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Elixir and Erlang are both powerful languages used across various industries, known for their concurrent programming capabilities and robustness. This blog aims to explore the key differences between Elixir and Erlang and their unique use cases. For an Elixir Development Company, knowing when to choose Elixir over Erlang can significantly impact the efficiency and scalability of the applications they develop.

Understanding Elixir and Erlang

What is Erlang?

Originally developed by Joe Armstrong, Robert Virding, and Mike Williams at Ericsson in 1986.

Erlang is a general-purpose, concurrent, functional high-level programming language with a garbage-collected runtime system. Originally designed for telecommunications systems, it excels in building distributed, fault-tolerant, soft real-time systems. It has strong pattern matching capabilities as a core feature.

Known for its ability to handle a large number of concurrent connections and its low-latency performance, making it ideal for telecom and messaging systems.

What is Elixir?

Introduced in 2011 by José Valim, it runs on the Erlang Virtual Machine (BEAM) and takes advantage of Erlang’s fault tolerance and distribution. It aims to bring modern programming concepts to the Erlang VM, making it more accessible and productive, especially for web development and real-time applications.

Furthermore, Elixir leverages the power of the Phoenix framework, specifically designed to build web applications with Elixir. 

The benefits of Elixir extend beyond the language itself. Consider the benefits of hiring a team of Phoenix developers that can bring even greater advantages to your project. Phoenix developers bring in-depth knowledge of the framework and its capabilities, allowing them to craft scalable, fault-tolerant web applications with efficient use of Elixir’s features. 

Elixir development company often provides a comprehensive environment for building &  deploying robust Elixir applications.

What is the difference between Elixir and Erlang?

Syntax and Expressiveness

  • Elixir offers a more modern and expressive syntax compared to Erlang. It introduces features like pattern matching, metaprogramming, and polymorphism, making it more readable and flexible for developers. Elixir’s syntax is Ruby-like, providing a more readable and enjoyable experience for many developers.
  • Erlang, in contrast, has a more traditional syntax which can be less approachable for beginners but is highly effective for experienced users.

Concurrent Programming

  • Elixir provides developer-friendly syntax and tools for concurrent programming, leveraging lightweight threads called “actors” for parallelism.
  • Erlang‘s strong focus on concurrency and fault tolerance, with its process model and message-passing mechanisms, makes it ideal for building highly scalable distributed systems.

Tooling and Ecosystem

  • Elixir boasts a growing and vibrant ecosystem with tools like Hex (package manager) and Mix (build tool) that simplify project management and code dependencies.
  • Erlang has a mature ecosystem, focusing on stability and reliability, with tools like rebar3 (package manager) and OTP (Open Telecom Platform) for building and deploying applications.

Functional Programming Approaches

  • Elixir promotes immutability and pure functions, which makes it easier to reason about and test code. This functional-first approach makes elixir development a compelling choice for scalable applications.
  • Erlang allows for more mutable state and side effects, which can be more challenging to manage but provide powerful tools to seasoned developers.

Community and Support

  • Elixir has a thriving and friendly community that includes a lot of Elixir development companies, with numerous online resources, forums, and meetups. 
  • Erlang has a well-established but small community as compared to Elixir

What is Erlang Best Suited For?

Telephone networks, where millions of calls must be managed without interruption, and messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, where messages need to be delivered quickly and reliably, benefit from Erlang’s strengths. Erlang’s use of lightweight processes (often called actors) allows it to handle millions of concurrent connections efficiently. Additionally, its fault-tolerant nature ensures messages get through even during high traffic.

What is Elixir Best Suited For?

Elixir is well-suited for applications that need to handle high concurrency, such as social media platforms or e-commerce websites. Its concurrency model with lightweight processes allows it to efficiently manage many users at once. Additionally, Elixir’s ability to manage real-time communication (using tools like Phoenix LiveView and GenServers) ensures responsive user experiences with instant updates.

Why Elixir is best language for web development: Because of its focus on concurrency, fault tolerance, and real-time communication capabilities perfectly aligns with the demands of modern web applications. This translates to smooth user experiences with instant updates, even for applications with a high number of concurrent users.

Use Cases and Industry Adoption

Leading Companies Using Elixir

  • Discord started using Elixir to build its chat infrastructure. The key requirement was to handle millions of concurrent users efficiently. Elixir’s concurrency model, based on lightweight processes, allows Discord to manage numerous real-time connections seamlessly. This ensures low latency and high performance, which is crucial for a chat application where users expect instant communication.
  • PepsiCo employs Elixir to enhance its marketing intelligence and optimize its data pipeline. The company’s operations involve processing large volumes of data for marketing analysis. Elixir’s fault tolerance and ability to handle concurrent data streams make it ideal for such tasks, ensuring data is processed reliably and efficiently, leading to better decision-making and operational efficiency.
  • Square Enix uses Elixir for its authentication services, which need to manage high concurrency due to the large number of users accessing their gaming platforms. Elixir’s scalability and reliability ensure that user authentication requests are handled smoothly and securely, maintaining a robust user experience even during peak traffic times.

Leading Companies Using Erlang

  • WhatsApp: WhatsApp, the ubiquitous messaging app, utilizes Erlang’s core functionality to manage its massive user base. Erlang excels at handling millions of concurrent connections, ensuring smooth message delivery even during peak usage.
  • Goldman Sachs: This financial powerhouse uses Erlang in its trading platform. Erlang’s real-time processing capabilities are crucial for handling fast-paced financial data and making quick trading decisions.
  • T-Mobile: This telecommunications giant relies on Erlang to manage its vast mobile network. Erlang’s fault tolerance ensures smooth and reliable network operations even under heavy traffic.

Need to hire Elixir developers? Consider Creole Studios, a leading provider of Elixir development services. With a team of experienced Elixir developers, Creole Studios can help you build robust, scalable, and maintainable applications.


Elixir and Erlang are both powerful languages used across various industries, known for their concurrent programming capabilities and robustness. This blog aims to explore the key differences between Elixir and Erlang and their unique use cases. For an Elixir Development Company, understanding these distinctions is crucial for leveraging the right language to maximize project success.

Bhargav Bhanderi
Bhargav Bhanderi

Director - Web & Cloud Technologies

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