Ruby isn’t the only gem

… and that’s OK.

I overheard someone talking about how Ruby has “failed to have the impact that it could have had”. I leaned in further when I heard that, and he continued to talk about how Ruby was set to jump and and be The Next Java, mainly thanks to Rails.

I think that Ruby and Rails have had a massive impact if you widen the lens of what “impact” means. If you look at its impact by connecting it to the number of lines of code of ruby out there (which would be ironic in the case of ruby), or the number of developers using it, then I can see how you come to the wrong conclusion.

I prefer to look at the impact across the computing landscape.

My brain has always connected to Ruby in a way that it never did with Java. It feels right-er to me, and I enjoy programming with it so much more. Rails came along and filled a need to develop CRUD based web apps in an opinionated way that was a breath of fresh air to many PHPers and Java practitioners alike. It did that thing well.

Ruby was particularly well suited to this opinionated approach, but the concepts behind Rails were adaptable to many other systems and programming languages, and we saw that. PHP developers looked to take some of the ideas via frameworks such as Symfony and Zend Framework. The same could be said for many other languages that people were using for the Web. Rails, and Ruby, has helped the evolution of all web frameworks from there…. even if they made very different choices, they thought about those choices differently due to Rails.

Ecosystems, not Languages

Right as Rails was getting bigger there was a shift in the force with mobile, and it turns out that ecosystems have a huge say in which languages are used.

JavaScript is as large of a player as it is due to the browser, and the fact that JavaScript is the only *first class* programming language allowed, and the Web platform APIs are designed with that in mind.

Objective-C developers had the shock of their lives when they went from “crap how do we make money?” to the clouds raining it down thanks to iOS. The language that Android was optimized for kept that world strong, working with Java on the backend.

Our backend needs also changed a lot again. We weren’t mainly interested in shooting out HTML, but instead we were focused on APIs and the push to microservices and network servers enabled much more freedom to choose solutions such as go and node.

Ruby didn’t come along and own the market. The VC’s that wanted to find Ruby or Rails Inc didn’t get exactly what they wanted, but please don’t underestimate the role that Ruby and Rails have, and will continue to play.

It may not be the only gem on the planet, but I like diversity and it would be a sad state of affairs if it was.

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