Why is Ruby so popular?

Be prepared, long non-technical rant. I just had to get this off my chest.

I started thinking a bit more about the whole Ruby vs. Python debate I recently posted about.

First, Ruby is not C#, therefore not Microsoft – part of the reason Ruby is so popular is because they are not Microsoft. Yes, that’s a reason everyone knows deep-down but it’s a valid reason all the same.

Second, marketing – I think this is a big reason why Ruby is so popular. 37Signals (developer of Ruby on Rails) has become such a household name in the technology field that when they say something people listen. This group has produced very successful products with Ruby on Rails and they make us want Ruby

It continues with people like Tim O’Reilly pushing Ruby books so much, telling us how Ruby is growing leaps and bounds over other programming languages and how there are more Ruby jobs then their used to be. Tim is filling our heads with visions of success and leading us along the path to success with Ruby.

I am not saying there is anything wrong with 37Signals or Tim O’Reilly marketing their products to us in the way they do so well. It is up to us to make informed decisions, not ones based simply on emotion. I have been listening to a book on my commute by Seth Godin called “All Marketers are Liars“. Seth explains this phenomenon very well and it fits how we look at Ruby. Ruby and Ruby on Rails has a good story and this story makes us want Ruby. Ruby is a fine language but when compared feature for feature to Python it is really not that much different.

The big difference is what I am told I can do if I use Ruby, like Ruby on Rails. Python as Django and TurboGears but we don’t hear as much about those nor do we see books about those like we do with Ruby and Ruby on Rails. I stand in awe of the guys from 37Signals, when they speak people listen. They introduced a bunch of products that have less features than some competing products out there, take a look at Basecamp, Backpack, Campfire, Ta-Da List, their book Getting Real, their seminars or anything else they say or do.

I truly believe 37Signals and Tim O’Reilly are the major reasons why Ruby is so popular. Sorry if this was obvious to many but a combination of Seth Godin and a look at the way 37Signals does business and the recent posts by Tim O’Reilly, I can see it all very clearly now. They paint a great picture and we all want it.
Since I have never used Python or Ruby until recently, I still think I made the right choice. I don’t mind following the crowd because the crowd is where great things will happen. The crowd will drive innovation.

Face it, Ruby and Rails is not that much different then Python and Django but as technogists Ruby is in are faces way more than Python. Ruby is the new hip language and Rails gives us a really good add-on.

This is no different than Apple and their MacBooks or iPods. Sure there are plenty of competitors out with reasonable competition but we all still crave Apple products.

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2 responses to “Why is Ruby so popular?

  1. I totally agree with you that marketing but who do you think spends more money on marketing Microsoft or 37Signals? In fact, the 37Signals team don’t spend any money on marketing, they’ve been using their blog in a very effective way by creating a (cult like) group around Rails.

    Rails has a lot to offer and it’s popular for good reasons. Rails has brought open source + object oriented programming + web 2.0 in one easy-to-use and free framework.

    C# on the other hand is not as easy as Rails.. Yeah building C# applications could be very simple but only when you use the right IDE (Visual Studio). Visual Studio is the only reason why I would consider C#. But what if I don’t want to spend the money on an IDE??

    As for Python vs Ruby then yeah the cool factor rules here…. Rails, apple, linux, etc.. are the cool kids in town 🙂

    I think developers should be happy for having different languages and tools to choose from.

  2. Thank you for commenting and I agree with you 100%. My point was not Microsoft vs. Rails but more of how the group of developers who write code that is anything BUT based on a Microsoft platform choose a language.

    It seems to me Rails is so popular not based solely on merit but the popular factor. If comparing, for example, Rails vs. Django the frameworks do much of the same thing but one is so much more popular. Yes, 37Signals does a great job of no-cost marketing their work.

    I think it is all good and just wanted to point a few things that might make someone step back and think about the overall technical merits of a language and/or framework before making the choice, not just do it because it’s popular.

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