Is Ruby on Rails dead?

The Ruby on Rails phenomenon started by David Heinemeier Hansson in 2004 (fully open sourced in 2005) has had its share of hype, but lately it seems as if the trend is starting to die down, as ISPs have never really been that enthusiastic about it, and as a completely different scripting language amongst the more mature and well-established alternatives like PHP, and (on a lesser scale) ColdFusion even, it never really shared huge success amongst most webmasters although it developed a moderate community (now referred to as ‘clingers’). With the last major bit of news in RoR being Apple’s support in Leopard (that was 2007), and a redundant patch released just days ago at the time of this writing, is RoR dead except for those die-hard clingers?

When RoR first came on the scene, its core fundamentals of “Convention over Configuration” CoC and “Don’t repeat yourself” (DRY, as humorists found spells DRYCoC if put together) along with a Model-View-Controller structure (like struts) and the whole scaffolding thing made it sound like a great idea on paper. Many flocked to using the new technology, which also revolutionized the usage of Ajax, SOAP, and RESTful, even a popular photosharing website using it to manage photos.

However, despite the hype from its community and the arrogant comments made by RoR’s creator, it failed to achieve the numbers of deployments other *nix scripting languages did, although a few small hosts and ISPs did install it.

As of 2008, however, you rarely hear about the technology in the headlines anymore, and every now and then you’ll come across a ‘clinger’ (one who, after becoming absorbed by a technology he/she thinks is dominant, will continue to preach about it even decades after it has become outdated or abandoned). Apple did announce they would ship it pre-installed with the then-new Leopard in 2007 (probably because the RoR creator always touted a Macbook at his conferences), but Snow Leopard support is still up in the air. On the one hand, Apple tends to keep some things around in its OS just in case you need them, but then again Snow Leopard promises to strip some ‘unnecessary’ components out of OS X, and with the recent loss of popularity RoR has experienced, it might be on the chopping block (in addition to the rumored hackintosh-prevention techniques put in to Snow Leopard).

As a webmaster myself, I attempted to learn RoR with the intention of using it extensively after reading about its values (DRYCoC, no less). But after enduring the tutorials with the intention of it being as easy as PHP or (granted you know a .net language ahead of time), I was shocked at how much scripting mess went into the basics of the framework, which while slightly ahead of its time is too bleeding-edge for a rank among current scripting languages, although the Ajax API was attractive. After also having trouble with host support, I dropped learning it and stuck with what I know best, vowing to even use CGI before touching some obscure language/framework combination like Ruby on Rails again.

Another curiosity of the framework is the fact that nobody has the time to sit down and learn something completely different in order to be a little more productive (and hope everyone else you work with has done the same). In that case, other than the RoR-independent ideas like unobtrusive JavaScript, was RoR reserved for those needing a first scripting language since they were not already working on any sites?

So the final question is, comparing its user base/community to its size from 2005 or so, can we knight Ruby on Rails dead finally? I fail to see and prominent websites using the framework, and I don’t see as many zealots of it in the IRC channels anymore, so if you can’t see it after searching for it, its probably not there anymore.


Anthony Cargile is the founder and former editor-in-chief of The Coffee Desk. He is currently employed by a private company as an e-commerce web designer, and has extensive experience in many programming languages, networking technologies and operating system theory and design. He currently develops for several open source projects in his free time from school and work.

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  1. glowind August 24, 2013

    24/008/2003 and Ruby/RoR still alive and still growing :P

  2. johnny June 20, 2013

    If you going to design a new general purpose programming language, it better be revolutionary. Because I see no point learning another one, after having learned (and then forgotten) so many. Perhaps I’m getting old, but I’m tired of learning new ways of declaring methods and writing for loops. I don’t know Ruby, perhaps it really has some good ideas; but why not improve an existing language instead?

