F# Foundation: Taking Microsoft's F# Language to a Higher Ground

The F# Foundation, a fledgling group of F# aficionados, is aimed at extending the popularity of Microsoft’s F# functional programming language for a variety of uses.

A group of software developers dedicated to the F# functional programming language has banded together to form the F# Foundation to advance the language in the enterprise and beyond.

According to the foundation’s Web page, the F# Software Foundation (FSSF) exists to promote, protect, and advance F#, and to support and foster the growth of a diverse international community of F# users. The group formed in November and is just beginning to get off the ground.

The FSSF maintains a core open-source F# code repository and distributions made available to the public free of charge for use across multiple platforms, the foundation said. This includes the F# compiler, F# language specification, the F# core library and assorted tools and applications.

The F# language came out of Microsoft Research Cambridge in the U.K., designed by Microsoft researcher Don Syme. Microsoft began talking publicly about the project as early as 2003. An FAQ on the Microsoft Research site at the time said: "F# is an implementation of the core of the CAML programming language for the .NET Framework, along with cross-language extensions. The aim is to have it work together seamlessly with C#, Visual Basic, SML.NET and other .NET programming languages."

F# is meant to bridge the best of the functional, imperative, object-oriented and typed-classed languages, Microsoft said at the time. And they stuck to that goal, eventually releasing F# as one of Microsoft’s core languages and open-sourcing it.

F# is a strongly-typed, functional-first programming language for writing simple code to solve complex problem, the FSSF says. Functional programming is a programming paradigm that treats computation as the evaluation of mathematical functions and avoids state and mutable data.

“From the business perspective, the primary role of F# is to reduce the time to deployment for analytical software components in the modern enterprise,” a description on the foundation’s site said. “Its interoperability with all .NET languages and libraries and its ability to tackle the complexity of components such as calculation engines and data-rich analytical services offer a compelling story for businesses.”

Also, according to the FSSF:

“Modern programming thrives on rich spaces of data, information, and services. The latest version of F# (3.0) greatly simplifies information-rich analytical programming through the addition of F# Information Rich Programming, consisting of F# LINQ Queries, the F# Type Provider mechanism, and a set of built-in type providers for enterprise and web data standards. F# is a first-class language on a number of platforms including Mac and Linux (with tool support in MonoDevelop, Emacs and other) and Windows (with Visual Studio) as well as on mobile devices and on the web using HTML5.”

Gene Belitski, a software developer with a passion for functional programming and FSSF member, said the main goal of the F# Foundation is to “promote F# beyond the .NET/Microsoft realm, which is, in my opinion, a bit too narrow for such a wonderful tool as F#.”

Jon Harrop, an FSSF member and co-founder of Flying Frog Consultancy, a technology firm specializing in the use of technical computing in science, engineering and finance using F#, OCaml, Mathematica and C#, said he too wants to see F# succeed beyond the Microsoft tools stack.