Why is Elixir making Headlines?
Here we will learn about the Elixir programming language.
We will also try and understand the reasons behind Elixir's popularity.
So let's dive into it.
Table of Contents
Any discussion on the best programming languages will most likely include Silicon Valley’s favorite Java, Python, or Ruby. However, the ever-changing scenarios & market needs demand an out-of-the-box solution-based approach. Enter Erlang VM-based Elixir. This programming language is fast, requires writing fewer lines of code, and is highly fault-tolerant. Before we get into Elixir popularity, let’s try & learn what it is and what are its benefits.
What is Elixir?
In the 1980s telecom giant Ericsson developed Erlang, a programming language to aid custom software development. The goal was to make telecommunication better and Erlang proved to be rather beneficial.
Have you ever experienced your call being disconnected while a software update is in progress? Thanks to Erlang, that does not occur. One of Erlang’s many advantages is that it allows for hot-swapping (software update while the phone is performing other activities).
José Valim took up the challenge of addressing these shortcomings with Elixir.
“I liked everything I saw in Erlang, but I hated the things that I didn’t see.”
This new programming language allowed web and app developers to benefit from Erlangs reliable platform while making the syntax Ruby-like.
Released in 2011, Elixir popularity has been increasing slowly but surely, especially in custom fintech software development, telecommunication, and the Internet of Things (IoT). The language aids in scalability and it is a fit for website and mobile applications that require assistance in concurrency and deal with high traffic. According to José, Elixir’s ideology is “freeing programmers from antiquated concurrency mechanisms.”
Some other major benefits of Elixir are its compatibility with blockchain software, instant messaging apps (WhatsApp), and fintech services. Moreover, it serves as a foundation for other important frameworks and services like Pheonix and Ecto.
The Increasing Elixir Popularity
Let’s take a look at some notably successful tech giants that opted for Jose Vilam’s Erlang-based creation and see what the tech community is saying about Elixir.
Back in the day, WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum went against the tide and opted for Erlang as the foundation of their messaging app’s architecture. They believed it to be more robust, fault-tolerant, and reliable. In an interview with Wired, WhatsApp’s co-founder Brian Acton shares his thoughts on Erlang-driven web and mobile app development.
“Our original chat servers were built on Erlang, and we were able to leverage Erlang language features and evolve our service while at the same time maintaining very good uptime. Every step of the way, it was rock solid and performant. I imagine that if we had come across significant hurdles or roadblocks along the way, we would have likely abandoned Erlang for a different language. Luckily, that never happened…”
According to Brian, software development should not be limited to tools and technologies that are Silicon Valley favorites or are more popular than others. He also added that Erlang is simple and easy but it ultimately boils down to the developer’s skills.
“Erlang and FreeBSD are great tools. However, as everyone knows—even if you give an ordinary chef the finest knives and cookery—he may not make the best meal. Frankly, it takes great and talented people to do what we do. I’ve had the very good fortune to work with the best in the industry, and I value each and every engineers’ contribution to what we have accomplished.”
The integration of this programming language might be working like a charm for Facebook’s WhatsApp, which is catering to a staggering 2 billion users worldwide.
Another major player on the list of most successful companies to reap the benefits of Elixir is Pinterest. This visual search engine had over 250 million active pinners in 2018 and billions of pins since its shift to Elixir in 2014.
The shift drastically improved Pinterest’s performance and helped the developers to skim down the code from 10,000 lines to just 1000. It also allowed them to use 50% fewer servers with Elixir in comparison with previous Java integration.
Elixir popularity also caught the attention of online SEO Analytics giant, Moz in 2016. According to their blog, the company outgrew its capability to handle big data. The company was in pursuit of solutions to improve speed, efficiency, and scalability. Among other causes, Ruby’s concurrency limitations were a contributing factor to this problem. With Elixir’s integration, however, those problems were taken care of. Here’s an excerpt from the blog:
“With Elixir, we were able to use smaller data files and, as a result, use 63 times less disk space, on average, than when using MySQL rankings tables. We were also able to improve the speed of Moz API by 20 times compared to the previous API, with average response times consistently below 50 ms (compared to 800+ ms). All in all, the simple deployment resulted in 30 times faster build speeds.”
Simply put, Elixir’s popularity is based on its ability to streamline big data and traffic while improving the overall performance of the web and mobile applications. In an age when data is king, incorporating tech like Elixir into software development becomes inevitable.
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