Ruby: Beyond the Rails Framework for Software Development

Ruby was first released in 1995 and is an interpreted, high-level language written in C. It was conceived of and developed predominantly by Japanese software engineer Matsumoto “Matz” Yukihiro.

Ruby was developed in the 1990s as part of a drive to improve the efficiency of programming. Created by Matsumoto, the language was designed to be more streamlined and user-friendly, akin to languages such as JavaScript and Python.

Ruby was developed by Matsumoto as an object-oriented programming language, analogous to Perl. Unbeknownst to him, it would later become a prominent tool in web development.

Ruby on Rails Has Arrived.

Ten years after the initial release of Ruby, David Heinemeier Hansson utilized his experience developing the project management tool Basecamp to create the server-side web application framework based on the Ruby programming language, known as Rails.

In 2006, Apple’s announcement that MacOS X 15 would incorporate Ruby on Rails marked a significant moment that effectively brought the framework to the attention of many. Subsequently, a surge of developers began to rely on Rails as the foundation for their web applications, resulting in its widespread popularity.

The aim of this Python-based framework, like that of Django, which was released around the same time, was to provide developers with a selection of tools which would allow them to quickly construct web applications, albeit with some limitations on customization. This is akin to the ‘Do It Yourself’ approach to software development.

The Ruby programming language is renowned for its clarity and ease of use, allowing non-developers to understand the basic principles of a Ruby script. This is just one of the many advantages that Rails makes use of.

Popular websites such as GitHub, Airbnb, Shopify, Hulu and Zendesk have all adopted Rails as their backend solution. After 16 years of development, the platform has gained a significant user base and a wealth of beneficial tools, establishing it as a formidable competitor among various frameworks.

The simplicity of the Ruby on Rails framework has been a major factor in its success, with many developers citing it as one of their preferred frameworks. This is evidenced by the results of the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which show that Rails is no longer a new technology, but rather a well-established and widely adopted one.

Would you say that Rails is becoming obsolete?

Over the past sixteen years, significant progress has been made. Python 3.0, released in 2008, featured significant changes to the language to enhance readability and usability. Due to this, frameworks such as Django and Flask, which are based on Python, have become increasingly popular.

NodeJS is a strong rival to Ruby on Rails, with JavaScript having previously been one of the most commonly used programming languages. With the release of the V8 engine, it has become the go-to for back-end systems.

Ruby is a widely used and continuously evolving language, supported by a passionate community. However, one must consider the potential of Ruby to remain successful without the support of its powerful framework, Rails.

The Programming Language Ruby

Ruby is a scripting language with a wide range of potential applications. When compared to Python, its capabilities are similar. While Python is usually faster and uses less memory, many developers prefer it due to its attractive design and ease of use.

The design decisions of Ruby are based on a small set of fundamental principles:

  • Emphasis on people: Matsumoto believes that it is uncomfortable and unnatural to require programmers to replicate computer logic. He suggests that the aim of a computer language should be to imitate human thought and language as closely as possible, in order to simplify tasks for the programmer.
  • The least surprising route: Most programmers concur that Ruby is well aligned with this rule. There should be no surprise when discovering something new in Ruby, as the code is written in plain language and it is possible to anticipate the outcome.
  • An Ode to Programming’s Pleasures Matsumoto believes that developers are most content when they can concentrate on the creative side of programming. Ruby was created with this in mind, as it allows for multiple approaches to the same problem, similar to Perl.

Assume Two Languages, Ruby and Python.

Ruby faces strong competition from Python, which is renowned for its user-friendly features and robust development community. Python is one of the most popular programming languages of its kind, making it a difficult rival for Ruby.

Despite its popularity, it is not always indicative of quality. Ruby is favored due to its adaptability and flexible structure. To summarize, Python is the more user-friendly language, whereas Ruby is more sophisticated, though it has a more difficult learning curve.

When working with Python, its restrictions can be limiting. Conversely, Ruby offers greater flexibility; for instance, strings are immutable in Ruby whereas they can be modified in Python. This comparatively small difference between the two languages highlights their fundamental distinctions.

Ruby’s support of Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) makes it an attractive option for OOP enthusiasts. Python, however, does not offer good encapsulation, despite having classes, inheritance and methods.

Python has a large and active development community, however Ruby’s is more consistent and reliable, even if progress may be slower. It would not be accurate to say that Ruby is superior due to its community creating superior tools, however there are fewer bugs in Ruby’s libraries.

Ruby, the Language of First Impressions

Ruby is no longer limited to web programming and is now an excellent language for prototyping and demonstrating proof of concept during the initial stages of software development. This should not be misconstrued as a language of low stature; it is in fact highly valued.

Rapid prototyping requires a codebase that is legible and can be quickly adjusted to accommodate new ideas. Ruby is a suitable language for such situations, as it allows for the rapid creation of short scripts or projects that may need to be modified in a short amount of time.

Ruby is not amongst the most widely utilised programming languages, however its dedicated user base is maintaining its presence and actively promoting its capabilities as a valid alternative to the dominant languages in the market.

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