Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Another Interesting Erlang Day on Reddit

Reddit readers seem to be very interested in Erlang. I think this is for a good reason: even if you don't like Erlang or you don't think it's a very good language for your needs, you probably would at least agree that Erlang is interesting.

Erlang is a strange creature. It's a functional, dynamically typed language with built-in concurrency semantics. It was created with a very specific purpose: to build large-scale fault-tolerant distributed systems. No other language, at least to my knowledge, has been designed so specifically to tackle this goal. Judging by the success of Ericsson's AXD301 switch and ejabberd, Erlang has delivered on its intended use.

Although it has commerical origins, Erlang is now open source, and it's making headway into the web development world. A language's web development capabilities seem to be one of the most attractive features for the larger developer community. How many people would become Ruby developers if it weren't for Rails? I don't think very many. Although Erlang isn't as far along as Ruby is in the web development department, I think it will close many of these gaps in the coming months. (I also think that the Erlang web stack will have a nice feature or two that will be very hard to build into Rails :) )

Today, I saw 4 Erlang-related articles on programmin.reddit.com: earlier this morning, my article OO, FP, Erlang, and Me was somewhere in the bottom half of the links. It may have been higher at some point -- I don't know. At number 2 (and it used to be at number 1) is Joe Armstrong's Why I Don't Like Shared Memory. At number 9) is Ask Reddit: is Erlang hype the next Ruby hype? I seriously don't think that Erlang's "hype" is anywhere close to Ruby's hype. Erlang's "hype" is basically my blog, wagerlabs.com and now Joe Armstrong's blog. I don't think we are trying to "hype" Erlang as much as raise awareness to the unique capabilities of this seriously under-hyped language, but other people may see it differently. At number 19) is David Bergman's Erlang: The Best or Worst of Two Worlds?. It may have something to do with my mentioning this article on my blog, but maybe it was discovered by the poster independently.

There's definitely a growing interest in Erlang, but until Erlang has a more complete web development stack and until one or two companies will have built a killer web app using Erlang, there will always be doubt about Erlang's true merits for pragmatic developers.

I think that many of these doubts will clear in the next few months.

By the way, saying that Erlang doesn't power any killer webapps is inaccurate: AFAIK, Meebo uses ejabberd for their instant messaging backend. If Meebo also used Yaws as their web server (I don't think they do, but I don't know for certain), they would probably have a simpler architecture.

I like simple :)