    I don’t know Rails, it maybe a brilliant idea, why not build it on top of an exisiting language? Why put it on the shoulders of an untested language, compared to something like Java which has dominated the enterprise space and proven itself worthy? To defeat Java at this game, both Ruby and Rails have to be not just exceptional but revolutionary. it is highly unlikely.

    Perhaps it looks quite good for someone coming from PHP, but I’ve been there with Pascal, QBasic (someone hire me please, shit I wrote games in Qbasic), C, C++, Assembly, Java, Scheme, Prolog, Perl, Php, shell scripts, Javascript, Actionscript. I’m failing to see the point. I’m learning Go and see some potential but boy that mountain called Java and .NET looks impassable. It has to turn programming up side down if it hopes to do that, otherwise will merely carve out a niche. That said, Google does have talent. Node.js is quite promising and worked on by a group of genius, but at best it will be an alternative to Java and .NET

    So enough with the tech fanboys and the tech-deaf startup CEOs jumping on every new technology like moth to flames. You could use some meditation time

  3. It is 2013 and boy is it ever dead. Lots of conferences and papers written on it, Rails 4 is nearing release, hundreds of thousands of sites are using it and growing.

    It sure is dead.

    In my experience people who hate it fail to grok the 100% OO, message passing paradigm that psuedo-OO brain-dead languages like C++ or Java failed to provide. You hear people going on and on that it is “typeless” which is a red flag. Ruby is strongly typed. Or they are self-trained PHP monkeys and can’t understand anything even resembling CS principles.

    Ruby is such a nice language to work with and is simple to learn the basics, but it has extremely advanced features that mainstream languages do not. You can even add to the language in a fairly straightforward way, although the end results are not a first class part of the language like Lisp. It gets you pretty close.

    For a simple example try searching for a ruby implementation of C# using keyword. Then try implementing that in Java or C++ in a way that looks like it is part of the language and will work for any existing or future object that has an open and close method.

    For more beefier example look how projects like Rake, ActiveRecord, Cucumber and RSpec extend the language to suit their specific domains.

    The reason Rails is so good is precisely because Ruby is an extremely clean and flexible language. It is not an accident that it was written in Ruby, and not PHP, Java, C++, etc. Yes, other languages could do it, but the amateur, self-taught “programmer” that cries about Ruby would have a stroke if they had to try and learn Lisp, Smalltalk, Scheme, Haskell, OCaml, and the other languages that don’t gimp the programmer in the name of appealing to the mediocre masses.

    Reading these comments are pretty funny. My current rails app went through Ruby 1.8.7 to the 1.9.1 conversion with little work, and I always update when a new ruby update comes out. No issues whatsoever. Same with upgrading with Rails. It was originally started when 3.0.2 was the newest and still runs flawlessly with 3.2.13. Ruby flawlessly in JRuby as well.

    My current app, which I have maybe 3 man months on(been working on it in my spare time) has more features, performs better, is more stable, far more maintainable than similar existing PHP apps that have dozens, if not hundreds of people working on it over several years. I think I recently went over 4500 very readable lines of code, not including what is in my views. Some of the existing PHP apps that fall short of mine in features have 40000+ LOC not including the poorly implemented plugins that go along with PHP projects.

    It is dead easy to run in production. Install Apache or Nginx, install ruby, install passenger, install my rails app, run bundle install, start passenger. From a bare system running no web server to completely configured and running smooth in less than 10 minutes. Updating it is even easier, pull in changes run touch command, done.

    Then there are many “cloud” rails solutions, many of which supported Rails first before adding other nice web frameworks like Python’s Django. These solutions scale effortlessly.

    It is true that there are not a lot of cheap shared hosts that properly support RoR, but there are some. But if your projects problem can be solved by a $5 host, you don’t have much of a problem or project. You can get a VPS that can do anything you need it to for less than $20 a month, and VPS’s scale much easier than shared hosts if you are lucky enough to have the scaling problem. By the time you need to scale out rails you are going to have a lot of customers happily using that 1 $20 a month VPS.

