Senior full stack developer and CTO at Ideamotive.
In late 2004 popular American psychologist, Barry Schwarts came up with a bit counter-intuitive idea, that sometimes having a choice brings much more anxiety and suffering than being left without one. Although his book “The paradox of choice” was mainly about the consumer market, the statement remains true even in the B2B market. The proof is seen when it comes to choosing between Ruby on Rails and Node.js.
We’ve also compared Ruby on Rails with other popular solutions and technologies. Read our guides on:
and stay informed.
Ruby on Rails is a framework for Ruby programming language, designed mainly to swift up the code development process and eliminate the bottlenecks of the processes. The framework comes with several important features from the coders’ perspective. The most important is the “Don’t Repeat Yourself” rule, which forces the developer to reuse the components as often as possible, effectively reducing the hidden dependencies within the code and the possibility to ruin something when changes are applied.
Moreover, the framework aims to reduce the amount of required configuration by preparing the environment that is as much ready-to-go as possible.
Hulu is one of the big companies using Ruby on Rails.
The technology is mature, with the first stable version released in 2005 and the latest bigger update, the 6.0.0 version, released in August 2019. The most recent release as of today (early December 2020) is Ruby on Rails 6.1.0 from December 09, 2020.
Throughout the years, Ruby on Rails was adopted by various web giants, including Hulu, Shopify, Airbnb, and GitHub.
Want to know everything about Ruby on Rails from the business standpoint? Read our Ruby on Rails from our comprehensive Ruby on Rails development guide.
The project aims to enable developers to use a single programming language throughout the entire project, tackling the traditional separation of front-end and back-end technologies. It is most commonly used in designing web applications executed in real-time, like online games and communication tools.
Medium.com is not only based on Node.js, but also hosts the technology’s blog.
Just like Rails, Node.js is also commonly used by heavyweight IT players, including Microsoft, LinkedIn, SAP, and IBM.
On the other hand, Ruby without Ruby on Rails web development framework remains a powerful and versatile programming language but is much less convenient to use.
At first glance, both technologies appear to be similar. Both shine in the development of the online project and are used by web giants. Both have die-hard enthusiasts, ready to fight to the end in the internet battles.
The situation is far from being simple enough to provide a fair answer on which one to choose all the time. Considering that, we prepared this short guide to keep you informed.
As with many web-based technologies, Ruby on Rails comes with many options to design the interface and deliver the user a more immersive and convenient experience. Yet – tools should be used what are they designed for and Ruby on Rails is not an exception. The language is designed to power the application, so leaving all the UX matters in the virtual hands of Ruby on Rails wouldn’t be the smartest move possible.
Ruby on Rails is a framework, thus the developer is provided with many basic concepts, that powers coding with predefined architectural concepts. The convention over configuration approach enables the developer to focus on designing the code, not to tackle the configuration problems. With Ruby being object-oriented programming, delivering a consistent and stable architecture is relatively easy.
Ruby on Rails (and Ruby itself) is one of the modern programming languages designed to be easy to use and to leverage all the modern IT tools. Considering that the Ruby on Rails programmers can deliver the code relatively easy and fast.
Ruby on Rails web development wins in terms of delivering the solution faster. In the end – it was designed to run all the backend work, not forced to do it by the runtime environment.
Node.js comes with a Google-designed V8 engine and it really deserves its automotive-related name. It’s damn fast and its ability to write high-speed asynchronous code is praised by many web developers. It shines, especially in IO heavy operations.
Ruby on Rails is not fully supporting asynchronous code and concurrency is much harder to achieve and requires more experience from a developer. Thus, the performance of Ruby on Rails is visibly lower than in Node.js, although it may still shine in some CPU heavier scenarios.
Various benchmarks show that the performance of Node.js can be up to 20 times greater than the one provided by Ruby on Rails.
The popularity of a technological solution might be sometimes difficult to assess. The battle between Ruby on Rails and Node.js is a great example that confirms this statement.
Let’s start with some raw numbers based on currently live websites.
Ruby on Rails is used on 2,064% of the top 100k sites and 1,335% of the top million sites while Node.js is seen on 2,273% and 1.112% respectively. The share exemplifies 308,192 live websites powered by Ruby on Rails and 143,078 leveraging the Node.js technology.
