What happened to Ruby? And why PHP is KING of the Web.

In 2006 I created killerphp.com because I wanted to make it easy for web designers to learn PHP. I thought PHP was THE predominate web programming language and I felt every web designer should include PHP as one of their core coding skills:

– html
– css
– php
– javascript.

Then Ruby came along … for a short while.

What happened to Ruby and Ruby on Rails?

Once upon a time Ruby was the best thing since sliced bread … it was the language to replace all languages and everything else just sucked! Funny, that seems like ages ago.

Today though, the picture is different; Ruby’s shine has since lost its’ luster and the Rails train has practically fallen off the tracks – now there are other web frameworks in the Ruby world that have replaced Rails.

Addendum: Merb and Rails are merging … Rails hasn’t ‘gone off the tracks’. My bad.

So what the heck happened … what stopped the Ruby train ride?

What stopped Ruby from spreading beyond being a niche language is the EXACT same thing that stopped me from jumping on board back in 2006-2007: Ruby’s heart was broken.

– Yes, Ruby has a great syntax.
– Yes it is a lot of fun to program with.
– Yes it is pure object orientation, to the max!

But, there were a lot of holes in Ruby … crucial libraries and functionality that PHP’rs took for granted, the Ruby guys could only dream of … or they could patch it up with some C code. Ouch!

Beyond that, there is Ruby’s dirty little secret: crash-o-matic. Yep, Ruby based web apps used to crash a lot! Web server integration was not stable and was a pain in the ass.

Reference: Twitter Crashing

… To be fair though, I hear that aspect has improved.

What does this have to do with PHP?

As I stated years ago in a blog post about Ruby; PHP’s strengths are found in Ruby’s weaknesses. Yes some aspects of PHP are not as (shall we say) pretty as Ruby. But like good looking people who are jerks, who cares how beautiful they look if their personality sucks.

… OK, maybe you could hang with them for just a short time! But whatever you do, don’t marry them Rob!


Stefan Mischook

This entry was posted on Saturday, July 11th, 2009 at 3:27 pm and is filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

61 Responses to “What happened to Ruby? And why PHP is KING of the Web.”

  1. Todd says:

    Yeah, Ruby is crappy! It’s just like a screwdriver. Remember when contractors used to carry those around in their tool belts, thinking they were so cool? Everyone knows a hammer is a far superior tool! I’m mean come on, when you hit yourself with a hammer, sure – it hurts, but there’s rarely any blood! Slip with a screwdriver and hit your thumb and “crash-o-matic” – you’re scrambling for a bandaid.

    Ok, so maybe the hammer/screwdriver analogy is a bit too far fetched. Instead, let’s just say that Ruby is like testing. For awhile there, everyone was saying how great TDD was, but now people have realized that it’s time to get to work and quite fooling around with all those pesky tests. Pure logic (and we are all programmers, right) dictates that writing code = more lines of code = more time spent on the same functionality. In fact, I’ll bet the only developers who still write tests think that if you drop a heavy hammer and a light screwdriver from a roof at the same time, they would hit the ground at the same time when it’s obvious that the heavier object would drop faster.

    To be honest, you could also replace “PHP” with “Windows” and “Ruby” with “Linux”. Linux used to seem so cool, but everyone has gone back to windows. Everyone know Linux isn’t really stable and certainly isn’t ready for the desktop. Yeah, free sounds cool, but come on, we all know you get what you pay for.

    If you’re not able to pick up on it yet, I’m being completely facetious (and if you’re not familiar with that work, it means I’m kidding!!!!). Maybe the people around you have gone back to PHP (or not using tests, or developing on winblows), but that doesn’t mean the rest of the world is following your lead. While I’m sure you’re a wonderful programmer and we can all learn a lot from you, your opinion is being presented as fact – but it is indeed just an opinion. It does not reflect my experience at all – in fact, most shops I come into contact (ours included) use PHP because of legacy reasons – most have either expanded to using other languages, or have abandoned PHP altogether.

    One more point – as much as you think that PHP is “king” of the web, Java is far more popular, has far more libraries, and can do things that PHP “guys could only dream of “. Does that make Java better than PHP? By your standards, it does.

  2. Stefan Mischook says:

    It is reasonable to assume that with certain things, Ruby is superior to PHP. And I am sure with other things, Python is superior to Ruby … and it goes on.

    The above blog post aside, my belief in PHP goes way beyond the core language; I constantly blend business considerations along with nerd considerations.

    … I think that perspective is lost on most programmers.

    For example, I think PHP is much easier for web designers to learn than Ruby or Python and I think that the PHP community has a few key products out there that are supremely useful to web designers who want to take their skills/solutions to the next level. I am talking about:

    – wordpress
    – drupal

    etc ..

    So I look at PHP as being a stepping stone, a compromise for those who want to implement some dynamic capabilities into their sites BUT who may not want to become application developers. That said, with MVC frameworks like Zend, CakePHP etc … PHP also gives users the ability to write sophisticated applications.

    I hope that makes sense.


  3. Yves Vogl says:

    Sorry Sir, but you are slandering like a blabbermouth.

    There isn’t any „crash-o-matic” caused by Ruby or Rails themselves. You’re quoting Twitter crashes – ridiculous, really. It’s so obvious that I don’t want to comment on this any more – but I can tell you for sure that you should not blame neither Rails nor Ruby solely for this.

