Erlang

Why Elixir is the Programming Language You Should Learn in 2020

by Manuel Rubio

What should you look for when choosing to learn a new programming language? The answer might vary depending on what your project or career goals are, but as a basic starting point, you want a language that:

  1. Is fun and easy to use
  2. Has the ability to meet modern user demands
  3. Has rewarding career progression
  4. Has an active and supportive community
  5. Has a range of helpful tooling
  6. Has frameworks to allow full-stack development
  7. Has easily accessible documentation
  8. Ensures you grow as a programmer.

Over the course of the article, we’ll show you how Elixir rates in relation to all of the above dot points. Before we start, it’s worth letting you know a little bit about me. I like to consider myself a polyglot developer. Over the years I have worked with Elm, Lua, Rust, Dart, Go, Kotlin, Scala, C, C++, Perl, Ruby, PHP, Python, Java, JavaScript, Erlang and Elixir. If I were to only pick one language to learn as a brand new developer in 2020, it would be Elixir.

Why Elixir is fun and easy to use

Fun might not be the only important consideration, but it is one that should not be underestimated. Elixir’s syntax shares a lot of similarities with Ruby; both are high-level, readable, fun programming languages. As a senior developer from Pinterest once said of his decision to transition to Elixir:
“"I thought, ‘Wow, it’s as fun as Ruby, but it has some chops — it actually performs really well.’”
Personally, I love the ability to write less code. It is a language that is expressive enough to be understandable and fast to read. For example, using the Tesla library, I could implement integration with a provider like Paypal in 20 lines of code. I will be happy to schedule a hands-on workshop or a 1-on-1 call if there is a need for dive into this library.

How Elixir has the ability to meet modern usage demands

We all heard of the digital transformation, right? As populations grow, and more services move online there is increased pressure on systems to be able to handle huge spikes with billions of concurrent users.
Elixir runs on the BEAM VM. A system built for concurrency. As a result, it can handle these user spikes with ease. For those interested in what concurrency is, and how it works, we have a blog comparing the JVM and BEAM VM, which explains it well.
Pinterest and Bleacher Report are just two of widely popular and big companies who moved to Elixir in order to help solve issues of scalability. In the case of Bleacher Report, one of our clients, they were able to move from 150 servers, down to 5 servers. Not only did they reduce there physical infrastructure requirements, they were also able to handle more traffic with faster times. A language that can be relied upon for scalable, fault-tolerant will always be sought out by high profile companies.

Elixir’s rewarding career progression

Elixir is a growing language which is being adopted at a significant rate. As a result, Elixir developers have the opportunity to work for wide spectrum of companies such as PepsiCo, Pinterest, Lonely Planet or MBTA. And the list is continuing to grow. Check out this list for companies added in the last 12 months alone.

The supportive and active Elixir community

As you might expect with any new technology or programming language, the Elixir community started out small.
Nowadays Elixir has a thriving community that continues to grow, with fantastic events such as ElixirConf in Europe and in the US, EMPEX, Code Elixir LDN and Gig City Elixir, as well as Meetups all around the world. This community means the language is continuing to grow and evolve with new tooling, and that there is always someone to provide inspiration or help find solutions to a problem.

Elixir’s range of useful tooling

Tooling makes languages more versatile and tasks easier. They mean that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with every new use case. Elixir already has a number of powerful tools, including Phoenix LiveView which enables developers to build real-time, front-end web applications without writing a line of JavaScript or Crawly which makes web crawling and Data Scraping in Elixir easy. Not only does Elixir have a wide-variety of tooling available, but as we mentioned earlier, there is also a passionate community of people continually creating new tools and improving the ones available.

Elixir frameworks allow for full-stack development

Given its scalability performance and its origins in Erlang, it is no surprise that Elixir is a popular backend choice. As mentioned above, Phoenix LiveView has provided an easy, time-efficient and elegant way for Elixir developers to produce front-end applications. Finally, the Nerves framework allows for embedded software development on the hardware end. As a result, Elixir is a language that can be adopted right throughout the tech stack. This doesn’t just make it an attractive choice for businesses; it also opens up the door for where the language can take you as a developer.

Elixir’s easily accessible documentation

A language and community where documentation is valued is one that makes knowledge sharing easy. The high standard of documentation in the Elixir community makes it easier for you to learn the language, but also, make it easier for anyone to contribute to its improvement and growth.

Learning Elixir can make you a better programmer in other languages

There are a number of stories, from people who come from object-oriented languages, who found that the process of learning Elixir made them a better programmer in their language of choice. Learning a new purely functional programming paradigm forces you to examine the way you approach programming. In doing so, it can help you identify habits that can be improved and introduce you to new ways of thinking about problems. This fresh perspective is invaluable for all future development you do, regardless of what language you are working with. For our friends using Ruby, this is particularly true, as the Elixir syntax will be familiar to you, allowing you an easy transition into functional, concurrent programming.

Everyone will have different motivation and considerations for what programming language to choose. But these are the reasons I would recommend you learn Elixir in 2020, for the years ahead.

Ready to get started in Elixir?

There are many ways to start. First, you should head to the getting started page of the official Elixir website. We also offer a number of free downloadable packages for Elixir.
Secondly, we offer a variety of Elixir training, including our Elixir Programming Training For Beginners.
To get started in the community ElixirForum is a great place to start, as well as searching the #Elixirlang and #MyElixirStatus hashtags on Twitter.

You may also like:

ElixirConf EU Virtual

Online Elixir training

Our Elixir Services

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