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Clojure vs Haskell: What are the differences?

Introduction

Clojure and Haskell are two popular functional programming languages that have gained significant traction in the software development community. While both languages share some similarities, there are several key differences that set them apart. In this article, we will explore and compare the main differences between Clojure and Haskell.

  1. Type Systems: One of the primary differences between Clojure and Haskell lies in their type systems. Clojure is dynamically typed, which means that the type of a variable is determined at runtime. This provides flexibility but can lead to potential errors if types are not carefully handled. On the other hand, Haskell has a strong, statically typed system that helps catch type errors at compile-time. This results in increased safety and reliability when writing code.

  2. Concurrency: Clojure and Haskell also differ in their approaches to concurrency. Clojure provides built-in concurrency primitives, such as agents, atoms, and refs, which make it easy to write concurrent code and handle mutable state. Haskell, on the other hand, takes a different approach with its pure functional paradigm. It encourages immutable data structures and relies on the concept of Software Transactional Memory (STM) for handling concurrent operations.

  3. Language Philosophy: Clojure and Haskell have different design philosophies. Clojure emphasizes simplicity, immutability, and ease of integration with existing Java code. It is designed to be a practical and productive language for building robust applications. Haskell, on the other hand, focuses on purity, strong static typing, and equational reasoning. It aims to provide a highly expressive and mathematically sound language for writing correct and efficient code.

  4. Syntax and Expressiveness: Another notable difference between Clojure and Haskell is their syntax and expressiveness. Clojure uses Lisp-like syntax with its parentheses-heavy notation, which can be off-putting to developers accustomed to more traditional languages. However, it offers powerful macros and expressive features that enable concise and elegant code. Haskell, on the other hand, has a more traditional syntax with pattern matching and algebraic data types that allow for rich and expressive code.

  5. Interoperability: Clojure and Haskell differ in their approach to interoperability with other programming languages. Clojure is known for its seamless integration with Java, allowing developers to leverage existing Java libraries and frameworks. This makes it suitable for building applications within the Java ecosystem. In contrast, Haskell has its own standalone ecosystem with its package manager, Cabal, and provides FFI (Foreign Function Interface) for interop with other languages. This makes it more self-contained but may require additional effort for integrating with existing libraries.

  6. Learning Curve: Finally, the learning curve for Clojure and Haskell varies. Clojure has a relatively gentle learning curve, especially for developers familiar with Lisp-like syntax. It embraces simplicity and provides a friendly and approachable environment for newcomers. Haskell, on the other hand, has a steeper learning curve due to its advanced type system and functional concepts. It requires a deeper understanding of monads, type classes, and other advanced language features. However, once mastered, Haskell can provide a powerful toolkit for writing concise and elegant code.

In summary, Clojure and Haskell differ in their type systems, approaches to concurrency, language philosophies, syntax and expressiveness, interoperability with other languages, and learning curves. Each language brings its own strengths and considerations, making it important to choose the one that aligns with the specific requirements and goals of your project.

Advice on Clojure and Haskell
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ClojureClojure
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ScalaScala

Basically, I am looking for a good language that compiles to Java and JavaScript(and can use their libraries/frameworks). These JVM languages seem good to me, but I have no interest in Android. Which programming language is the best of these? I am looking for one with high money and something functional.

Edit: Kotlin was originally on this list but I removed it since I had no interest in Android

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Replies (3)
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ScalaScala

Clojure is a Lisp dialect, so if you like Lisp that's probably the way to go. Scala is more popular and broadly used, and has a larger job market especially for data engineering. Both are functional but Scala is more interoperable with Java libraries, probably a big factor in its popularity. I prefer Scala for a number of reasons, but in terms of jobs Scala is the clear leader.

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ScalaScala

Scala has more momentum. It is good for back-end programming. The popular big data framework Spark is written in Scala. Spark is a marketable skill.

If you need to program something very dynamic like old school A.I., Clojure is attractive. You would chose Scala if prefer a statically typed language, and Clojure if you prefer a dynamically typed language.