Interestingly, Ruby on Rails remains dominant in almost every part of the world except for a handful of places. Here is a quick breakdown of the popularity of both of these solutions in some of the most technologically important countries:
However, the number of live sites shouldn’t be the only way to measure the popularity of the technology. Some sites could be simply built a few years back and left running despite the IT world changing around. As Ruby on Rails was launched around 4 years before Node.js, it simply had more time to become a widely used solution.
So to make sure which technology is really more popular these days, let’s have a look at data from Google Trends.
Ruby on Rails (and Rails itself) on the other hand, are solutions for developers who tend to look for different, more unique ways of approaching problems. RoR never was and probably never will be a dominant technology among developers — even if it embraces the idea of easily understandable code.
To fully understand how popularity affects the choice between Ruby on Rails and Node.js, we have to look at the other side of the coin — the community.
Even the most robust and advanced technology may become a flop if it doesn’t gather enough developers around itself. If you jump into an online forum for expert developers, you’ll surely find there people talking about some new programming languages and frameworks that are considered interesting but unusable on a larger scale due to the scarce community using them.
The bigger community around technology, the more possible it is that someone already had a similar issue to yours, meaning it can be solved way faster than figuring it out by yourself. That’s why, when considering Ruby on Rails vs Node.js, it’s important to review the popularity of these solutions only within the community of developers.
And one of the best ways to measure the community around the technology is to have a look at GitHub. This is what we did below.
Personally, we would recommend to focus on the number of contributors and commits for each technology. These show the commitment of the community and how active it is the most. And in this category, Ruby on Rails is a clear winner - Node.js might have more stars, but Rails developers are the ones who truly love and explore their technology.
The numbers prove that someone who loved Rails once keeps loving it for years to come, actively supporting the community.
When the technology is backed and used by internet giants, serious problems with stability aren’t usually the case. Both technologies are used by heavyweight internet (and not only!) players and come with numerous users around the web.
The stability is not a case in this context – both technologies are stable and can be trusted. The difference is in modules and extensions, where Ruby on Rails dominates the clash.
Both projects provide solid documentation on core components. The rest varies depending on the effort put by the team delivering the component. Considering the less strict approach to programming seen in Node.js, the add-ons may come in a less trustworthy quality than in Ruby on Rails.
Considering that, there is no clear way to point the better one.
Since the community is so large, it shouldn't take long to find a good RoR developer. Moreover, only the lazy are unaware of the existence of Ruby gems.
Node.js has also a lot of people who know the framework and programming language well. We can get both front-end and server-side developers from a single person.
If you were hoping to see the exact numbers in this section, I will disappoint you. No developer can tell you the price of your project right away. At the same time, different technologies for creating web applications are suitable for certain budgets and financial expectations. So let's look from a business perspective and see how developers evaluate each technology.
One wise man said that the cost of hiring an engineer is determined by their experience and knowledge, not the language they know. You can agree or disagree with this statement, but in practice, the situation is somewhat different. Some web sources show that the average hourly rate for Ruby and Node.js engineers is almost the same, while the rates for Python developers are lower. With this in mind, Django and Rails offer the shortest time to get MVP. That is, Unchained outperforms both the Ruby framework and Express.js in terms of cost-effectiveness. Node.js is considered the most expensive solution. However, all this is relative and cannot be considered a standard.
When developing any large project, a reasonable question arises. How and who will test the project? There is not always the means and the desire to create entire testing departments, especially to automate this process.
Unlike other frameworks, RoR has excellent automated testing tools. Other programming languages and frameworks do not have standard testing tools. There are third-party developments that allow you to organize automatic testing of a project in other languages, but they are not out of the box, and programmers do not think about using them.
In a RoR project, ideally, the project code is not written until tests for this code are written. RoR ideology assumes the initial use of BDD (Behavior Driven Development) or TDD (Test Driven Development) methods.
Another reason to stick with Ruby on Rails is that it is a great choice for beginner web developers. You can get a truly secure solution and not participate in the self-sustaining of its security mechanisms.
For example, RoR uses XSS filters by default. There is also a built-in Authentity_token tool that is used against CSRF attacks. It's also great for preventing SQL injection and many other useful things.
Node.js is known for its large ecosystem. An open-source package management system provides developers with reusable code, plugins, and add-ons, increasing the versatility of the application.
Node.js is full of npm packages - using off-the-shelf components saves time and potentially improves code quality. However, not all teams understand the dangers associated with npm packages. The problem is that the Node.js team has only recently started scanning modules for security issues. Many of the current npm packages, including tough-cookie, js.dom, and others, have dependencies, vulnerabilities, and room for potential security threats.
