Team, Visitors, External Collaborators
Overall Objectives
Research Program
Application Domains
New Software and Platforms
New Results
Bilateral Contracts and Grants with Industry
Partnerships and Cooperations
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Section: Overall Objectives

Design, implementation, and evolution of OCaml

Our group's expertise in programming language design, formalization and implementation has traditionally been focused mainly on the programming language OCaml [22]. OCaml can be described as a high-level statically-typed general-purpose programming language. Its main features include first-class functions, algebraic data structures and pattern matching, automatic memory management, support for traditional imperative programming (mutable state, exceptions), and support for modularity and encapsulation (abstract types; modules and functors; objects and classes).

OCaml meets most of the key criteria that we have put forth above. Thanks to its static type discipline, which rejects unsafe programs, it is safe. Because its type system is equipped with powerful features, such as polymorphism, abstract types, and type inference, it is expressive, modular, and concise. Although OCaml as a whole does not have a formal semantics, many fragments of it have been formally studied in isolation. As a result, we believe that OCaml is a good language in which to develop complex software components and software systems and (possibly) to verify that they are correct.

OCaml has long served a dual role as a vehicle for our programming language research and as a mature real-world programming language. This remains true today, and we wish to preserve this dual role. On the research side, there are many directions in which the language could be extended. On the applied side, OCaml is used within academia (for research and for teaching) and in the industry. It is maintained by a community of active contributors, which extends beyond our team at Inria. It comes with a package manager, opam, a rich ecosystem of libraries, and a set of programming tools, including an IDE (Merlin), support for debugging and performance profiling, etc.

OCaml has been used to develop many complex systems, such as proof assistants (Coq, HOL Light), automated theorem provers (Alt-Ergo, Zenon), program verification tools (Why3), static analysis engines (Astrée, Frama-C, Infer, Flow), programming languages and compilers (SCADE, Reason, Hack), Web servers (Ocsigen), operating systems (MirageOS, Docker), financial systems (at companies such as Jane Street, LexiFi, Nomadic Labs), and so on.