    Twitter(which must have terrible devs) still uses RoR for its front end. They just did absolutely stupid things, many of which had nothing to do with Rails. Crap like using mySQL for a message queue system, which is something only the worst first year CS student would think of doing. For some reason Rails took the blame for their idiocy. Now their back end is Scala and they are using a nosql solution which is perfect for their domain. Yet, they still have issues, because scaling at that level is painful no matter what you use.

    < 0.1% of all web sites ever see even a tenth of the traffic as twitter, much less get that much.

    I think the biggest problem and complaints about Rails are from self-trained PHP monkeys that just hack on something until it kinda works and expected Rails to work the same way. I learned Rails parallel with learning Ruby and didn't find it very difficult but I have an MS in CS and already understood language concepts, the HTTP spec, etc. It doesn't matter what you use, if you do not understand the underlying concepts you will struggle, even with language designed by amateurs, for amateurs like PHP, or languages designed for the mediocre programmer like Java.

    Ruby is a high level languages filled with advanced concepts that Lisp and Smalltalk have, but it is presented in a nicer way, but you still have to understand those concepts to be able to properly and effectively use them.

  4. Duglarri January 1, 2012

    It’s now 2011; I’m a developer with 30 years at this, and my view of RoR is this: WTF? And second, does ANY of this actually work? I’ve loaded tutorial after tutorial, inspected demo after demo, and nothing runs at all- it all founders on the rocks of a massively complex scripting system that’s supposed to make things easier, but that instead seems to insert absurd complexity to get simple things done. Go ahead, write all the simple things automatically- but then, break completely when Gem number 120 of 170 is modified by somebody and doesn’t work with Ruby, only with Or are Unix-only. And the standard seems to be a half a day to set up a working RoR installation.

    If there’s a productivity gain at the end of all this absolutely unique-to-RoR complexity, I certainly can’t see it from where I’m sitting.

  5. ungeheuer September 7, 2011

    agree. rails is dead as can be.
    but it really bugs me that those folks are doing
    such a good job of pretending it isn’t.
    what with all the conferences all over the world,
    all those book publications, the frequent rails
    releases with tons of new features, an ever growing,
    very commited community..
    not to mention all the successful startups using
    if you didn’t know any better, you’d think rails was
    actually a thriving framework.
    but hey; we know better!

  6. Rick O'Shay September 2, 2011

    Yes. It’s dead, if crap can said to have been alive. Ruby on Rails was the object-oriented, test-driven replacement for the PHP crowd and its fallen by the wayside. The big selling feature was a short learning curve with enough power and flexibility to build a real website. The learning curve is of no value to the learned, nor to customers who use the learned to build their applications; it’s only valuable to developers in training, and the customers you hire them to create software.

  7. I would say Rails is dead. The community was larger 7 years ago and is nearly non-existent now. There are about ten jobs using Ruby/Rails in the country. And Ruby has done several things to prove again and again that it is not production ready. Ever try upgrading a single build of Ruby? More often than not, it’s worse than going from ASP.Net 1.0 to 4.0 or PHP 3 to 5!

    It was a cool experiment, and not a complete failure. It allows users to build websites extremely fast, but its future maintainability is worse than even bloated Java. Generally it was well designed but very, very poorly executed

  8. developer March 28, 2011

    Let the facts speak for themselves:

    1. Twitter, RoR only claim to fame, dropped ror.
    2. Zed, the writer of THE rails server, Mongrol, decided the ROR community is one of the shittiest communities around and basically told it to fuck off.
    3. ROR is dead.

  9. Rick O'Shay November 24, 2010

    The slope of the learning curve is moot and of no consequence to the customer or the application, for those who live on the flat part near the top. RoR is a superior alternative to PHP, based on excellent principles, but it’s a tricycle with training wheels.

  10. anyone that touches ruby would never go back to php as their preferred scripting language.
    the unintelligent usually have a hard time with adapting to change.
    if something comes along that is more enjoyable and productive than ruby, I will switch, but for now ruby is top.