So, when it comes to security, the first fighter wins the battle of Ruby on Rails against Node.js. When it comes to Node.js, you only need to rely on the security of your chosen framework.
Both technologies provide stable versions and are developed in regular releases. There are many companies relying on these technologies and looking for ways to leverage them in their projects.
Finally, both technologies can be easily used alongside and integrated with other popular solutions.
Before we proceed with summarizing our findings, it’s good to consider the differences between Ruby on Rails and Node.js on real-life examples.
First, let’s start with Twitter. The famous social media platform is not using Ruby on Rails anymore, but it has been for many years. As some people say – without Rails, we might not have Twitter of today at all. The framework allowed the company to build its popularity fast, implementing new functionalities and improving its web app fast. The rapidness of writing good code is one of the most popular arguments for using Rails.
In the end, however, as we have already mentioned, Twitter moved from Rails. This is because of the scalability and performance issues. When Twitter really became a global phenomenon, Rails started to be not enough for the company’s needs.
LinkedIn has a similar case. They moved from Rails to Node.js due to the need for improving performance. As they have expanded to other countries, including China, the need for a quickly accessible platform for people from all over the world became a must.
We looked at Node and ran some load against it, at which point it would send a request out to something like six other services, grab that data, merge it, and then pop it back out in a fairly simple way. We just ran with that all the way up to about 50,000 QPS (queries per second). Along the way, we discovered that Node was roughly 20 times faster than what we had been using and its memory footprint was smaller as well.
Kiran Prasad, Senior Director of Mobile Engineering, LinkedIn
For many global IT companies, however, Rails still happens to be a viable and scalable solution. Years have passed since Twitter stopped using the framework and many improvements have been made. To make sure Rails still answers the modern needs, many of the Rails companies participate as contributors in the development of new versions of the framework.
The list of these companies includes GitHub who was using the beta version of Rails 6.0 and fully migrated to this new version of the framework just after 1.5 weeks after the official release.
There are so many wins to staying upgraded that go beyond more security, faster performance, and new features. By staying current with Rails master, we’re influencing the future of the framework to meet our needs and giving back to the open-source community in big ways. This process means that the GitHub codebase evolves alongside Rails instead of in response to Rails. Investing in our application by staying up to date with the Rails framework has had a tremendously positive effect on our code base and engineering teams. Staying current allows us to invest in our community, invest in our tools for the long term, and improve the experience of working with the GitHub codebase for our engineers.
Eileen M. Uchitelle, Staff Software Engineer @ GitHub
Any person, be it a developer or a regular user, wants to have a technology without bugs and problems; technology that will facilitate and speed up the development and programming process. In fact, quality is one of the main strengths of Ruby that distinguishes it from others. One of the main goals of its creators was to develop a technology that would be free from all possible problems and errors. Therefore, an integral part of Ruby is the use of technologies such as Mocking, TDD and BDD.
A developer cannot be careless about timing when developing an application. The Ruby creators knew this very well and tried to make an application that can save you time and, as a result, enable you to do what you need to do much faster.
One of the main distinguishing features of Ruby is the many built-in functions and extensions, which allows even beginners to use this technology. In addition, you can organize the entire structure of your application to make it more readable. Finally, a huge convenience is the use of MVC. You can collaborate on a project, sharing responsibilities with other developers.
As you remember, we mentioned earlier the great advantage of having a strong community. Let's get back to this.
It's no secret that developers, regardless of their experience, face certain problems from time to time. This is why the community is so important. Thanks to the existence of a good support group for this technology around the world, there are many different blogs and platforms where developers can come together and discuss different issues.
This is a real lifesaver for Ruby programmers. You can ask any question and get the right answer, which is a big advantage of using Ruby.
One of the main things in the world of technology is safety. The reason for this is the circulation of a large amount of important and private information in different layers of this vast planet.
The Ruby creators realized this very quickly. Therefore, they decided to create many built-in functions that will allow developers to independently solve security problems, implement different levels of access, and so on.
However, there is another technology called the Secure Development Lifecycle, which is quite difficult to use but effective in protecting the information you have.
Let's face it - Ruby on Rails is not a speed demon. Since this is not a problem, when you release the first version of a product, the problem will grow in proportion to your user base.
RoR advocates argue that most of the time performance problems for RoR applications depend on the architecture of the server or database and ... the skills of your development team, not Ruby on Rails itself. That said, if you don't work with real and experienced RoR masters on your team, performance issues may arise at some point.
