29.06.2020Cyprian Łakomy

Elixir development in 2020: adoption, community and predictions

Elixir is a programming language created in 2011 by José Valim. Let’s take a look at its current status a year before it turns a decade old.

This report examines Elixir development from a few different angles, such as: popularity, adoption, community and the most recent updates in its ecosystem. Let’s start with the latter.

Major event: Elixir v1.10 released

It couldn’t be anything else.

Elixir v1.10, released at the end of January, brings several additions to 2019’s 1.9 version, including improvements to the standard library and the compiler, as well as refinements of the already existing features such as Elixir’s configuration system and sorting APIs.

Running on Erlang OTP 21+, Elixir v1.10 is better integrated with Erlang’s new logger. As a result, Elixir’s and Erlang’s APIs share logger level, metadata and log messages.

Curious about more updates? Here they are:

  • Allowing to disable dual-boot system of releases on boot-time sensitive environments,
  • Overlays’ support,
  • Adding the possibility to pass a module (such as Date etc.) for semantic comparison,
  • Compiler tracing that enables devs to control events as they are emitted,
  • Support for third-party calendars.

For details, visit the official Elixir blog.

Still not a superstar among languages

The annual Stack Overflow Developer surveys have been our articles' reference point for some time. They reveal metrics like interest in a particular technology and its actual adoption among the worldwide community, as well as companies hiring developers. The surveys provide quite an accurate picture of the technological landscape and can be treated as reliable trend indicators.

Neither Elixir, nor its dedicated framework Phoenix can be spotted in this year’s Stack Overflow survey.

It is an explicit fall in comparison with the 2019 edition, in which both Elixir and Phoenix - though occupying the lower half of popularity charts - were present.

How come?

Well, the highest rank Elixir got in the 2019 survey was in the “most dreaded languages” section. That one reflected the percentage of developers using the language but having no interest in continuing to do so. The 2020 drop-down seems like a logical next step.

Why again?

The functional programming paradigm that sets Elixir apart from object-oriented languages like Ruby seems is often seen as a barrier for developers. This, however, answers the above question only partially.

Elixir developer community

Still, the community of Elixir devs is growing. This can be reflected in the number of GitHub contributors, which at the moment of this publication is slightly below 1,000.

Also, the language’s official forum has experienced a ten-fold growth in the last 3 years, which proves that new developers appear and help expand the language.

In addition, Elixir Forum’s owners are planning to release a new sister website “to support Elixir’s new phase of growth (...) beyond their own community channels”. The 2020 update reveals few details about this new medium, although promises “a place where people can evangelise their favourite tech”.

Companies using Elixir in production

In previous years, we have covered companies and websites that use Elixir in production.

Some of them cast more light on how it has affected their day-to-day activities and growth, some less, but it’s a fact that the number of Elixir adopters in the business world is growing.

PepsiCo eCommerce is one of them. The company, building software for marketing automation, supply chains and sales optimization revealed its annual earnings to be as high as 2 billion $ in late 2019.

At least partially, this success owes to Elixir. The language has also conquered some other areas at PepsiCo eCommerce and become its backend application engineering language.

“We view Elixir – which is a core part of our software stack – as a nimble and reliable building block for powering critical business solutions” - says the company in the official statement before ElixirConf US 2020, which it sponsors.

What could be a greater validation for technology like Elixir than real use cases by a global eCommerce giant?

Read more about Elixir and Phoenix engineering at PepsiCo eCommerce.

Other companies based on the technology feature the gaming tycoon Square Enix (known for the “Final Fantasy” game series) and the graphical editor software Sketch.

Events postponed or go online

Due to the covid-19 pandemic, the key 2020 events - such as ElixirConf and ElixirConf EU went online or were rescheduled.

Initially planned for late April, ElixirConf EU was moved online for late June’s virtual edition.

Those who previously bought tickets had the opportunity to listen to keynote speeches by Chris McCord (creator of the Phoenix framework), Jane Walerud (who persuaded Ericsson to open-source Erlang) and Chris Keathley, who is a senior engineer in one of Elixir’s early adopters - Bleacher Report.

The physical event will happen as well. The new date is 7-8 October in Warsaw, Poland. The US edition is scheduled to September 2-5 in Aurora, Colorado.

The future of Elixir development

It seems that despite not being on the Stack Overflow 2020 list, Elixir is going strong with its worldwide community growing and adoption by huge market players like PepsiCo eCommerce. What are the possible fields of its expansion?

Elixir’s standard library seems to fit the main concepts of the ROS - Robot Operating System.

In truth, the ROS is a collection of applications, libraries & tools for robotics. Its foundations are:

  • message passing,
  • remote procedure call,
  • distributed parameter system.

There are also projects working to help Elixir become a solid choice for Internet of Things (IoT), as well as exploring possibilities to apply it to embedded systems.

We will keep an eye on the course of events.

Meanwhile, take our Free Elixir Course if you want some hands-on experience in programming.

Looking for a trusted Elixir development team? Drop us a line.

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