  11. M Kilroy August 2, 2010

    I started as a front-end designer and have slowly become more interested in dev. Like many who took this path, I went via PHP and have never used .NET or Java.

    I got tired of using php frameworks and tried Ruby/Rails. Being a recently-converted developer, I know I was late to the party but thought I at least better check it out and make my own decision. I’m definitely not in any rails ‘cult.’

    But Ruby seems to be absolutely cleaner, more rational, and more useful than PHP, and to have more interesting projects in the community. I don’t want to write html and css now that I can write haml and sass.

    At work, we have to use Zend, and it feels clunky in comparison.

    My only gripe was that it was a bit of a mission to install Rails. All that command line stuff was uncomfortable.

    I can see its appeal to startups, but also why it would be difficult to use in big corporate systems.

    I’m glad I found the time to learn it (on weekends). I don’t share the opinion that “nobody has the time to sit down and learn something completely different in order to be a little more productive.” We all work hard, but I’ve seen many people superseded because they’ve failed to try different things, and it is really sad.

    For the same reason I looked at RoR (curiosity about how things might be done differently), I studied Lisp with no intention of ever using it in the workplace, but found it gave me insights into functional programming I could use in javascript the next day. So it can even be useful to have a look at a 50-year old language, right?

    I doubt RoR will die soon but don’t doubt there is less hype about it now.

    If I was able to found a startup tomorrow, I would use it. I couldn’t afford to do otherwise.


  12. Johnny X July 19, 2010

    It’s now 2010, and yeah, it’s pretty much dead. A few clingers like that die-hard obie guy, but other than that you don’t hear that much about it anymore. It was supposed to replace Java, according to people like Bruce Tate, but obviously he was WAY wrong.

  13. Diamond Glass July 15, 2010

    Rails isn’t just on its way out, it’s almost gone. Almost no one uses it anymore. It’s too much work for a less complex outcome.

  14. Green Guru Landscaping June 14, 2010

    I’m with Someone: ‘You say that “ISPs have never really been that enthusiastic about it”, and I fail to see why ISPs should care about any webdev framework.’ Your little article here really doesn’t make sense. It’s like you just copied and pasted technical words from a web developers’ handbook and threw them into paragraph form. This doesn’t even begin to make sense.

  15. what’s wrong with you “rails is dead” people?
    seems more likely to me that the habit of using
    search engines is dead. at least with you lot.
    or you just don’t give a cr**. in that case,
    why comment on this in the first place?

  16. Rails is ‘Web Framework’ intended to do its job that is make web developers life easier. We can do lot more than making simple e-commerce website and master Rails & its core language Ruby faster then any other (personal view).
    But its not complete solution just like its rivals, j2ee/ ect. it does its job though better than other alternatives.

    If someone is interested in getting better job or complete solution then they better have good understanding of either ASP.NET or J2EE. For hobbyist or single developers they won’t regret after mastering rails.

  17. …. at the time the RoR hype spreaded out, i was reading so many insultances about php and any other mature web language already used for so many years … i was hyped also and tried some simple tutorial … the result was ***** … i never powered that ugly thing again, and i never will …

  18. LOL. Rails 3.0 are you kidding? Ruby died a long time ago.

  19. Peter Reyes December 27, 2009

    Rails isn’t even what makes Rails great – it’s Ruby, which is a joy to code in – you write less and end up with beauitful, highly-readable code that is much easier to maintain than Java/PHP spaghetti.

    Many of your points against Rails are being addressed in Rails 3. It is already shaping up to be lighter, faster and more agnostic/modular. It is also absorbing the Merb community since the two frameworks are uniting.

    So the answer is NO, Rails is not dead – but maybe some of the arrogance and fanboyism is, which is always a good thing in my book. I code in C, Java and did a stint as .NET developer, I was no where near as productive as I am with Rails.

