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State Of Ruby On Rails Web Development At The Beginning Of 2020

Feb 37 min read

Robert Krajewski

Co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, mentor and startup advisor.


Ruby on Rails is a web framework that has matured over the last 15 years. Each year and every release have brought us something new. Let us show you, what is the state of Ruby on Rails on the threshold of the roaring twenties!

What's new in Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails will be 15 years old this year. Lots of changes have been introduced both in the language and in the framework. As a Ruby on Rails development company, we have always been waiting for new releases. Many people involved in the development of RoR have ensured that it will be ready to meet the upcoming challenges.

Last year there were two major releases for Ruby on Rails. First, there were Rails 6.0 and then Ruby 2.7.0. Let's see what changed.

Rails 6.0

We had known it would come. Some things were available independently before, but now they have all been picked and packed into this new release.

  • Action Mailbox makes it easier and more reliable to work with various email clients;
  • Action Text — you can now easily use rich text content in your applications;
  • Multiple database support — new Rails come with the new simple API for multiple databases;
  • Parallel testing — now it is possible to use your computer's all cores. Yes, you can still perform some tests in the old way if you want;
  • Zeitwerk Mode — new code loader provides autoloading, eager loading and reloading making your work more efficient.

Some say that with Rails 6.0 too many features come in the Rails' core. They say they would see those features as optional gems instead. At the same time, others claim that these changes show the framework's maturity.

Ruby 2.7.0

As usual, this one came at the end of the year. Among more changes, these four mentioned below are most important.

  • Pattern Matching — an experimental feature that lets you find value of a given object if it matches the pattern;
  • REPL improvement — new, better environment supports multi-line editing and provides integration with rdoc;
  • Compaction GC — this one will help you make your RoR apps even more efficient. Now it will be possible to defragment a fragmented memory space.

Since these two releases took place, new gems and versions have appeared. If you want to keep up with RoR world, we highly recommend following the official Ruby on Rails blog that proves how active is still the development process of the framework.

Is Ruby on Rails dead?

Every year thousands of developers ask this question: Is Ruby on Rails hot, or is it stone-cold dead? CEO's and product owners are a bit less passionate about it, but they still want to know if this weird named framework is still relevant and a good choice to them? Some say that it's the best your company can get to develop a sophisticated solution. Others claim it's dead. (Whatever it means...)

It is probably not the last time we answer this question, but first, let's take a look at the numbers and statistics of Ruby on Rails.

  • There are 3955 GitHub contributors to the ROR’s source code;
  • The framework has been downloaded over 130 million times up until now;
  • According to the Stack Overflow 2019 survey Ruby was ranked the 12th most popular programming language. It means that Ruby has again advanced in this survey (when compared to last year). Meanwhile, Ruby on Rails was ranked 11th among Web Frameworks (category absent in 2018 survey);
  • The TIOBE index highlights Ruby as one of the 20 most popular technologies used around the world. It also shows that the language is becoming more and more popular each year — it started on the 22nd place in 2003 and climbed up to the 11th place in 2019;
  • According to BuiltWith.com, there are currently around 507,582 live websites running on Ruby on Rails. The framework is popular in all major countries known for their great devs, like the United States, Canada, and Germany;
  • In the USA only, there are almost 100.000 websites based on RoR, and some of them get over 200M visitors monthly;
  • If you check Monster.com, there are over 5600 Ruby On Rails jobs waiting for developers.

Given the numbers, why do some developers keep prophesying the death of Ruby on Rails? Maybe because it's not new anymore. After almost fifteen years everyone in the industry has heard about RoR and its advantages. Moreover, the framework has matured with every new release. Of course, we're all waiting for Ruby 3.0, but probably, it won't be as game-changing as the emergence of the Ruby on Rails years ago.

So, Ruby on Rails isn't dead. Some of us simply got used to it, as the framework grew up. Is there anything wrong in being mature and fully reliable?

Who Else Makes Use of Ruby on Rails Web Development?

According to some developers, Ruby on Rails is one of the best if not The Best and most efficient framework to use when you are building a database backed web application It's also worth mentioning that in RoR it's much easier to implement your business logic. Therefore, the framework is used not only by small players, but by well-known giants as well. You may know some of them, like GitHub, Groupon, Hulu, Shopify. Airbnb, Etsy or Basecamp. All these companies usually long for new Ruby on Rails developers to be hired, expanding the use of the framework.

RoR Community

What is really great, however, is how Ruby on Rails developers love giving back to the community. As mentioned before, the framework has almost 4000 contributors on GitHub — it is really an impressive number, especially comparing it to around 1950 contributors of Django, the most popular Python framework.

But Ruby on Rails community is also well-known from its openness and helpfulness. Ruby is broadly considered a great programming language for beginners due to the simplicity of the code. However, it is also chosen by rookies because of a huge number of Ruby and Rails-related blogs, repositories, wikis and other sources. Thanks to this, the problems in the development process can be resolved faster, making the final product available for the final release earlier.

