Importance of Functional Programming Techniques to Web Development

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Vanderbilt University
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Lambda calculus define the origin of the functional programming model while imperative programming contrasts the whole operation blueprint for functional programming. Functional programming in the field of computer science can be referred to as a paradigm in programming. Essentially, this is a particular design in which computer programs elements and structures are built. This paradigm has a way of treating mathematical computations as a functional evaluation, meaning that it tends to avoid both mutable data and a transitioning state. Its a mode of programming that embraces massive utility of expressions, this places it within the boundaries of a declarative paradigm within computer programming. When we look more into it, we realize that the value output at the end of a function solidly depends on the specific passed arguments. Taking an example where we call a function, f two times using the same value as that of another argument denoted by x would act to birth forth the same result as f(x) every moment (Hudak, p. 12). This contrasts the modules of procedures depending on the current state, whether global or local. Procedures are known to definitely produce varying results during several instances when called upon utilizing similar arguments however how different the program state may be.

To date, functional programming languages have been placed emphasis on in both commercial and academic development of software. The boundaries have greatly been made broad to encompass web development and other languages meant for server scripting. There have been several instances too in which functional programming was applied in languages that were not designed for the same. This is true for C++, C sharp and Java (Hudak, 16). Several constructs have been fabricated in with purpose to achieve the functional style in programming.

It is not easy to grasp all the skills needed for becoming an efficient web developer, especially in developing web services and applications. One has to learn beyond the usual HTML, CSS and JavaScript. HTML is a markup language which defines the specifications of content on any static or dynamic website. It achieves to display this content clearly and in an appealing form using CSS. CSS, an abbreviation for Cascading Style sheets achieves the purpose of making the content look more graphical and appealing. It defines how the browser ought to render the HTML parsed to it. At any stage in becoming a good web developer, mastering JavaScript presents itself as a tough task (Tilkov & Vinoski, p.80). Functional programming concepts are more applied in JavaScript than any other language in web development (Tilkov & Vinoski, p.80). I know that coming from an object oriented background may keep one asking on what specific benefits functional programming really holds for web development. This article focuses on bringing those benefits to light.

Learning object oriented principles such as encapsulation, inheritance, abstraction etc. might have taken thousands of hours to put into practice, but putting functional programming principles in web development is equally as important. Functional JavaScript may not have many libraries or even extensible tools available to it (Tilkov & Vinoski, p.81). However, the advent of Haskell within the dot NET platform has boosted the popularity of functional principles. JavaScript has imported numerous features and constructs from this. The prior repetitive JavaScript code that resulted to clumsy coding can be gotten rid of by utilizing functional programming (Tilkov & Vinoski, p.82). A functional style also allows one to put down code that bears more elegance. The emphasis effected by functional programming is to capture the why and what and not the how, this can be seen by the styles description of only the operations meant for performance on the inputs of the indicated programs without utilizing variables that are temporary for the immediate storage of results. Functional programming when we look at it, we realize emphasizes functional definitions rather than the state machine implementation posed by object oriented languages and procedural languages (Tilkov & Vinoski, p.83). The later also emphasize sequential command execution.

Large scale web applications are set to benefit fully from using functional programming principles since they simplify the development process entirely. Functional programming might however give a hard time to programmers with experience in using an imperative paradigm since it encompasses an entirely opposite means for composing together computer programs. Functional programming has other numerous advantages over imperative programming and these include: Due to the present mutation, functional programming presents an easier mode in parallelization plus an easier way of mathematical reasoning for computer programs. Many Object Oriented languages such as Java and python are still known to encourage imperative programming to date, and these outlines variations are good for knowledge (Tilkov & Vinoski, p.83).

Object oriented programming is more popular in windows toolkits and other stuff under invention, but functional programming has gained popularity recently since it encompasses numerous work that goes into processing data representing certain computer programs. This is exactly what the web requires especially with the dawn of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence is like a big ship that utilizes big data as its engine fuel. In this area functional programming is a big advantage especially since web data involves performing a lot of operations on the data acquired from a particular extend of variation. Artificial intelligence is known to gather most of its data from IoT, the internet of things consists of a particular extend of variation be it in temperature, time, weather etc. We can also see to it that in functional programming the computer program is tailored in such a way that it tends to every computation aspect as a mathematical function evaluation. This is not only good for artificial intelligence but online gaming too (Graunke et. all, p.122).

Haskell is one crude and powerful language that utilizes functional principles, Scala births forth an intermarriage of both worlds, functional and object oriented while Lisp has been indicated severally as the most common language that utilizes functional principles. Scheme is a language invented for academic purposes however with simple functions that are not useful at industrial scale in software development. Haskell is powerful enough, its only challenge is that it has not reached optimum popularity for it to be utilized extensively. These five languages define the current levels for which functional programming has become embedded into computer programs (Graunke et. all, p.125).

We have seen that the main aim of functional programming is not to define how to get what you want but rather to define exactly what you want. The web is a dynamic ocean in which everything keeps changing an instead of forming one for-loop bearing an iterative variable and using it to match each and every array, then later doing something to it, functional principles translate basic ideas of programming on the compiler such as caching and list comprehensions allowing us to find what we are looking for fast (Graunke et. all, p.128). This is due to the advantage offered by more concise code, precise in every step. As in the above example, functional programming will not come into create an iterative variable for the loops center thereby eliminating the codes various overheads.

Functional programming too offers concurrent support, the compiler here takes good care of its operations that would otherwise need one to manually set up all the state variables, this includes the iteration present in the loop (Graunke et. all, p.129). Web development involves coming up with back-end systems all the way from the simplified CRUD-RESTful-gateways all the way to databases and finally onto coordinated analytical systems and client-side scripts. Web development also involves coming up with single page applications that have the capacity to effect dynamic loading and view routing. In most cases most of these applications would need to compute varying business logics either on the client-side or on the serve-side. This would heavily rely on concurrent processing which is provided for by functional programming by virtue of its tools. Facebooks react framework is a perfect example of a framework that is massively influenced by the principles of functional programming. Facebook relies on Haskell for its operations, we cannot forget that too.

In conclusion, we know that being in possession of immutable data means that each request has the capacity of being served separately on the web. This principle of distributed computing or parallelization is what is at the core of web application perations. We have seen other advantages of functional programming apart from this one alone. We can also get cleaner API specifications with functional programming since all that needs to be described here are the functions outputs and inputs. The reusability of these principles is what shines more and adds a spark on the benefits of functional programming in web development.


Reference List.

Hudak, P., 2000. The Haskell school of expression: learning functional programming through multimedia. Cambridge University Press.

Graunke, P., Krishnamurthi, S., Van Der Hoeven, S. and Felleisen, M., 2001, April. Programming the web with high-level programming languages. In European symposium on programming (pp. 122-136). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Tilkov, S. and Vinoski, S., 2010. Node. js: Using JavaScript to build high-performance network programs. IEEE Internet Computing, 14(6), pp.80-83.


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