Erlang was created in 1986 for telephony applications. But oddly enough, it's emerged in recent years as an increasingly useful tool for building Web servers, database servers and real-time Web applications because of its concurrency and support for distributed computing.
Facebook uses it to power its real-time chat application. The popular NoSQL databases Apache CouchDB and Riak are both built in Erlang. Companies ranging from Rdio and Voalte are also using it. In fact, Voalte's Benjamin King wrote a blog post about why Erlang is right for healthcare communication.
So should you learn Erlang? I asked Couchbase co-founders J. Chris Anderson and Jan Lehnardt this week at JSConf. "It's hard to write bugs in Erlang, and I'm not a very good programmer," Anderson responded.
"I'm always hesitant to recommend it," said Lehnardt. "Because it's so addictive.
Point and counter-point, I suppose. Anyway, it sounds like a pretty good language to learn if you want to build real-time, distributed applications that can take advantage of concurrency.
Getting Started with Erlang User's Guide
First, a tutorial: Getting Started with Erlang User's Guide from the official Erlang site. It's a basic tutorial for those with some programming experience. It doesn't go deep into Erlang's syntax and features, but is enough to get you started.
Learn You Some Erlang
Learn You Some Erlang by Frederic Trottier-Hebert is a variation of Learn You a Haskell by Miran Lipova?a. Unlike LYAH, LYSE is only available online. It's written for someone with programming experience, but not necessarily any experience with functional programming.
Erlang Programming WikiBook
Erlang Programming is a nearly finished WikiBook on Erlang. It's not to be confused with Erlang Programming by Francesco Cesarini and Simon Thompson Programming Erlang by Erlang creator Joe Armstrong.
Concurrent Programming in Erlang
The Erlang site includes the entire first section of the book Concurrent
Programming in Erlang by Armstrong, Robert Virding and Mike Williams. The PDF of this section is here.
Here's the now classic Erlang: The Movie:
And just for fun, here's BoingBoing contributor Dean Putney's remix of the video.