Time for a final round of the unwritten war between Elixir and Ruby. According to many developers, Elixir is considered Ruby's successor.

Table of contents

    Elixir was created by a team of engineers frustrated with Ruby's limitations. As a result, they decided to create a new language to overcome these limitations. And while Elixir and Ruby may have similar syntax, they are essentially different languages.

    Elixir vs Ruby - the differences at the base

    Elixir is a functional programming language, while Ruby is an object-oriented language. This means that the Elixir code is more concise and easier to read than the Ruby code.

    In addition, Elixir has built-in concurrency support, which allows developers to write programs that can use all the cores on the server. This makes Elixir particularly well-suited for building robust, scalable web applications. On the other hand, Ruby's concurrency capabilities are markedly crippled with the interpreter's implementation based on a global interpreter lock.

    Finally, Elixir also has excellent tools that make creating and deploying applications easy. In contrast, Ruby tools are often criticized as being opaque and difficult to use.

    So, while there are many similarities between the two languages, there are also some crucial differences. As interest in Elixir continues to grow, it will be interesting to see how these two languages ​​continue to evolve.

    The history of the creation of Ruby and Elixir

    To understand Ruby and Elixir's frequent comparisons, we must go back to the '90s when Yukihiro Matsumoto created Ruby. He combined the positive features of Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada and Lisp in the developer happiness principle, making the work of programmers easier. However, Ruby gained importance only in 2003, when the open-source framework dedicated to web application development - Ruby on Rails, was released.

    The launch of Ruby on Rails was a real breakthrough in the web development world - writing code that used to take months turned out to be achievable in a matter of days.

    From the beginning of Ruby on Rails in 2010, Jose Valim was one of the leading members of the Rails Core Team, responsible for developing the framework. However, the longer Valim worked on perfecting the code in Rails, the more potential for change he saw in the language.

    In 2012, Jose Valim created Elixir - a functional software language based on the Erlang virtual machine.

    Elixir was primarily to become a language with a friendly syntax, with Ruby features, but with great concurrency capabilities, fault tolerance and guaranteeing developer happiness.

    The Elixir community also developed an open-source framework called Phoenix. Working with Jose Valim on Rails, Phoenix author Chris McCord used core RoR values and, having learnt from the good and the bad choices it made, perfected all the known concepts to create a much more effective framework for Elixir.

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    Is Elixir similar to Ruby?

    Our CTO, Michał, explains this by saying that Elixir is a language with Erlang grammar and Ruby spelling - it's a significant simplification.

    This similarity encourages Ruby developers to become interested in the Elixir language, making it easier to take the first steps. Of course, application architecture habits should be set aside - Ruby is one of the object-oriented languages, while Elixir is the functional programming language. Still, the superficial similarity of syntax and naming in the standard library helps feel more at home.

    First, Elixir is a language that was created to be a spiritual successor of the Ruby programming language. The Elixir programming language takes many features from Ruby, while also being designed to respond to some of the criticisms often aimed at Ruby.

    Indeed, both languages are characterized by high flexibility thanks to extensive meta-programming mechanisms. Moreover, the authors of libraries and applications eagerly create "mini-languages" (DSL - Domain-specific languages) serving a declarative, clear description of the behaviour of a particular application element.

    Despite all these similarities, there are some significant differences between Elixir and Ruby.

    Elixir is similar to Ruby in being a general-purpose, dynamically typed language but, in contrast to its older cousin, Elixir code is compiled ahead-of-time to Erlang VM's bytecode, which allows its single-core performance to greatly exceed that of Ruby. Elixir has a focus on code readability and expressiveness, while its powerful macro system makes it also easily extensible.

    While Elixir shares many features and design philosophy cues with Ruby, there are also some significant differences between the two languages.

    Elixir does not have Ruby's global interpreter lock, which allows the Elixir application to utilize all cores on a processor, whereas Ruby can only use one core - it can be overcome using forked processes, but it's expensive system resource wise.

    Elixir's syntax is also different from Ruby's in several ways. For example, Elixir employs pipes (denoted by the |> operator) for passing the result of one expression as the first argument to another function, whereas Ruby uses . for method invocation chaining.

    Elixir has explicit support for immutable data structures, whereas Ruby only has implicit support. Elixir also has first-class support for typespecs, whereas Ruby does not.

    Popular mindsets - Phoenix vs Ruby on Rails

    There are many different mobile & web frameworks, each with strengths and weaknesses. Phoenix for Elixir and Ruby on Rails for Ruby are two more popular frameworks.

    Ruby on Rails

    Ruby on Rails is the most popular Ruby framework. Ruby on Rails is an opinionated framework that guides you into their way of doing things. It promotes the best standards and practices of web development. The programmer is "hand guided" into Ruby conventions.