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ivanopagano
Senior Consultant at scalac.io · | 1 upvotes · 27.5K views
Recommends

It's not clear exactly what you mean by "high money", you mean financial support to the language, money paid for a job, economic health of the market the language is positioned on?

In any case, it's very hard to give any advice here, since you'd need to provide details on the intended usage, what sector, kind of product/service, team size, potential customer type... Both languages are very general purpose and decently supported, each have its own pros and cons, both are functional as approach, and neither is really mainstream.

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Decisions about Clojure and Haskell

We’re a new startup so we need to be able to deliver quick changes as we find our product market fit. We’ve also got to ensure that we’re moving money safely, and keeping perfect records. The technologies we’ve chosen mix mature but well maintained frameworks like Django, with modern web-first and api-first front ends like GraphQL, NextJS, and Chakra. We use a little Golang sparingly in our backend to ensure that when we interact with financial services, we do so with statically compiled, strongly typed, and strictly limited and reviewed code.

You can read all about it in our linked blog post.

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Timm Stelzer
VP Of Engineering at Flexperto GmbH · | 18 upvotes · 590.9K views

We have a lot of experience in JavaScript, writing our services in NodeJS allows developers to transition to the back end without any friction, without having to learn a new language. There is also the option to write services in TypeScript, which adds an expressive type layer. The semi-shared ecosystem between front and back end is nice as well, though specifically NodeJS libraries sometimes suffer in quality, compared to other major languages.

As for why we didn't pick the other languages, most of it comes down to "personal preference" and historically grown code bases, but let's do some post-hoc deduction:

Go is a practical choice, reasonably easy to learn, but until we find performance issues with our NodeJS stack, there is simply no reason to switch. The benefits of using NodeJS so far outweigh those of picking Go. This might change in the future.

PHP is a language we're still using in big parts of our system, and are still sometimes writing new code in. Modern PHP has fixed some of its issues, and probably has the fastest development cycle time, but it suffers around modelling complex asynchronous tasks, and (on a personal note) lack of support for writing in a functional style.

We don't use Python, Elixir or Ruby, mostly because of personal preference and for historic reasons.

Rust, though I personally love and use it in my projects, would require us to specifically hire for that, as the learning curve is quite steep. Its web ecosystem is OK by now (see https://www.arewewebyet.org/), but in my opinion, it is still no where near that of the other web languages. In other words, we are not willing to pay the price for playing this innovation card.

Haskell, as with Rust, I personally adore, but is simply too esoteric for us. There are problem domains where it shines, ours is not one of them.

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Pros of Clojure
Pros of Haskell
  • 117
    It is a lisp
  • 100
    Persistent data structures
  • 100
    Concise syntax
  • 90
    jvm-based language
  • 89
    Concurrency
  • 81
    Interactive repl
  • 76
    Code is data
  • 61
    Open source
  • 61
    Lazy data structures
  • 57
    Macros
  • 49
    Functional
  • 23
    Simplistic
  • 22
    Immutable by default
  • 20
    Excellent collections
  • 19
    Fast-growing community
  • 15
    Multiple host languages
  • 15
    Simple (not easy!)
  • 15
    Practical Lisp
  • 10
    Because it's really fun to use
  • 10
    Addictive
  • 9
    Community
  • 9
    Web friendly
  • 9
    Rapid development
  • 9
    It creates Reusable code
  • 8
    Minimalist
  • 6
    Programmable programming language
  • 6
    Java interop
  • 5
    Regained interest in programming
  • 4
    Compiles to JavaScript
  • 3
    Share a lot of code with clojurescript/use on frontend
  • 3
    EDN
  • 1
    Clojurescript
  • 90
    Purely-functional programming
  • 66
    Statically typed
  • 59
    Type-safe
  • 39
    Open source
  • 38
    Great community
  • 31
    Built-in concurrency
  • 30
    Built-in parallelism
  • 30
    Composable
  • 24
    Referentially transparent
  • 20
    Generics
  • 15
    Intellectual satisfaction
  • 15
    Type inference
  • 12
    If it compiles, it's correct
  • 8
    Monads
  • 8
    Flexible
  • 5
    Great type system
  • 4
    Purely-functional Programming
  • 4
    One of the most powerful languages *(see blub paradox)*
  • 4
    Proposition testing with QuickCheck
  • 3
    Reliable
  • 3
    Pattern matching and completeness checking
  • 3
    Great maintainability of the code
  • 3
    Fun
  • 3
    Highly expressive, type-safe, fast development time
  • 2
    Best in class thinking tool
  • 2
    Kind system
  • 2
    Better type-safe than sorry
  • 2
    Type classes
  • 1
    Predictable
  • 1
    Orthogonality