    As for Twiitter/Scala hype, people fail to realize that the app is STILL written in Rails and just the queue system is in Scala. Personally I woulda went with Erlang for that but thats just me :p. Point is Rails is still the backbone of the years most popular, and rapidly growing social networks.

    In summary, you should really check the pulse of something before you proclaim it dead.

  20. I come from a C++ and Java background. Someone convinced me to look at RoR and I was very eager to. I bought the RoR Agile book, spent time learning Ruby as a language and then ploughed myself into going through the rails tutorials.

    I quickly became aware that there was not much substance behind the hype. The tutorials didn’t work. I turned to the person who referred me to RoR. He criticised my method of learning. I was merely going through the tutorials one-by-one. There was no help from him (because as I learnt, he didn’t actually know!), and searching on the web didn’t provide any assistance either.

    I searched around for hosting facilities for my application. I had major trouble finding anything.

    I’ve gone back to doing the application in Java and Spring MVC. I have to tell you it’s working like a charm! I just read earlier that RoR was created “out of anger” from things like Java.

    Beware of RoR. The people who use it are very often Mac users. Please allow me this generalisation: Mac users are fiercly evangelical. They think they know better and will force the hype out as much as possible. Underneath it, there’s little substance. I think this is also why RoR is so hyped.

    Twitter have replaced their queueing system with Scala. RoR just doesn’t cut it.

    Java is a much more scalable language/platform. There is a wealth of resources out there if you need assistance putting stuff together. It’s been thought out properly and not knocked together by a couple of people in a bedroom!

  21. RoR is dead, the hype is gone, it did not make it in the real world for a reason, yes it’s still around but no where near the hype it built and you clingers did not waste your time, it’s another tool in your box.

  22. It’s 2009, and other than the minor controversy of Twitter dropping RoR for Scala, nothing of substance has happened, and it looks like the last “clingers” are all that’s left. Goodbye RoR, we hardly knew ye ;-)

  23. I support the post this author, although seems to be biased, RoR folks maked a big pressure to the “rest of us” at the time making some feeling in the air that if someone not using this new “Big Thing” is a jerk, that PHP will die soon so “we” will, and such stupidities.

    I’m just another devboy that maked the famous “cooking book” example in few hours and when tried to execute it on apache with fastcgi i wait i think for 3-4 secs on local server, doohhh mannnn – you must be kidding me !!?? that was just few records from the database !!! …. and that was just the last time – and i’m happy about.

    Interesting i don’t judge the Ruby language by itself, maybe it’s kinda good -> but Logo, Ada, Cobol, Lisp, Algol and others are also fine, but they’re just not pretending to make some big bang on the street, they know their position and purpose – and that’s what Ruby should do either.

    I never liked the approach of the “New Folks” in the town, aggressive claims, big words, depreciation, etc … They are grounded now with their bullcraps, and that is fine either. Everyone wins.


  24. First let me say I like the Android emulator at the top lol.

    Second let me say you may be right. RoR zealots WERE all over the place claiming how it walked all over PHP and any other scripting language. I remember people swearing Zend was going to piss in their pants when they saw Rails 2. Now the wolves have gone quiet. I missed the news about the Rails 2 launch if it even did.

    You are right. The mass exodus to Rails was mainly the same type of people that cling to ASP.Net for dear life. They need an imposing framework to write any code. And that fact that Rails would generate alot of stuff for them made it even better. Thats why all you saw were people making blogs and the like over and over and over again. It could easily build these simple CRUD apps and then they could customize them. After this honeymoon died and it was time to build real applications everyone went quite.

    Its also a bit childish to claim other frameworks are copying Rails. Most of this stuff is nothing more than design patterns. If anything they are copying the idea to pull these patterns together into a ready to use framework. But only a noob would believe that Rails is actually the source of these patterns.

