Introduction To Blockchain Programming Languages: Haskell

Haskell and Plutus are functional, secure languages, but their Web3 use is limited to the Cardano ecosystem.

Is Haskell worth learning?

While some smart contract languages can be used on multiple platforms (Solidity being the obvious example), others are restricted to a single ecosystem. Haskell is one such language. It's the programming language used to build Cardano, and the basis for Plutus, its native smart contract language.

Introduction To Blockchain Programming Languages: Solidity
Solidity was the first smart contract language, and remains the most widely-used, despite some downsides.

If you want to use smart contracts on Cardano, therefore, you'll need to know Haskell/Plutus.

About Haskell

Haskell was created in the 1980s and designed as a language for teaching, research, and industrial applications. It's what's known as a "functional programming language", which means it focuses on the functions rather than the processes followed to reach outputs.

Plutus is essentially a subset of Haskell, limiting it for greater simplicity and safety.

Why Use Haskell?

Haskell offers a high degree of mathematical functionality and rigor, which fits well with Cardano's approach of being a research-driven platform that values precision, reliability, and security. It's known as a clean, elegant programming language that reduces undesirable side-effects and bugs to a minimum.

One of the benefits of Haskell and Plutus is that they lend themselves well to formal verification. This is a process that involves mathematically checking the behavior of a system, ensuring that it works as intended. Such a level of accuracy and reassurance is helpful when dealing with financial protocols, where mistakes and vulnerabilities can be extremely costly.

Haskell supports concurrent programming, in the same way that Rust does on Solana. One of the advantages of this is that smart contracts may need to process multiple transactions at the same time. Concurrency also helps developers to write code that is more scalable and efficient.

Introduction To Blockchain Programming Languages: Rust
Rust is the default crypto programming language for Solana and a handful of other blockchain platforms.

A Difficult Language With A Limited Ecosystem

Despite its advantages, there are significant downsides to Haskell/Plutus.

Firstly, Haskell is a relatively difficult language to learn, and the functional programming paradigm may be a barrier to those who seek to make the transition from object-oriented languages.

Secondly, the only blockchain platform where Haskell will be of use is Cardano. Although Cardano is a popular blockchain with a large community, it still represents only a tiny fraction of the entire Web3 ecosystem, so starting out here will necessarily restrict developers. There are also fewer experienced devs who know their way around both Haskell and Web3, and less tooling, documentation, and support for beginners.

One final point is that Haskell's resource consumption is comparatively high, when judged against other blockchain languages. However, as Cardano only supports Haskell, and Haskell can only be used on Cardano, this may be irrelevant.

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