    This can be both good and bad. It is good because it produces more consistent, reliable, and maintainable code. Newer programmers may find this helpful as they learn Ruby. However, experienced Ruby programmers may find the conventions constricting.

    Nevertheless, Ruby on Rails is the most popular Ruby framework because it emphasizes efficient code writing and minimises the time spent on application production.

    If you are starting a new Ruby project, Ruby on Rails should usually be your first choice.

    Phoenix

    Phoenix is an Elixir web & mobile app framework that helps you build high-performance, maintainable Elixir applications. Phoenix uses Elixir's powerful macro system to generate boilerplate code for you so that you can focus on your application's domain logic instead of infrastructure code. The Phoenix has been battle-tested in production by companies like Financial Times, Quero and Peek.

    Phoenix has quickly become the most popular Elixir framework and is loved by programmers for its ease of use and flexibility. In StackOverflow's 2022 Developer Survey, Phoenix was ranked the most loved web framework or technology.

    If you're looking for a powerful yet easy-to-learn programming language for your next project, look no further than Elixir with the Phoenix Framework.

    Phoenix and Ruby on Rails have advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you are looking for in the web development framework.

    However, if you are looking for something more flexible with more freedom to create a system architecture corresponding to your application, Elixir & Phoenix may be a better choice.

    Ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference.

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    Developer productivity comparison - Elixir vs Ruby

    Choosing the right programming language is a critical decision for any developer. The language you choose will affect your productivity, code quality, and ability to scale in the future.

    Elixir is an excellent option for developers who want the best of both worlds: the productivity of Ruby with the scalability of Elixir. Elixir is as good as Ruby for MVPs and startups but also scales well for larger applications.

    This makes it the perfect choice for companies that want to deliver quickly without sacrificing quality. So if you're looking for a sweet spot between productivity and quality, Elixir is the way to go.

    Elixir vs Ruby - community popularity and maturity

    The Elixir and Ruby communities are intertwined. Ruby has been around for a long time, and it's hard to find an application or external service for which you won't find a library ready in Ruby. However, in Elixir, you have to create a bit more solutions yourself.

    Both programming languages have lively communities that are involved. When it comes to Elixir, it has the label of a niche language, but on the other hand, we are surprised that big firms like WhatsApp, Slideshare or Bleacher Report use Elixir in production today.

    While Elixir developers can sometimes come across as elitist, the community is amicable and welcoming. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or an experienced programmer. There's always something for you to learn in Elixir.

    In terms of Ruby, it is considered to be a more mature language since it has been around for longer. The Ruby community is also very friendly and helpful, and many resources are available for learning the language. However, because Ruby is more widely used than Elixir, it can be easier to find employment as a Ruby developer.

    Uses of Elixir vs Ruby

    There is a notion among some decision makers that choosing Elixir contributes to over-engineering - it can't be more wrong!

    Elixir is also well suited for projects where an advanced architectural idea is required, e.g. event sourcing or CQRS, but also suitable for apps where the classical architecture justifies the degree of complexity based on a pattern similar to MVC.

    Elixir has many benefits that make it an excellent choice for these projects. First, Elixir is straightforward to read and understand, making it perfect for projects with a lot of code. In addition, Elixir is very fast and efficient, making it ideal for projects where speed is essential. Finally, Elixir is very reliable and scalable, making it perfect for projects where reliability and scalability are important.

    Talent Pool for Elixir and Ruby

    Elixir is a newer language than Ruby, so the talent pool of Elixir developers is smaller. However, Elixir developers tend to have better skills than Ruby programmers. This is because Elixir is a functional language, and functional programming requires a different way of thinking than object-oriented programming. As a result, Elixir developers tend to be more experienced and have a deeper understanding of programming concepts. This can make them more difficult to find, but it also makes them more valuable when you do find them. In addition, many people who are familiar with Ruby are willing to switch to Elixir, so the community is growing.

    Ultimately, when it comes to finding talented Elixir programmers, you may find the search a little more challenging, but the effort will be worth it.

    Elixir or Ruby - which one to choose?

    When it comes to choosing a programming language for a new project, there are many factors to consider. If you already have a team that is comfortable with Ruby, then it makes sense to stick with that language. However, if you are starting from scratch, then you may want to consider Elixir.

    Elixir is designed for scalability and offers the ability to handle complex processes and reduce infrastructure costs. While it has a smaller community than Ruby, Elixir is growing rapidly and provides many advantages for new projects.

    Why not both?

    It's important to note that you don't have to choose one language. With the right tools, you can use both Elixir and Ruby in your project. This can be helpful if you have a team of learning machines that use Python, as it allows you to take advantage of the strengths of each language.

    In the end, what matters most is finding the right solution for your project. So don't be afraid to experiment with different languages and technologies until you find the perfect match for your application.

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    Renata Hryniewicz
    Renata Hryniewicz Marketing Specialist

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