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Learning a new technology stack requires time and effort, and some developers prefer to stick with their habitual ways. This is one of the major reasons why developers stick with Ruby. Ruby libraries are very mature making it a very productive language, used by many developers worldwide.

However, more and more experienced Ruby coders are turning to Elixir. Why is it so? Let’s find out all the ins and outs about Elixir and what makes it so special for Ruby developers.

What is Elixir?

Elixir is a vibrant and practical functional programming language created for developing scalable and maintainable applications. This programming language leverages the Erlang VM. The latter is famous for running low-latency, as well as distributed and fault-tolerant systems. Elixir is currently being used in web development successfully.

This general-purpose programming language first appeared back in 2011. It is created by José Valim, one of the major authors of Ruby on Rails. Elixir became a result of Valim’s efforts to solve problems with concurrency that Ruby on Rails has.


Phoenix Framework

If you are familiar with Elixir, you have probably heard of Phoenix as well. Phoenix is an Elixir-powered web framework, most frequently used by Elixir developers. This framework incorporates some of the best Ruby solutions while taking them to the next level. This framework allows the developers to enjoy speed and maintainability at the same time.

Core features of Elixir

Over time, Elixir evolved into a dynamic language that numerous programmers around the world use for their projects. Below are its core features that make Elixir so appealing to web developers.

  • Scalability. Elixir code is executed within the frames of small isolated processes. Any information is transferred via messages. If an application has many users or is growing actively, Elixir is a perfect choice because it can cope with high loads without the need for extra servers.
  • Functionality. Elixir is built to make coding easier and faster. This language is well-designed for writing fast and shortcode that can be maintained easily.
  • Extensibility and DSLs. Elixir is an extensible language that allows coders to extend it naturally to special domains. This way, they can increase their productivity significantly.
  • Interactivity. With tools like IEx, Elixir’s interactive shell, developers can use auto-complete, debug, reload code, and format their documentation well.
  • Error resistance. Elixir is one of the strongest systems in terms of fault tolerance. Elixir supervisors assist developers by describing how to take the needed action when a failure occurs to achieve complete recovery. Elixir supervisors carry different strategies to create a hierarchical process structure, also referred to as a supervision tree. This guarantees the smooth performance of applications, tolerant of errors.
  • The handiness of Elixir Tools. Elixir gives the developers working with it an opportunity to use a wide range of handy tools like Hex and Mix. These tools help programmers to improve the software resources in terms of discovery, quality, and sustainability.
  • Compatibility with Erlang. Elixir developers have full access to the Erlang ecosystem. It is so because Elixir code executes on the Erlang VM.

Disadvantages of Elixir

  • The Elixir ecosystem isn’t perfect and complete yet. Chances are, there isn’t a library to integrate with a service you are working on. When coding in Elixir, you may have to build your own libraries sometimes. The reason behind it is that the Elixir community isn’t as huge as the communities of well-established popular coding languages like Ruby.
  • Some developers believe that Elixir is a niche language and is difficult to get used to.
  • Functional programming. This feature of Elixir is both an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. Most coding languages are object-oriented. For this reason, it might be hard for a developer to switch to a functional-oriented language.
  • Limited talent pool. Elixir is still quite new, and it’s harder to find professional coders who have a lot of experience with this language compared to others. Yet, as the language gets more and more traction, companies and individual developers show more interest in it.

As you can see, there are some downsides to using Elixir as your programming language. However, due to the advantages it offers, some Ruby developers think that it is worth a try. Let’s find out why.

Why Elixir is popular among Ruby developers

As you probably know, Ruby and Ruby on Rails are the technologies that contribute to programmers’ happiness a lot. There are many reasons for developers to love them but are there any with respect to Elixir?

If you analyze what makes programmers happy, you will make a list of a few important points. Let’s name them and analyze whether Elixir comes within them.

  1. Productive technologies
    Elixir is extremely productive. With it, it is possible to grow and scale apps quickly.
  2. Having many helpful frameworks, tools, and services
    Though there are not many libraries in Elixir, their number is continuously growing due to the work of its team and contributors. However, Phoenix and Elixir’s extensive toolset is its strong side for now.
  3. Speed of building new features
    Due to the clean syntax of Elixir, features can be implemented by fewer lines of code.
  4. Active community
    Though Elixir community is still not massive, it is very friendly, active and growing at a fast pace.
  5. Comfort and satisfaction from development
    Elixir programmers enjoy the fact that this programming language is good at performance and development speed. They don’t need to compromise on any of these important aspects.

As you can see, Elixir still has room for improvement but it is progressing swiftly.

In addition to the overall experience, there are other technical reasons that make Ruby developers hooked to Elixir programming.

  • Elixir solves the concurrency issue that Ruby currently has. As Elixir runs on Erlang VM, it can handle the distributed systems much more effectively compared to Ruby.
  • Elixir runs fast. In fact, it is faster than Ruby in terms of response and compilation times.
  • Fits decentralized systems perfectly. Unlike Ruby, Elixir uses message passing to convey the commands. This way, it is perfect for building fault-tolerant decentralized systems.
  • Scalability. Applications can be scaled with Elixir easily. If you expect the code of your project to be very large, and the website you are building to get a lot of traffic, it’s a good idea to choose Elixir for it. Thanks to its incorporated tools like umbrella projects, you can easily break the code in chunks to deal with it easier.
  • Elixir is the first programming language after Ruby that considers code aesthetics and language UX. It also cares about the libraries and the whole ecosystem.
  • Elixir is one of the most practical functional programming languages. In addition to being efficient, it has a modern-looking syntax similar to Ruby.
  • Clear and direct code representation. This programming language is nearly homoiconic.
  • Open Telecom Platform (OTP). OTP gives Elixir fault tolerance and concurrency capabilities.
  • Quick response. Elixir response time is under 100ms. So, there’s no waste of time, and you can handle numerous requests with the same hardware.
  • Zero downtime. With Elixir, you can reach 100% up-time without having to stop for updates. You can deliver the updates to the production without interfering with its performance.
  • No reinventing the wheel. With Elixir, developers can use existing coding patterns and libraries for their projects.
  • Exhaustive documentation. Elixir has pretty instructive documentation that is easy to comprehend.

Being quite a young programming language, Elixir has already attracted a lot of devoted followers thanks to all the above-described features. It has the potential to make programming easier, more fun, and in line with the demands of modern businesses.

Choosing Elixir is definitely worth it for all the benefits the language offers. We believe that clean and comprehensible syntax, fast performance, high stability, and error tolerance gives Elixir a successful future. Technological giants like Discord, Bleacher Report, Pinterest and Moz have been using Elixir for a while now, enjoying all the competitive advantages it has to offer.

Author Bio

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Maria Redka is a Technology Writer at MLSDev, a web and mobile app development company in Ukraine. She has been writing content professionally for more than 3 years.