Given these scenarios, it is of utmost importance to find the balance between the languages, maximising their strengths while minimizing weaknesses. For Haskell, best practices often involve rigorously applying its type-checking capabilities to ensure safe and predictable code. This involves making elaborate use of its strong static typing and pure functional nature. For instance, Facebook’s anti-spam system effectively utilizes Haskell’s type system to detect and respond quickly to new threats. In Erlang’s case, OTP—a set of Erlang libraries and design principles—helps streamline development of robust, fault-tolerant applications. A classic example is WhatsApp’s use of Erlang for handling billions of messages a day across distributed servers while maintaining impressive uptimes. Then follow the demonstrated practices to ensure optimal use of each language, depending upon the intended requirement and thereby, the appropriate functional programming language.


Why should you choose between Haskell and Erlang, when you can reap the benefits of both? This question often triggers a thought-provoking conversation about the true essence of functional programming. Both languages offer a robust platform for developers solving complex problems with starkly different philosophies. While Haskell fits perfectly for mathematicians and researchers due to its mathematical nature and robust type system, Erlang is widely used in industries for handling highly concurrent, distributed, fault-tolerant systems. The choice highly depends on the problem you’re trying to solve, your personal preference, or the framework you’re comfortable with.

We encourage you to stay connected with our blog and become a part of this exciting discussion. This platform has been an eye-opener for countless tech enthusiasts, providing a wealth of knowledge in an easily digestible format. We continually strive to make complex concepts accessible to all through our regular posts and discussions. Your continued support and feedback help us to make the content more relevant and comprehensive. Stay tuned, because our journey in unearthing the technical world has many more miles to go.

Now, with the promise of more thrilling and informative sessions, we would like to unveil our upcoming series of releases. These will not only dive deeper into the realms of Haskell and Erlang but also encompass wider prospectives in the field of functional programming. We believe that knowledge is a voyage that never ends and as we set sail for our next phase, we invite you to come aboard. With this quest, we continue our commitment to make learning an exhilarating experience for you. So keep an eye out as exciting new discussions and debates are coming your way soon.


Q1: What is functional programming?
Functional programming refers to a programming paradigm where programs are constructed by applying and composing functions. It is known for its high-level abstractions, pure functions, and avoidance of mutable state.

Q2: Can you explain what Haskell is?
Haskell is one of the leading languages in functional programming. It is known for its high degree of flexibility, and its ability to create abstract and concise code through lazy evaluation and type inference.

Q3: What sort of applications are typically developed in Haskell?
Haskell is widely used in research, industry, teaching, and applications demanding high reliability. Common applications include web servers, compilers, data analysis tools, and even video games.

Q4: How does Erlang differ from Haskell?
Erlang is a functional programming language like Haskell but it puts a strong emphasis on concurrent systems. It is designed for systems with requirements of massive scalability and high availability, such as telecom and web applications.

Q5: Why would one choose to use Erlang over Haskell, or vice versa?
The choice between Erlang and Haskell would depend on the specific requirements and constraints of your project. Haskell might be preferred for its mathematical purity and powerful type system, while Erlang may be more suitable for distributed, concurrent, and fault-tolerant systems.