When you search for information on the scalability of RoR applications, you will quickly learn the history of Twitter. Originally built in Ruby on Rails, then migrated to Scala to handle the growing number of user requests. LinkedIn has undergone a similar transition, switching its internal mobile infrastructure (built with Ruby on Rails) to Node.js. On the other hand, there are apps like Shopify, Github, or Couchsurfing that scale well.
In all fairness, there are solutions out there to make RoR applications scalable. First of all, it cannot be a monolith. Microservices scale better regardless of technology. In addition, there is a set of good practices, but they usually require a good set of skills to apply, and sometimes it just isn't worth it. Ruby on Rails might be the perfect choice for building Proof-of-Concept as quickly as possible, but for larger projects, it's much more difficult.
This is due to both the performance and scalability of RoR applications. Ruby on Rails is slower compared to similar frameworks like Node.js or GoLang. This is not a problem if you have a small application, but it may affect future scalability.
Ruby on Rails is considered a very self-confident framework, which means that it only allows you to build your application in a certain way — the way that Rails wants you to. The agreement is more important than configuration, right? There are many predefined objects that may not leave enough room for developers to get creative. While there are some advantages to this approach (especially when you are building an application with some standard functionality), some more unconventional applications can be difficult to develop, forcing you to choose between development time or application uniqueness.
As stated earlier, Ruby on Rails is an open-source environment in which anyone can create a library (Gem) for various purposes. So if you have developed some useful function and feel that it is a great thing that is not in any library (or it is better than in the existing library), you can create your own Gem. Once you put it in the public repository, it will be available to all Ruby on Rails users.
As you can imagine, there are thousands of gems available! But only popular ones have the appropriate documentation, and only popular ones are developed. Many of the RubyGems available in the repository have been abandoned and are no longer supported.
When talking about the pros and cons of Node.js, keep in mind that this aspect may be the most important to technology. For any developer (and for any person in general), time is money, so it is very important to have a platform that can work without bugs, errors, and speed limits. The JS developers did their best and achieved an outstanding result. They decided to power the entire platform with Google V8, which not only increased its speed but also improved code purity.
Sharing responsibilities among programmers can be a significant advantage. Node.js provides this capability. With the platform's simple background structure, developers can use techniques and strategies to develop key parts of the application separately. These techniques are called NPM packages.
If you are working on an application, streaming data is one of the important things to make your development process faster and easier. Thanks to the technological advances in JS, you can work with them. The increased speed makes processing files and key elements faster and easier, which has a beneficial effect on almost every aspect of the platform.
If you are using Node.js, data streams are not the only advantage. Thanks to the capabilities and functions of the server, you get the opportunity to organize a proxy server, which will speed up and facilitate the development process. As a result, you will save time and money. Moreover, such an important matter as communication can also rise to a new level. Better connections and technological aspects make it easier to connect with other developers and programmers.
There are several other pretty important positives about using Node.js.
Node.js is a relatively new technology. Although its kernel is stable, some packages in the npm registry are not yet properly documented, making them difficult to use.
Even though it can handle requests at the same time, we must remember that there is no multithreading. If your live Node.js application is not implemented correctly, callbacks can slow it down. However, if implemented correctly, this is no longer a hoax.
Node.js has been criticized for its frequent API changes. Is this a serious problem? Well, when the API changes, developers need to make changes to the existing codebase to make it compatible with the latest version of the Node.js API. Things change in newer versions of Node, so this may not be a reason to discredit it, but it's worth keeping these issues in mind when building a Node.js application.
With both technologies being powerful, flexible, and mature, it is challenging to pick the winner. It rather depends on the type of web product you want to create.
To make you distinguish the differences between Ruby on Rails and Node.js easier, we’ve set up a quick round-up table below.
Whatever the project you have to deliver, picking the right tool is the first step to victory. What comes later is assembling a team of people who can actually handle the tool well and deliver the project on time and within budget.
To make sure you hire the best people in your team fast, contact our experts at Ideamotive. We run an extensive network of top IT talents, including Ruby on Rails developers, Node.js developers, IT project managers, web designers, full-stack developers, and all the other people you might need to get your new web-based product done.
Dawid is a full stack developer experienced in creating Ruby on Rails and React Native apps from naught to implementation. Technological superhero, delivering amazing solutions for our clients and helping them grow.View all author posts
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