The state of Ruby on Rails in 2021, predictions for 2022

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It has been almost a year since the release of Ruby 3.0, but has the Rails framework caught up? Is Ruby on Rails still a viable technology for building new apps in 2022? In this article, we’ll look at the state of the RoR framework and its prognosis for the near future. We’ll also take a look at alternatives for those who might benefit more from using other technologies. Let’s dive in.

Ruby on Rails in 2021 – state of the framework

Ruby 3.0 was released on Christmas in 2020, with the ambition of making the language three times faster. Rails 6.1, introduced in 2020, improved Action Text while getting rid of some unnecessary elements. This most current version of Ruby on Rails is still backwards compatible with Ruby 2.5. The community expects Rails 7.0 to be released eventually, and to work best with Ruby 3.0. And yet, RoR’s popularity seems to have declined. Some concerned voices have even raised the possibility that the framework is not long for this world.

In our view, that prediction is totally unfounded. Particularly the web startup community still appreciates Ruby on Rails for its efficiency, cost-effectiveness, safety and stability. RoR is the perfect tool for rapidly developing scalable MVPs, and is used by companies like Shopify, Airbnb, and Github. It seems to enjoy the highest popularity in the US. Although the framework isn’t generating much buzz anymore, it’s still going strong, and remains a valid choice for starting a new web project.

A chart showing the most popular web development frameworks

 

If you look at the Stack Overflow data above, published this year, Ruby on Rails remains in the top fifteen most popular web development frameworks. At the same time, Rails is the highest paid framework, by a large margin. Clearly, RoR developers are in high demand, which means that their work is seen as very valuable.

A chart showing the top paid development frameworks

The benefits of using RoR

At this moment, Ruby on Rails comes with a number of neat solutions that can make all the difference in a software project. One of them is that Rails is a batteries-included framework. RoR comes with so many out-of-the-box tools and scripts that little more is necessary to start working on a new project or task.

RoR’s second advantage is it’s convention over configuration approach. Because Ruby on Rails is an opinionated framework, it has a preference for a certain way of doing things. How is this helpful? It minimizes the number of choices a developer has to make. Instead, it comes with conventions for handling certain aspects of software development, including asset management and routing.

Another big thing that makes RoR great is its layered structure. Due to its MVC (Model-View-Controller) architecture, Rails separates application logic from routing and information presentation. The MVC also serves as a connection between the frontend and backend of an app, and is a pre-decided way of organizing code, improving developers’ efficiency.

The obvious perk of using Ruby and Rails are gems. They are, essentially, pre-packaged app components that can be easily added to a project. There are gems for account registration, data visualization, and much more. Many of them support popular frontend frameworks to achieve a smooth development process. The main advantage of gems is that they help the development team save a lot of time.

Next, RoR’s robust community and test support deserve a mention. The people who use Rails are continuously creating helpful resources, including new gems, which means the framework is constantly updated with new options. The culture built by this community is one that values healthy code, and so Test Driven Development (TDD) is often promoted. This means that apps built with Rails tend to be tested and fixed early, resulting in smooth launches and lowered development costs.

Though Ruby on Rails is not shiny and new anymore, it’s certainly proven its worth for over fifteen years on the market. Because of this, RoR boasts a level of stability few newer frameworks can aspire to. It’s a solid technology with well known pros and cons. When you decide to go with Rails, you know exactly what you’re in for, which is an advantage on its own. And thanks to regular updates from its creators, RoR continues to be applicable in modern development use cases.

Rails’ main areas of use are rapid Agile development, ecommerce and content management systems. It’s also used for fintech platforms and web-based social networks. Because it’s easy to start development using RoR and continue to work very quickly, startups can benefit greatly from choosing this framework. Their apps can be built rapidly, allowing for a quick launch, or deliver early prototypes for testing or presentations. Additionally, because so much of Rails is already built in, the framework is easy on the budget.

For ecommerce, RoR allows easy implementation of pricing algorithms and tools for managing content (importantly, image resizing and product descriptions). Because web development with Rails tends to be modular, complex online stores can be updated with new features (such as third party payment systems) without a fuss. For content management, RoR brings the advantage of simple publishing, revising and editing. And finally, it’s fairly easy to effectively handle SEO with Ruby on Rails.

Ruby on Rails in 2022

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Christmas of 2021 is the planned release date for Ruby 3.1. For Rails, the release schedule is a little more vague, but that doesn’t mean the framework isn’t evolving. The RoR community continues to grow, and major businesses still use Rails for their websites. Aside from the examples mentioned above, we have Fiverr, Basecamp, Bloomberg, and many others.

Answering Reintech’s questions about the future of Rails, David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, stated that RoR is alive and well. According to him, Rails hasn’t fit into a single niche, and is instead widely used across industries, which gives it high flexibility. The framework is still very satisfying to work with for programmers. Every time it’s updated, its features become more tailored to the needs of modern developers and businesses.

What if Ruby is not for you? Notable alternatives

Maybe you’re worried about Ruby and RoR’s future, and don’t want to bet on it being supported for years to come. Though rumors of Ruby on Rails dying are basically an urban myth, the choice to work with a different web development technology is valid. So, if you’d rather not use Rails, what are your options?

If performance is a major concern for your business, and your product needs to handle large-scale traffic, Node.js or Golang might be useful. Although the truth is that RoR with a well-planned architecture and infrastructure can be fast even when faced with huge numbers of users. However, Node.js comes with the additional advantage of being a JavaScript runtime environment. As pretty much all frontend these days is built with JS, having the language on the backend as well can help with cutting development costs. See stacks such as MEAN (MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS, NodeJS) and MERN (MongoDB, ExpressJS, ReactJS, NodeJS).

Next, if you are worried about scalability, you can follow in Twitter’s footsteps and switch to Scala. However, it’s important to note that the scale of traffic that Twitter has to handle is very difficult to achieve for most businesses.

For apps that need to handle very complex calculations or work with Big Data, Python is often the best choice. It’s also the language often preferred by academics. However, a solid argument can be made for using both Python and Ruby on Rails to handle data and web app logic respectively. RoR is highly compatible with Python.

When ease of deployment is a major factor, you might consider PHP. The complexity of possible Rails app stacks is simplified to either LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) or LAPP (Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, PHP). When you need to set up multiple simple websites quickly, PHP may be the optimal tool. However, this advantage doesn’t hold up with more complex apps, or ones that are meant to scale, as Ruby is much more pleasant to work with and allows for faster development.

Conclusions

We expect Ruby on Rails to remain widely used, and one of the top choices for global industry leaders. RoR is efficient, scalable, and performant when approached correctly. With the updates brought by Ruby 3.0, and future ones inspired by the community, we’re sure that Rails will continue getting better in 2022.

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