  25. – the author and the commenters outside of the Rails cult express my same view. Rails may be good for some novice wanting to learn some server-side scripting, but for us veterans that have been doing Perl, C and even Java for a long time, trying to adopt Rails and Ruby in general is almost always disastrous.

    And all of those websites you mentioned above aren’t a complex-enough project for PHP to be implemented, as evidenced by the usage of RoR in the first place. RoR does have some philosophies that any language can use (DRY, unobtrusive JavaScript to name a few), and using them in a non-ruby language accomplishes the same goal.

    But ultimately, rails has a lot of unnecessary routes to be taken in order to do something a few lines of PHP or Java could handle, and because of that and the very very specific niche RoR seems to currently satisfy in the web development community when viewed as a whole, I conclude that Rails is not worth the hype as a means for avid adoption.

  26. prominent_websites September 24, 2008

    Hmm, no prominent websites running rails? Lets see…

    To name a few.

    I’ll admit it’s not easy to see, because there’s no “.rails” in the URL, but come on, there was obviously NO research done before making this post.

    Congrats on the view count, a LOT of people will see this and conclude that you are in fact not worth the screen this blog is printed on.

  27. Fail post is Fail.

    2 seconds of research will prove otherwise.

    You’re just pissed that Rubyists have fun writing Ruby and you’re stuck with PHP.

  28. lol good joke

  29. This article does little to point out the actual flaws in rails and ruby, and just shows the authors bias.

    I assume that if you are having trouble with rails and it being messy, then you did not take the time to learn ruby outside of rails. Ruby is a wonderful language with many advantages over compiled languages and even other scripting languages. It also has disadvantages because it is not a compiled language. I would ask the author to learn these advantages/disadvantages before further criticizing ruby’s ‘messy’ code.

    As for rails, there are projects like ‘merb’ that are attempting to be like rails but cleaner in design. But the author never criticizes the design. There are documentation efforts underway to lower the bar of entrance. But the author never criticizes that either. Instead he tries to learn Rails and Ruby at the same time, and fails, and complains.

    If you wanted to be a street performer would you learn how to unicycle and how to juggle at the same time? No way, you’d learn them both independently and then try to integrate them.

  30. mwilliams September 24, 2008

    I think the simple answer to this is no.

    Reference #1:

    Just a few big (and some very big) name companies using Rails.

    Reference #2:

    One of the largest (and cheapest) shared hosting providers improving their support for Rails as it has been a very large demand.

    Reference #3:

    Apple wrote their iPhone enterprise configuration utility in Rails when they launched the iPhone 3G. I would say that’s some commitment to Rails.

    On top of all this, Rails has an incredible community, Rails has had frequent releases and they continue to come down the pipe. Documentation is widely available. It’s an absolute pleasure to use and forces good programming habits. adheres to web standards and makes programmatic testing a pleasure. Take a look at frameworks for other languages like PHP and Python (Cake, Django) and all of the features they’re mimicking from Rails. Even the Django developers have been using Rails migrations for database version control.

    Good luck with CGI, be sure to post a follow-up on that endeavor.

  31. I don’t think so……

  32. Hi,
    One has to wonder whether this article is a joke, or a bait to attract readership.

    You say that “ISPs have never really been that enthusiastic about it”, and I fail to see why ISPs should care about any webdev framework.

    When you say that it is “a completely different scripting language amongst the more mature and well-established alternatives like PHP,”, I’m not sure if you understand that RoR is a framework, ruby being the scripting language (which appeared in 1995 btw).

    The last major RoR announcement was rails2, not that rails shipped with OS X.

    Again, when you say that “it failed to achieve the numbers of deployments other *nix scripting languages did”, it doesn’t make much sense since rails is a framework. In addition, no *nix scripting language (save PHP) is widely deployed on mutualised webhosting services.

    I don’t know why you were “shocked at how much scripting mess went into the basics of the framework”, nor why think it’s messy. What I know is that if you “fail to see and prominent websites using the framework”, you haven’t been looking very hard : (scroll down).

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