Each year since 2014 I have surveyed the Elixir community about its use of the
language and the makeup of the community. I started this survey three years ago
as part of ElixirSips, and am continuing it as part of my new startup
Obvious Marketing Plug: If you think the Elixir community needs an amazing
reference project, or that a world class, modern, and Open Source
Phoenix-based forum should exist, then check out Firestorm
Forum over on Kickstarter. It’s fully funded with
just six days to go, but we’d love your support in creating a truly great piece
of Open Source Software - anything helps!
As part of the Firestorm effort we’ll be publishing a whole month of beginning
Elixir content -- free to everyone. That’ll be 8 screencasts and 12 short
written pieces that will teach beginning Elixir users everything they need to
know in convenient five minute chunks. We’ll cover the basics of Elixir, OTP,
Phoenix, and Ecto. Through ElixirSips and DailyDrip, I’ve helped educate
thousands of Elixir developers, and I’ll make sure that this is the best work
I’ve done yet.
We hope you enjoy the results of the 2016 Elixir Users’ Survey.
A Look Back
We’ve seen significant growth in the Elixir community over the last three years.
In 2014 there were only 191 responses, but this year there were 1,109
responses. That’s 580% growth in three years! Here’s the graph of our
growth over time.
This year’s results
Now, let’s look at the actual data from this year and discuss what it might mean.
It’s fun to look at metrics on the types of devices people used. We had 1,885
unique visitors and, of those, 1,109 filled out the survey. I am curious why
only 40% of potential respondents finished the survey. Perhaps because it took
over 12 minutes to complete!
About 75% of visitors were on their PCs with the remainder on their smartphones.
People that answered the survey from their phones seemed to finish significantly
faster. This is completely irrelevant to Elixir, but I find it interesting!
Now let’s look at each question and how respondents reacted.
How many months have you been using Elixir?
The overwhelming majority of Elixir Users have been using the language for
less than a year. This makes sense when you appreciate that the user base of
the language has been more than doubling in size each year!
What was your primary language before getting interested in Elixir?
The majority of Elixir Users moved over from Ruby. There is a strong showing
C, and C++.
How much do you anticipate using Elixir professionally in the next 12 months?
Most respondents anticipate using Elixir on a few projects or prototypes. Over
one-third of respondents will be using it with more than 2 projects or rely on
it heavily. This breakdown is expected with over half of Elixir users being
new to the language.
What is your text editor preference?
The majority of users are still using vim, although Atom and Sublime Text are
doing well. I am surprised there were fewer emacs users than the non-modal
editors. I had expected emacs to have a stronger showing due to the excellent
For the Elixir developers using vim: I’ve recently reworked my vim setup
and switched to neovim. I’m really enjoying this new setup; it’s increased my
productivity significantly. Check out the full walkthrough
How would you rate your Elixir expertise?
The pace of growth means we’re bound to have a ton of people with average
expertise, but the fact that over 25% of respondents rate themselves above
average means there are lots of people to ask for help now!
How would you rate your OTP expertise?
A whopping 71% of Elixir developers rate their OTP experience as below
average. This tells me that we need to do a better job as a community on
OTP-related outreach. Fault tolerance is one of the biggest selling points of
Elixir, and OTP is the path to it.
This also implies that people are building monoliths -- we should avoid
monoliths! Huge props to the Phoenix Framework for making great
strides in encouraging the use of OTP, as discussed in Chris McCord’s Elixir
and Phoenix Conf 2016 Keynote.
One thing I’d like to note: answers to this question may be skewed by modesty.
I’ve spoken with people that I find very knowledgeable, and they still consider
themselves average in OTP experience. Let’s fix this!
What are your thoughts on automated testing?
The responses to this question made me happy. An overwhelming 92% of users
appreciate the value of testing, with about half of them doing it all the
time!. This is a pretty good showing for our community! I think it’s related
to the excellent tooling that Elixir provides -- for instance, shipping with
ExUnit and supporting doctests.
Upcoming languages, take note!
Have you contributed open source code in the past year?
I don’t have numbers on other communities’ open source contributions; if you do,
please share in the comments. It is likely that the Elixir community represents
itself in the top tier with Open Source contributions. As an open source
zealot, this makes me unbelievably happy. I’d love to hear your thoughts on
how we can bring the 28% that haven’t contributed into the fold. Drop them in
the comments and let’s do it!
