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Functional Programming vs OOP: Which is Best for You?

Paul Larkin - November 23, 2022

When you start planning on in-house programming for your business, you have two different programming techniques from which to choose, and the one you select will impact your products and development. Both approaches, object-oriented programming (OOP) languages and functional programming languages are popular and have plenty of proponents. In the object oriented programming vs functional programming debate, knowledge is key. If you take the time to learn about the philosophies behind OOP vs functional programming, you can make an informed decision.

This guide will help you get better acquainted with these two coding paradigms and pick the right one for your company’s needs. The choice isn’t as simple as functional vs object oriented; both concepts are time-tested and effective. For example, you might need to use an OOP approach in one area and move to functional programming. With our assistance, you’ll be able to recognize which technique suits your setup and can create a winning and profitable software development plan.

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How Does Object-Oriented Programming Work?

A developer working with objects makes us a happy coder.

When backend developers sit down for job interviews , they’re ready to answer tons of questions about OOP. Why do they focus on OOP? Because backend development is often the story of crossing boundaries. When you work with applications that risk client-side exposure or require data encapsulation of any kind, OOP is the way to go. One of OOP’s primary tenets is to prevent outsiders from gaining unauthorized access to data, and it accomplishes that by encapsulating data and cordoning off ideas into silos.

OOP conceals variables within a class, and that makes it ideal for security apps in general. Because OOP gives programmers the ability to manage states and section off code, it forces modularity and creates a safety barrier around methods. The methods process object instances and act as state access points. As a result, sensitive data remains out of reach of folks who might try to access it for malicious means.

Let’s Talk Functional Programming

Functional Programming, what’s your function?

OOP is the king of the back end and perfect for security apps, but a functional language approach shines for other tasks.  Many tasks do well with a functional technique, which is a venerable approach that dates as far back as the 1930s. If you work with unchanging values such as in mathematical calculations, you might do well using a functional philosophy in your programming. It’s great for folks with lower security concerns and a desire to produce solid and reliable apps.

Functional programming’s primary concern is with flow—the app receives input data on one side, processes that data, and spits out the result on the other side. Unlike OOP, functional programming is stateless and has no objects or cordons to impact operational speed. Functional programming went from being the all-time champ to the runner-up methodology in the past few decades. But the popularity of JavaScript, which sticks more closely to a functional model than an OOP one, has caused a functional programming resurgence in recent years.

Which Programming Languages Do They Support?

A cornucopia of languages, ready for sorting.

Okay, so we now have a better understanding of how functional programming and OOP differ in their philosophies. What does that mean to the real programming world? Do languages fall under one method or the other? Which are the most popular languages for each approach? Relax, my friend. We’ve got lots of examples of programming languages for both OOP and functional techniques.

As you might expect from its emphasis on security and segmentation, there are tons of popular object oriented languages floating around today. Dart, Perl, Ruby, PHP, C#, C++, Java, Objective-C, Python, Lisp, and Swift are all object-oriented languages and are favorites of developers of all stripes. Functional programming is the home of lots of domain-specific and data-science languages including Wolfram, Haskell, R, Erlang, Clojure, and F#. If you analyze data, chances are you do so with a functional language.

Can I Use Both Models Together?

You can’t make some colors unless you mix paints. Same with development.

Up to now, we’ve treated functional programming and OOP as separate beasts, as if we were talking about a man and a horse. (Stay with me.) But some methods use a hybrid approach and mix the two philosophies to create blends of the two, like a centaur. (See? It was worth it.) There are plenty of coding approaches knocking about that do a little mixing and matching and build the best of both worlds. This philosophy offers flexibility and security to your development environment.

The beauty of a combined OOP and functional technique is how easy it makes it for your development team to adjust to different environments. Using a hybrid approach leaves you free to apply functional programming to objects that require a data-driven method, and OOP lets you keep and maintain those objects in a secure environment that’s free from potential infiltration or accidental access. Your business might require a hybrid environment, but it’s a powerful option to keep in mind.

So there you go, you awesome folks. Your company’s software development uses either OOP or functional programming methods, depending on its needs. Our article looks at both paradigms and shows you how each one works in the business world. We show you how the two approaches differ and in which areas each one works best, so you can find the right programming philosophy for you and your company.

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Paul Larkin

About the author: Paul Larkin has years of experience in the tech industry and writes about cybersecurity and future of work.

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