There are quite a few places where you can safely start your Ruby on Rails Web Development journey. We ourselves highly recommend:

  • Ruby on Rails web page — most up-to-date information about new releases, guides and basic know-how;
  • RubyFlow — A popular linklog of the Ruby on Rails community. New interesting pieces are posted there daily by both experts in the field and newcomers;
  • RubyLand.news — A very often (sometimes even hourly!) updated site on Ruby. It covers a lot of tutorials and tips, so if you are having some issues with your development process in Rails, there is a huge chance the solution can be found on RubyLand;
  • Ruby Tapas — This place is for more advanced Ruby developers, who seek for more sophisticated ideas in programming. Run by Avdi Grimm.

The Best Choice Around Here

Despite almost 15 years since the first release of Ruby on Rails, the framework is still widely used among professional developers. Actually, as the numbers show, the number of its enthusiasts keeps growing every year. At the beginning of 2020, Ruby is something far away from just a fun and easy to learn programming language for those starting their software engineering career. More importantly, it is one of the most viable solutions for creating a great, user-friendly website or web application.

You don’t have to perform deep research in order to find out a number of experts offering Ruby on Rails consulting as well as Ruby on Rails development agencies offering to create your product efficiently. Ruby and Rails allow delivering finished websites and web apps fast without hurting their stability or performance. Also, costs of building MVP and Time to Market are low.

It can get even more interesting if you look at what Ruby on Rails creators are preparing to deliver in the nearest future. Ruby itself is heading towards the so-called 3×3 goal — it is planned to become even 3 times faster than Ruby 2 before 2020 ends. This will of course incredibly change the Ruby on Rails Web Development, making it even more interesting from a business standpoint. Except for the upcoming improved performance, there are also all the other great things one should remember about Ruby and Ruby on Rails, such as:

The framework is an open-source solution. This means you can get it and use it for free. Wondering why so many successful start-ups are using Rails? This is your answer — it is just incredibly budget-friendly.

Ruby is easy to learn. This means that even if you already have software engineers at your company working with some other languages, the transition to Rails should not be painful. Moreover, as more and more rookie developers are picking up Ruby, it may be easier for you to find suitable developers for your new project or company. Besides, there are a plethora of highly skilled specialists who strive for an interesting project. Again, a factor that makes RoR budget-friendly.

There are tons of helpful RoR experts in the internet community — we already said it. But what is also important is that Ruby takes pride in a huge number of libraries, known broadly as gems. They usually cover very specific functions of a website or app (think of integrating a credit card payment system with your product, for example), making it even easier and faster for developers to finish a project. Some of them are now parts of the Rails core.

The development process in RoR is quick — partly thanks to the vast libraries of gems. Some say there's a gem for everything. Built-in tools make developers' job easier and more efficient too.

Thanks to the multiple database support, Ruby on Rails became the most productive framework for building a database backed web application.

Yes, there are other solutions that are good. Let's take a glimpse on PHP. It's as old as the mountains and probably won't surprise you with anything. But it won't surprise your customers either. Then, if you want to build something extraordinary, Ruby on Rails is your best chance.

If you're dealing with much more complex challenges, you might think about employing Django. This framework written in Python is one of the best solutions for database-heavy applications. However, unless you're going to build a gargantuan system designed and developed by experts who know each and every secret of Python's syntax, Ruby will be a better and most cost-efficient solution.

Should You Use Ruby On Rails In 2020?

There are no simple answers when choosing a tech stack for a new project. If you're just learning about Ruby on Rails, check the Ruby on Rails Guide we have prepared. There's a massive amount of knowledge there, that will help you decide. If you're an old stager, here are some last comments for today.

You can use RoR in dramatically different enterprises.

Are you planning a new e-commerce project? Good. Choose Rails, just like the Internet giants like Shopify and Groupon (RoR is great for e-commerce and marketplaces).

Aiming to revolutionize a more orthodox industry? Follow the steps of platforms like Couchsurfing, Airbnb and Slideshare — they all make use of Ruby on Rails.

Or maybe you are just planning to take your company into the 2020s as soon as possible and make its website more suitable for new clients? Ruby and Rails are ready for you in this situation as well.

We highly recommend going through some of our favorite Ruby on Rails Web Development case studies. They will surely show you the scope of possibilities RoR can provide to both small start-ups and big corporations.

Ruby on Rails is getting even better with every release. After almost 15 years, it's a really mature and reliable framework. We know it because we've worked with RoR for many years. If you're looking for a trustworthy contractor, let us know how we can help your business grow.

Robert Krajewski

Robert is a co-founder and CEO of Ideamotive. Entrepreneur, who with passion spreads digital revolution all around the internet. Mentor and advisor at startup accelerators. Loves to learn and discover new business models.

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