Erlang killer app?

Chris Pressey <>
Sat Jul 20 22:44:27 CEST 2002

On Fri, 19 Jul 2002 16:21:04 -0700
"Alex Peake" <> wrote:

> Well, since you ask for a poll --
> I work on eCommerce systems.

I can chip in a bit here, since I've always thought of myself as far
outside of telecomm.

My main interest is in language design.  At my day job I work in the
retail/wholesale building materials industry (custom programmer - not much
more than a glorified DB admin.)

Distributed systems aren't critical to my job, but I feel they can really
help to get information from one person to another in an event-driven
fashion.  My big Erlang project at work is a program which interfaces with
the legacy point-of-sale system to track the status of orders and display
this information to users in real-time.

I don't really believe in killer apps... the next big thing is a myth. 
I'd rather make a living than make a killing  :)

But an enterprise resource planning / accounting / point-of-sale
application written in Erlang could be a very remarkable thing.  Partly
because of the inherent distribution of the problem, partly because Mnesia
is such a well designed database system (in terms of flexibility - being
able to store arbitrary structures and lambda functions in database record
fields, for example.  The data does not have to be entirely normalized,
and I think this is wonderful - coming up with the 'right' schema in most
database engines is a pain, I find.)

I think many people who are interested in distributed programming are
aware of Erlang - but they actually shun it - and I have no idea why. 
Perhaps it's because functional languages are "supposed" to have strong
typing.  Perhaps it's because distributed systems are "supposed" to be for
efficiency in massively parallel supercomputing problems.  I'm not sure.

But to me, Erlang is so nice, even if it didn't have distribution or even
message passing, I'd still use it for general-purpose programming,
scripting and so forth.  Of all the high-level languages I've used, Erlang
reminds me the most of Lego, and Lego was my favourite toy as a child.
(In comparison, Haskell and Java remind me of bricks and mortar, and Perl
and Python remind me of papier-mache' :)

Outside of my job, I've always been interested in the potential of Erlang
for online games (like MUDs.)  Does this count as groupware?  Not the
serious, productive kind of course :)


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