Microsoft F# Hits All the Right Notes With Programmers

Microsoft's F# functional language has cracked the TIOBE Index of the top 20 most popular programming languages.

Microsoft's F# programming language has seen a significant boost in popularity, most likely spurred by its inclusion in the company's flagship Visual Studio tools suite.

August marked the first time F# cracked the top 20 of the TIOBE Index, which ranks the popularity of programming languages based on the number of developers who claim to use them. F# came in as the 19th most popular programming language according to the August 2011 TIOBE Index.

F# is a functional language that came out of Microsoft Research (MSR). The language came on the scene in 2007, though Microsoft researcher Don Syme had launched the project many years earlier. Microsoft describes F# as a succinct, expressive and efficient functional and object-oriented language for .NET that helps developers write simple code to solve complex problems.

As described on its Microsoft Research page, F# is: "A simple and pragmatic language, and has particular strengths in data-oriented programming, parallel I/O programming, parallel CPU programming, scripting and algorithmic development. It lets you access a huge .NET library and tools base and comes with a strong set of Visual Studio development tools. F# combines the advantages of typed functional programming with a high-quality, well-supported modern runtime system."

In a blurb on F#, TIOBE said: "Finally, a new functional programming language has hit the top 20. Most people thought that hot functional languages such as Scala (#66), Clojure (#107), Haskell (#35) or Erlang (#48) would be the ones that would be the first to compete seriously with the mother of all functional languages, Lisp. But it appears to be Microsoft language F#. The recent rise in popularity of F# comes as no surprise. Apart from being a nicely designed language, F# is available in the latest version of Microsoft's Visual Studio (2010)."

S. Somasegar, senior vice president of Microsoft's Developer Division, has blogged about F# on various occasions. In this post, Somasegar notes that Visual Studio 2010 marks the first release to directly support functional programming through the F# programming language. Somasegar said:

"F# is a highly productive .NET programming language combining functional programming and object-oriented programming, and is ideally suited for parallel, algorithmic, technical and explorative development. F# is the result of a close partnership between Microsoft Research and the Visual Studio team, and since announcing F# in Visual Studio 2010 we've seen a surge of interest and uptake in the language. We've also worked closely with the F# community and major adopters to ensure it meets the needs of professional software developers working in these domains."

Meanwhile, in an older post, Somasegar said, "In my mind, F# is another first-class programming language on the CLR [Microsoft's Common Language Runtime]."

He also said:

"Our interest in F# is motivated by several factors. We aim to continue the flow of good ideas from the functional programming world into mainstream development. Furthermore, the somewhat mathematical slant of functional programming just seems naturally appealing to professionals whose primary domain is described with mathematical notation-domains such as financial, scientific and technical computing."