Both Ruby and Ruby on Rails are known to most of us. Ruby dates back to 1995 and both are tools for writing web apps. Ruby allows development to be more enjoyable while Ruby on Rails focuses on speed with the help of libraries. Ruby on Rails (RoR), in the right hands, can create exceptionally functional and powerful web apps.
By creating a faster way to develop apps while enjoying the process, RoR set a new standard for other web frameworks.
Ruby and Elixir have some things in common, which is not surprising considering that Elixir’s creator was a key member of RoR’s team. José Valim saw the potential, took all that was great about Ruby and then added to it. The Erlang VM to overcome Ruby’s concurrency limitations, Elixir was born.
Chris McCord, also coming from a Ruby background, put together Phoenix, a web framework for Elixir. Once again, key elements were taken from Rails and then advanced to develop a framework that would rise above Rails.
Examining the Pros and Cons
Proven over the years
Elixir runs on Erlang VM BEAM. Although it’s the oldest VM, it is still very popular today, particularly in telecom. It is the perfect solution when you need to create and manage a system with numerous simultaneous connections.
You can run concurrent connections on just one computer or various machines with Elixir. It greatly increases speed as it uses every core on a single server. If you experience more traffic, you can use every core on all of your servers.
Each piece of code in Elixir is executed as a process. Each process is lightweight and therefore uses a very small amount of memory and CPU power. Because of these processes, you can use Elixir to develop distributed fault-tolerant systems.
An undeniable advantage of Elixir is its ability to make the most of each machine. If there is an increase in traffic in the future, you won’t need to add more servers to handle the bandwidth demand.
The syntax, patterns, and design of Elixir are clear and simple. It makes it easier to understand aspects of the sometimes complex functional language.
The libraries that come with Elixir are fully interoperable. You will have no issues incorporating Erlang libraries into any Elixir project.
You will find lots of guides and resources on the official Elixir website. The site also has links to Elixir communities. You will discover documentation on the terminal too.
Limited talent pool
Despite being around since 2011, Elixir is still a rather specialized language and so we see a lack of expert talent in this area. However, due to the similarities, developers with experience in Ruby don’t have difficulties picking up Elixir.
Functional programming language
Ruby developers may struggle with this functional language, as they are used to the object-oriented language of Ruby. It’s not an impossible task, but it may take some time to become confident with the difference.
Elixir’s smaller ecosystem
Even with the full interoperability of the Erlang libraries, when programming in Elixir, you may need to build some features from scratch.
Productive and enjoyable to use
The creator of Ruby had a goal to build a programming language that developers would be happy when using. The syntax is clean and clear ad this assists with reading and writing code.
The Mastermind Framework
Ruby on Rails changes the way we create web apps. Thanks to the Gems that were introduced, it became possible to build MVPs and prototypes with RoR. Even small apps required little code but were incredibly fast.
It’s difficult to imagine Ruby/Rails not having the correct tool you need to implement your feature. The massive ecosystem of libraries and gems provides a quick and tested solution for building apps.
The communities of both Ruby and Rails are lively and full of highly active contributors. You can find ready-made solutions with open-source access.
As soon as a programming language becomes popular, there is a larger number of resources, a community with a stronger presence, and a greater talent pool. Stack Overflow placed Ruby as the second most popular language in 2019. Elixir didn’t make it into the top 50.
When comparing Elixir and Ruby, Elixir is the better option if you are creating a concurrent web app. If you don’t have Concurrent Ruby tools, Ruby’s global interpreter lock will permit just one thread execution at a time. Built-in concurrency is necessary for apps with heavy traffic.
Nobody would call Ruby slow, but next to Elixir, it’s slower. More often than not, poor performance is due to the inexperience of the user. We are anticipating the release of Ruby 3, which is said to have three times the performance of its predecessor.
For those who prefer a low-maintenance approach to coding, either Ruby or Rails is the option. The Gems allow for a simplistic method for coding while writing web apps. At the same time, these gems have a habit of causing problems with long-term maintenance.
When to use Ruby and When to use Elixir
Now that we understand the difference between the two, let’s take a look at the use cases for each.
Best Use Cases for Elixir
- High-traffic apps like chats
- Apps with 100-1000000 simultaneous connections on one computer
- Web apps with users in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands
- Distributed systems
- Software performing asynchronous jobs
- Systems that may well be scaled in the future
Best Use Cases for Ruby
- App concepts
- Small to medium-sized web apps (this depends on a number of variants but ruby would probably struggle with traffic like Twitter would experience.
The Final Verdict, Elixir or Ruby?
In reality, there is no easy answer to the question. Ruby and Elixir are amazing tools that can be used to develop a variety of apps, software, and or systems. At the end of the day, the right choice boils down to the needs of the individuals.