I added the Communist response because I always enjoy seeing people answer with
it. Depending on their ideological stance, this could be interpreted in varying
What is your employment status?
96% of Elixir developers are gainfully employed, and this is better than the US
average for the year.
As for the 4% unemployed -- here are a few resources to get this sorted!
If you exhaust that and still can’t get sorted, DM me (@josh) on the Elixir
and I’ll see if I can be helpful. I hope I don’t come to regret that last bit :)
Which of these languages do you regularly use?
a requirement for anything on the frontend. If you’re looking to have a better
content teaching Elm on DailyDrip, and I guarantee it can get you up to speed
Outside of the top 2 spots, we see Python, Java, PHP, C#, C, and C++ each with
over 10%. There was a heavy contingent of
Other, so follow this footnote to
see languages I left off the list. 1
Is Elixir your favorite programming language?
The majority of respondents say they prefer Elixir, with only 8% saying no.
One-third of developers said it was complicated. I really wish I’d provided a
way to get a long form answer from those respondents. If you were one, add your
reasoning to the comments! Let’s talk about it.
Which Elixir version are you running on?
An impressive 94% of users are on the latest major Elixir release -- which is
great uptake! Some of them still have 1.2 projects running. There are 6
people using Elixir prior to 1.0 still! Wow! I’m assuming they’re just
production apps that are chugging along without problems.
Which packages and frameworks are you using?
We wanted to find out what frameworks and packages people were using.
Overwhelmingly, Elixir users are building web applications -- but read on to
find out how that is not the whole story. Additionally,
Nerves comes in pretty strong, which is fantastic!
There’s a great list of interesting packages included in the
as well. 2
What other languages do you want to spend time with this year?
Elm is dominant, which is thrilling because I love
Elm! I am also excited to see Erlang
My biggest takeaway from this is that we are a Community of Polyglots. What’s
not to love?
Programming == Good.
There were, of course, some languages I left off of the list, even though I put
58 languages into it. Follow this fancy footnote to read the whole list. 3
What other BEAM languages are you interested in?
Elixir is but one of the languages that compiles down to Erlang’s Virtual
Machine: the BEAM. Most respondents seemed unaware that there were others. Of
the respondents that were aware, Lisp-Flavoured Erlang and ML-Flavoured
Erlang have the most interest. I was impressed with the number or responses to
the other options listed, and some people shared additional options I had
In what environment are you using Elixir?
Earlier we saw that 95% of Elixir users use Phoenix, but this question’s answers
show that nearly 25% of the community is doing something non-Web as well!
Follow the trail to find a long list! 5
Is Elixir your first FP language?
It is interesting that nearly half of new Elixir users have not experienced
Functional Programming before. This strikes me as something that the broader
programming community needs to work on correcting! We’d love to hear your
suggestions on how to solve this problem and bring exposure to FP in the
If Elixir is not your first FP language, do you prefer it over others you've used?
The majority of respondents that have used FP languages previously prefer
Elixir. However, there were 721 responses to this question while only 574 people
said they had previous FP experience. Consequently, this metric should be taken
with an appropriately-sized grain of salt.
Would you say that learning Elixir has changed the way you think about programming and architecting your code and applications?
Almost everyone says Elixir and OTP have changed the way they build
applications. I am not even a little surprised at this answer. Erlang was
eye-opening for me!
How are you deploying your Elixir apps?
I have two deployment-related takeaways from this. First, we as a community
should find a way to expose new users to releases earlier in their Elixir
experience. Secondly, we need more examples that clarify the simplicity and
value of Erlang’s distribution -- Docker and Heroku inherently cripple the
value the Virtual Machine can provide.
There were also quite a few other deployment processes that respondents called
out which, as you might have guessed, are on the other side of this footnote.
I love these surveys so much, because they highlight such a great community that
we have building around Elixir. Our open source contributions are high. We are
growing fast and everyone is contributing. By identifying education issues
around OTP and releases, we know where to focus our attention on teaching and
documentation for the next year. Everyone has jobs. The state of the Elixir
And please don’t forget about Firestorm Forum! We
want to build something amazing: an Open Source Elixir & Phoenix backed forum,
with a sweet, modern Elm front-end. Then we want to use that platform to teach
Elixir and Phoenix to everyone for free. We’re excited to do what we can to
help grow our community, and we need help.
We hope you enjoyed the 2016 Elixir Users’ Survey, and we’ll see you in 2017!