Running behind the scenes of many chat apps, including WeChat and WhatsApp, is the programming language known as Erlang. A general-purpose language created in the late 1980s, Erlang may be older than most other languages, but it’s solid in its functioning. It’s easily scalable and utilizes concurrent systems. The original purpose of Erlang was to manage telephone switches. However, it evolved as the technology of phones did.
What makes Erlang different?
First, Erlang is based on light processes that are isolated but can communicate between each other through messages. This allows the messages to create their own processes and alter them. Additionally, the system Erlang has is quick and requires less memory.
Where does it shine best?
Chat apps are Erlang’s forte, but it’s good with manipulation of binary protocols, queue systems for messages, and blockchains. This language is known for being quick and has excellent scalability.
Disadvantages with Erlang
Some disadvantages in using Erlang are:
–      Tools for each layer of development must be chosen manually
–      Its library is informational for mid-level developers but doesn’t contain much for entry-level developers
Advantages of Erlang
Alongside its concurrent system, Erlang uses a virtual machine called BEAM, which makes concurrency with the language possible. It also has the motto, “Let it crash”. This philosophy within Erlang functions like a tree—the ‘leaves’ being the processes. When something happens to one of the ‘leaves’, the branch it’s on, so to speak, will try to fix the issue. If it can, the ‘trunk’ won’t be affected. If the branch is unable to solve the problem, the system will then crash. These branches do have the power to terminate themselves and anything attached to them that may be corrupted (i.e., the leaves) in order to protect the trunk.
Elixir Enters the Picture
Elixir is essentially an updated version of Erlang. It increased popularity from 2015 to 2016 because its primary framework, Phoenix, reached the public. What separated Elixir from Erlang was the simplicity of its syntax, a more active community, and the exceptional use of Phoenix as a framework.
Compared to Erlang, Elixir is modern and beneficial. Erlang’s system and functionality are by no means bad. They are simply a step behind Elixir on most fronts.
Is Erlang Worth It?
Erlang is still the better choice for chat apps, and any developer looking to enter that field would benefit from learning Erlang. Additionally, it serves as a good programming language to learn when expanding skillsets that lean heavily toward messaging.
The stability and reliability of Erlang are what has kept it going since the 1980s. For a programming language in a world that sees new languages every year, that timeframe is impressive. So far, it has continued to match (or even exceed) other languages in performance speed, security, scalability, and more areas. Erlang does fall behind in some areas, and Elixir is often preferred over it. However, developers are still devoted to improving it. Thus, Erlang likely won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.