Text/UTF-8: Initial results

A status report on my google summer of code project
Published on July 10, 2011 under the tag haskell

What is this?

I’ve been working on the Data.Text library for my Google Summer of Code project under the wise supervision of Edward Kmett (but to be fair, Johan Tibell has also been helping me a lot, for which I am very grateful as well).

Some more context

Porting the Text library to use UTF-8 as internal encoding (instead of the currently used UTF-16) is a rather tricky task because there isn’t “one” representative benchmark: the results depend on:

Tihs means that when a change is made, not all benchmark results change in the same direction. Hence, we aim for either making them faster, or keeping them as fast as they currently are, and have them use less memory.

On to the results!

For the record, the test files used are an ASCII text file of 58M and a russian file of 62M. Note that while they are of (more or less) the same size, the ASCII text is a lot longer when counting characters instead of bytes (about twice as long).


The first program I benchmarked for this blogpost is a simple one which converts a file to uppercase. Note the fact that the input and output needs to happen in UTF-8 (which is usually the case), but that this doesn’t make such a big impact as you might initially think: by using Stream Fusion, the UTF-16 version will also read the input from the ByteString directly.

module Main where

import System.Environment (getArgs)
import qualified Data.ByteString as B
import qualified Data.Text as T
import qualified Data.Text.Encoding as T

main :: IO ()
main = do
    (filePath : _) <- getArgs
    text <- fmap T.decodeUtf8 $ B.readFile filePath
    B.putStr $ T.encodeUtf8 $ T.toUpper text
Results for the uppercasing benchmark

Word frequencies

Because Stream Fusion plays such an important role in the first benchmark, Johan suggested I used another benchmark in which the Text values are used as keys in a Map – that way, they are forced to be reified as an UTF-8 encoded array.

Word frequencies is a simple example of such a program; the next benchmark finds the most used word in a text (“the” for the English ASCII text and “и” for the Russian text).

import Data.List (foldl', maximumBy)
import Data.Map (Map)
import Data.Ord (comparing)
import System.Environment (getArgs)
import qualified Data.ByteString.Char8 as B
import qualified Data.Map as M
import qualified Data.Text as T
import qualified Data.Text.Encoding as T
import qualified Data.Text.IO as T

frequencies :: Ord a => [a] -> Map a Int
frequencies = foldl' (\m k -> M.insertWith (+) k 1 m) M.empty

top :: Map a Int -> a
top = fst . maximumBy (comparing snd) . M.toList

main :: IO ()
main = do
    (filePath : _) <- getArgs 
    text <- fmap T.decodeUtf8 $ B.readFile filePath
    T.putStrLn $ top $ frequencies $ T.words $ T.toLower text

The results for this benchmark are very similar for both UTF-8 and UTF-16. This is reasonable because I wrote a new Ord instance for Text which performs better for medium-to-long Text values (e.g. more than 32 characters) but slightly worse for small Text values, because there is the overhead of an extra function call. This Ord instance is heavily used in the above benchmark, because of the Map container – But these results indicate that there is no real degradation here, so I can rejoice.

Results for the word frequencies benchmark

What’s next

There’s still lots of work to be done. In the next blogpost, I hope to talk about reduced memory usage and its implications.