Functional programming is a type of programming model where the code is written that involves declaring and manipulating functions. The primary focus of functional programming is to create applications by combining basic functions and operations. It has been gaining popularity lately due to its unique approach to problem-solving. Functional programming emphasizes on performing computations using mathematical functions and completely avoids changing the state of the system.
Functional programming has a valuable programming paradigm that differs from the traditional imperative programming paradigm. Functional programming includes the following features:
One major advantage of functional programming over the traditional imperative programming approach lies in handling concurrency. Since functional programming doesn’t allow changing the state of the system, it means that the code in functional programming is free from race conditions that plague the conventional concurrent programming approach. Here are some of the benefits of functional programming:
As with any programming model, functional programming has some drawbacks or challenges that need to be considered, including:
Functional programming has several concepts that you should get familiar with if you are considering diving into this programming language. Here are some of the primary concepts:
Pure functions are the heart of functional programming. For a function to be pure, it should meet these two requirements:
Pure functions tend to be easy to test, and you can call them multiple times without affecting the program's results.
Immutability is critical in functional programming since variables do not change. The function need not provide or return any values rather than those you want, which will keep the code predictable and deterministic. As the name suggests, immutable objects or types cannot be mutated, for instance, by adding new attributes or changing existing ones.
In functional programming, programmers often use recursion, which is a technique whereby a function calls itself to solve a particular problem. Recursion allows breaking down complex tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Higher-order functions or HOFs, are functions that accept other functions as arguments or return a function as a result. The primary advantage of using HOFs is that they can promote code reusability and even help reduce the amount of boilerplate code. For instance, you can create a generic function that computes the total price of an array of goods despite their relative prices.
Currying is a technique that involves transforming higher-order functions that take multiple arguments into a series of functions with each taking a single parameter. Curried functions often yield partial application, which allows you to reuse code and create new functions on the fly by passing a single argument. When coupled with higher-order functions and functional composition, currying can massively reduce the amount of code you write while boosting code readability.
Functional programming is fast becoming a mainstream programming paradigm in the industry, particularly in companies that require greater scalability, particularly those with a higher demand for big data and the internet of things (IoT). Here are some of the real-world examples of functional programming:
WhatsApp is the world's most prominent instant messaging app, with well over a billion users worldwide. The application is built entirely with Erlang, a functional programming language. Erlang provides excellent support for building large distributed systems, and it has been documented that WhatsApp uses this programming language to handle about 50 billion messages per day.
Facebook has been a strong advocate of functional programming, which reflects in their choice of languages. For instance, Facebook's lightweight machine learning library called Prophet is written in R, a functional programming language. Facebook also plays a huge role in the development of the React.js web framework, which is a prominent example of functional programming.
Netflix has been a pioneer in the usage of functional programming, and they've contributed massively to Scala, one of the most prominent functional languages. According to a Netflix survey, more than 20% of the company's back-end services are written in the Scala language.
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