Mixing Metaphors: Actors as Channels and Channels as Actors

Simon Fowler, Sam Lindley, Philip Wadler

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Channel- and actor-based programming languages are both used in practice, but the two are often confused. Languages such as Go provide anonymous processes which communicate using buffers or rendezvous points—known as channels—while languages such as Erlang provide addressable processes—known as actors—each with a single incoming message queue. The lack of a common representation makes it difficult to reason about translations that exist in the folklore. We define a calculus λch for typed asynchronous channels, and a calculus λact for typed actors. We define translations from λact into λch and λch into λact and prove that both are type- and semantics preserving. We show that our approach accounts for synchronisation and selective receive in actor systems and discuss future extensions to support guarded choice and behavioural types.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe 31st European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP 2017)
PublisherSchloss Dagstuhl - Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik, Germany
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)978-3-95977-035-4
Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2017
Event31st European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 18 Jun 201723 Jun 2017

Publication series

NameLeibniz International Proceedings in Informatics (LIPIcs)
PublisherSchloss Dagstuhl--Leibniz-Zentrum fuer Informatik
ISSN (Print)1868-8969


Conference31st European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming
Abbreviated titleECOOP 2017
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Mixing Metaphors: Actors as Channels and Channels as Actors'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this