Why Rails isn’t “just another web framework”

I recently heard a software engineering director candidate with many years of web development experience describe Ruby on Rails as “just another web framework”.

That’s what I thought too, until I spent some time working with it over the past 8 months.

The fact is, Rails is much more than that. It is a radical paradigm shift away from both the bloated, configuration-based methods of J2EE and the chaotic hackfest that is PHP.

Here are my top 3 reasons why I think Rails sets itself apart:

– The ActiveRecord ORM. This is the first ORM I’ve worked with since NeXT’s Enterprise Object Framework that really lives up to the promise of ORM’s, and does so with minimal configuration and fuss.

– Terseness. The syntax of Ruby on Rails applications is remarkably terse. It can be a bit daunting at first, but after a while you begin to realize what a huge cognitive win this is. Getting rid of all that unnecessary syntactical noise makes it much easier to focus on solving problems.

– Gems. The eco-system of 3rd party components for rails in unlike anything I’ve ever seen in any development community. There are some truly remarkable gems, such as this one¬†for authenticaion, or this one for creating seed data for your project. The time savings these gems provide cannot be overstated. And it’s fascinating to watch how the Rails community seems to converge on certain gems, which become almost part of the “standard”.

Rails is making web development fun again. I’m so glad I jumped in the pool – the water’s fine!



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