    „But, there were a lot of holes in Ruby”

    To go with your polemics: You mean holes on sense of security holes of PHP? 😉

    „Crucial libraries and functionality that PHP’rs took for granted, the Ruby guys could only dream of”

    Ah, missing features. Bloated core & friends.
    Please just compare the functionality and quality(!) provided by RubyGems and Rails plugins to your beloved PHP PEAR… I just don’t need to say anymore, do I?

    „Or they could patch it up with some C code. Ouch!”

    Ouch. For ignoring PECL and that facts, that 1.) writing C code is sometimes annoying but not indictable and 2.) the PHP guys do more than the Ruby guys 😉

    Last but not least… even if Rails is the killer app of Ruby – you shouldn’t compare them with PHP in a single sentence.
    Compare Typo3, Drupal, Symfony (ha-ha) with some Rails applications instead and have a separate look at PHP and Ruby. And last but not least – go to GitHub and browse some Rails related code (including the various plugins). You’ll see that high quality coding with evolved patterns (finite state machines, nested sets) is made so easy due to a great community and the availablity of great plugins. As easy as PHP enables someones „webdesigner nephews“” to blow up the web with their PHP crap.

  4. Yaroukh says:

    PHP wil l (unfortunately) never die. Because it attracts the kind of people who are unable to understand anything even slightly more demanding than “echo $_REQUEST[‘message’]”…
    This kind of people will drive PHP, write the terrible PHP-documentation and their laughable “frameworks” for ever.

  5. asj says:

    I’m a Java programmer and I say good riddance 😉

    I’ve always known the thing had nothing behind it, and all the hype and predictions about it becoming the #1 platform and dethroning Java would come to nothing.

    Now Scala, on the other hand, now THAT’S a rocking language (on the JVM of course) :-)

  6. Alan Johnson says:

    Found this post while trying to find out what happened to ror, it seems no one is asking for ror contracting skills anymore, it’s like it has been swept aside and totally forgotton.

    Google trends show there never was much interest in it either, not even a spike. Not a momentary blip of interest:-


  7. Eric says:

    Stefan is absolutely right. PHP continues to dominate on the Web. But the curious thing isn’t Ruby or Rails, but how PHP continues to keep mind share. Zend Framework was pulled out of the trash heap a couple of years ago — seemingly because Zend woke up and saw the threat — but the documentation continues to be unreadable. The design changes to the framework verge on being willy-nilly and keeping up with the ad hoc version changes have made me a nervous wreck, since I’m responsible for the stability of our deployments. It clearly was not built upon a core architectural idea (well, in its original incarnation it kind of was, as a library, not a framework). The stuff grafted onto it is very much in keeping with the bolted on ‘enhancements’ that have characterized PHP itself through the years.

    I think symfony is a pretty solid piece of work, but its baroque character and heavy design must be turning away droves of PHPers into the arms of Code Igniter and CakePHP. Code Igniter has its place, but it won’t be building enterprise applications at IBM. There is nothing in this world that demonstrates better the appeal of Rails than coding the same app in CakePHP. There are other frameworks that are probably much better than these, but this lot are the ones with the “I’m just as good as Rails” buzz.

    The naivete in the comments to this article is no credit to PHP. These people obviously aren’t responsible for teams of developers, issues of scalability, or bearing the cost of maintaining legacy PHP code. We are flooded with the resumes of these self-taught lone wolves for whom PHP probably is an appropriate solution.

    Although we are a predominantly PHP shop, I am baffled by the seriousness being (apparently) given to PHP in larger organizations. There are precious few strong programmers among the droves of PHP riff-raff. I know because I read their resumes just about every day. I don’t know where these supposed large PHP-based organizations are finding their talent. It can’t be former Java programmers with degrees in Comp Sci.

    I have no doubt that companies younger than ours have done a better job of avoiding the sins of PHP in building scalable systems and can point to their successes in defense of it. But for us, it generally causes a lot of grief, and not a day goes by that I don’t wish that we had made other choices, sooner.

  8. Dhiren says:

    Hi guys, I’m amateur in programming, I want to become a web developer. As I’m new to this field I just want to know which language should I use ruby or php?

  9. Stefan Mischook says:

    You’re kidding right?

    This is killerPHP after all!

    Ruby has many strong points as does PHP .. I’ve spoken and written about the pro’s and con’s of each language on this site.


  10. frederick says:

    I have done 6 years of PHP development (mostly large web applications), but after I’d completed the first project in Python in 2006 I decided I’d never waste a second of my time for PHP again. I can tell you, I never looked back. I also picked up Ruby recently, and I find I like it a lot.

    For me writing code must be fun, and PHP (or languages like Java or C++) are just so painful compared to Python, Ruby and Objective C. With the latter, you get stuff done quickly, you can write tests more easily, and you can write elegant and robust code.

  11. breno says:

    what a laughable article…exactly what would be expected from lame “I can do this!” php programmers…

    firstly, its a bit obvious GOOGLE trafic for ‘php’ is enormous compared to ruby

    * php has been around for much more
    * php is the default web language, anyone wanting to have a take on php, doing one search for every single thing they’re trying to do
    * rails was launched in 2004, with a considerable maturity on 2.3.5
    * rails users are more savvy, we know where our content is

    now let’s try some relevancy, instead of google, jobtrends
    absolute: http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends?q=ruby+on+rails%2C+php&l=
    the grap is WAY smaller, also, notice PHP doesnt have a consistent grow, and notice the big fall in jan 11….beautiful!

    better yet, look at ‘relative’ http://www.indeed.com/jobtrends?q=ruby+on+rails%2C+php&l=&relative=1

    just look at it! lol!!! really, look at it, I don’t even need to say anything else, you should delete this post, man

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