Learning Elixir for Web Development

Learning Elixir for Web Development

The world wide web is growing wider as you are reading this article. A couple of years ago, Elixir emerged as the newest addition to the modern web technologies which aimed at solving the problem of concurrency. While there exist languages like Java, Ruby, etc. which have been on the scene for a long time now.

It is still gaining huge popularity and a lot of developers are putting it to good use. It offers excellent scalability, excellent reliability and offers the developers a chance to write clean code. 

Although it has gained popularity in the world of professional developers, students are still aloof to the benefits of this technology and are not entirely aware of the possibilities it has to offer and the additions it can do to your piece of software. 

History of Elixir

In the 1980s, to solve the problem of phone switching with more and more subscribers coming in, Ericsson developed Erlang which solved the problem to a great extent. Erlang consisted of tools that offered scalability, reliability and concurrency. To solve a similar problem between the connections presented on the web, Jose Valim created Elixir. 

It is inherently similar to Ruby and offers features and functionalities which are already available with Ruby and hence developers argue why they should turn to Elixir. Learn it and incorporate it in their software when they are already well versed with Ruby. 

The answers to those questions lie in the further parts of this article.  

Application Concurrency in Elixir

Concurrency in the context of web development is when multiple users are trying to access a particular data block on your website. For example, if thousands of users are trying to access Elon Musk’s Twitter page at the same time, then concurrency is said to exist.

Another example in terms of mobile application is when hundreds of users are trying to access Billie Eilish’s Instagram page at once. It tries to solve the problem of application concurrency with a large number of users.

Features of Elixir

  1. Since it is built on the top of the Erlang virtual machine, it automatically has access to all the tools, features and functionalities Erlang has to offer. Since Erlang is scalable and reliable, Elixir too automatically becomes scalable and reliable
  2. Elixir and Ruby have similar functionalities and even a similar syntax and structure. However, one thing that Ruby failed to solve is concurrency and hence Ruby developers can easily transition into it making their web applications concurrent with enhanced performance.  
  3. It has all the features of a functional programming language. The feature of immutable data structures aid in improvising the concurrency of the application and the feature of pattern matching is highly utilised for code with declarative properties. 

Benefits of using Elixir

  1. Elixir offers concurrency to your applications. Its applications can function on every machine and communicate with one another with the help of messages having simple syntax. 
  2. Elixir applications are highly scalable. You can add as many user machines as you want and you can also enhance the performance of one particular machine by putting all the resources of a machine in a more optimised manner. 
  3. Elixir applications are highly reliable. Erlang was built with enhanced fault tolerance capabilities. In simple terms, it means, if a part of your application fails, other mini processes can be restarted quickly and efficiently. This keeps your application up and running and does not make your application look like one with bugs and faults.

Phoenix: The Framework of all Frameworks

Like Rails is to Ruby, Django is to Python, Phoenix is to it. Phoenix is considered to be one of the top web frameworks. Phoenix offers easy use in addition to the best speed and optimized performance. 

Phoenix has the power to connect two million WebSocket connections on a single box! And if you wish to put this power to use in your application, you need Elixir. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Elixir?

It is a functional programming language that is built on top of BEAM (Erlang’s virtual machine) which solves the problem of concurrency.

Is Elixir better than Erlang?

Yes, while Elixir and Erlang offer the same features of concurrency and improvement in fault tolerance, they can do it without compromising on the performance which is ultimately better for the developer’s application.

How is Elixir so fast?

It utilises the trick of shifting some elements of the application to compile time making the application run faster during run time.

Which companies use Elixir?

There are several companies which utilise the services of Elixir and Erlang namely – WhatsApp, IBM, Goldman Sachs, Lonely Planet etc.

Should I learn Erlang before Elixir?

No, there is no need to learn Erlang before Elixir. You can start with Elixir directly without any Erlang prerequisites.

Is Elixir easy to learn?

Yes! Elixir’s syntax is indeed very easy to comprehend and work with.

Conclusion

If you want to achieve high scalability for your application, Elixir is your go-to programming language. Companies like Adobe, Discord, Motorola, Moz, Financial Times, WhatsApp, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Heroku all use Elixir for different purposes – for building collaborative applications, large-scale communication applications, and fault-tolerant reliable web applications. 

Elixir is perfect for applications which require communication between a large number of machines and users. Your code will most definitely not break, your application will be robust, fast and effective. What else do you really need? 

Happy Learning!

By Pooja Gera

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