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Cons of Clojure
Cons of Haskell
  • 11
    Cryptic stacktraces
  • 5
    Need to wrap basically every java lib
  • 4
    Toxic community
  • 3
    Good code heavily relies on local conventions
  • 3
    Tonns of abandonware
  • 3
    Slow application startup
  • 1
    Usable only with REPL
  • 1
    Hiring issues
  • 1
    It's a lisp
  • 1
    Bad documented libs
  • 1
    Macros are overused by devs
  • 1
    Tricky profiling
  • 1
    IDE with high learning curve
  • 1
    Configuration bolierplate
  • 1
    Conservative community
  • 0
    Have no good and fast fmt
  • 9
    Too much distraction in language extensions
  • 8
    Error messages can be very confusing
  • 5
    Libraries have poor documentation
  • 3
    No good ABI
  • 3
    No best practices
  • 2
    Poor packaging for apps written in it for Linux distros
  • 2
    Sometimes performance is unpredictable
  • 1
    Slow compilation
  • 1
    Monads are hard to understand

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What is Clojure?

Clojure is designed to be a general-purpose language, combining the approachability and interactive development of a scripting language with an efficient and robust infrastructure for multithreaded programming. Clojure is a compiled language - it compiles directly to JVM bytecode, yet remains completely dynamic. Clojure is a dialect of Lisp, and shares with Lisp the code-as-data philosophy and a powerful macro system.

What is Haskell?

It is a general purpose language that can be used in any domain and use case, it is ideally suited for proprietary business logic and data analysis, fast prototyping and enhancing existing software environments with correct code, performance and scalability.

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What are some alternatives to Clojure and Haskell?
Scala
Scala is an acronym for “Scalable Language”. This means that Scala grows with you. You can play with it by typing one-line expressions and observing the results. But you can also rely on it for large mission critical systems, as many companies, including Twitter, LinkedIn, or Intel do. To some, Scala feels like a scripting language. Its syntax is concise and low ceremony; its types get out of the way because the compiler can infer them.
Common Lisp
Lisp was originally created as a practical mathematical notation for computer programs, influenced by the notation of Alonzo Church's lambda calculus. It quickly became the favored programming language for artificial intelligence (AI) research. As one of the earliest programming languages, Lisp pioneered many ideas in computer science, including tree data structures, automatic storage management, dynamic typing, conditionals, higher-order functions, recursion, and the self-hosting compiler. [source: wikipedia]
Elixir
Elixir leverages the Erlang VM, known for running low-latency, distributed and fault-tolerant systems, while also being successfully used in web development and the embedded software domain.
Julia
Julia is a high-level, high-performance dynamic programming language for technical computing, with syntax that is familiar to users of other technical computing environments. It provides a sophisticated compiler, distributed parallel execution, numerical accuracy, and an extensive mathematical function library.
Erlang
Some of Erlang's uses are in telecoms, banking, e-commerce, computer telephony and instant messaging. Erlang's runtime system has built-in support for concurrency, distribution and fault tolerance. OTP is set of Erlang libraries and design principles providing middle-ware to develop these systems.
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