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Why Stick to Ruby Despite the Alleged Popularity Drop?

Why Stick to Ruby Despite the Alleged Popularity Drop?

Krešimir ČMartin M

Krešimir Č. & Martin M.

11 minutes

Feb 10, 2023

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Why Stick to Ruby Despite the Alleged Popularity Drop?

When the topic of Ruby is raised, it's always very opinionated. As Ruby's community is very passionate, a lot of dust rises when Ruby is mentioned. Some developers think it’s not worth learning Ruby because they’re afraid some other programming languages might be better for them. Others wonder what happens if the market starts moving away from Ruby. Companies aren't sure what path to take because everyone wants to keep pace with technology.

But many serious companies (with outstanding clients) use Ruby on Rails (RoR). We in Devōt use Ruby on Rails and don't plan to abandon it. Although the TIOBE Index and RedMonk Programming Language Rankings may suggest otherwise, we believe that Ruby on Rails remains a popular choice.

The RedMonk Programming Language Rankings are based on the number of repositories on GitHub and the number of Stack Overflow Developer Surveys. As the outcome is based on a combination of two different metrics, they may not be the best indicator of the absolute number of users of a particular language.

We must underline that Stack Overflow and GitHub are trustworthy sources of information. In 2022, 73.268 developers from 180 countries shared their opinions in Stack Overflow Developer Survey. From it, we can see that Ruby is currently ranked 16th on the list. It’s clear that the popularity of programming languages can fluctuate over time, and what is popular one year may not be as popular the next. In the case of Ruby, we believe that’s happening because some languages, such as JavaScript or Python, grow faster than others. Hence, they influence in a way that the relative share of other languages falls. Therefore, it’s also important how raw data is interpreted.

So, even though the TIOBE Index and the RedMonk Programming Language Rankings show that Ruby's ranking has declined somewhat in recent years, measures based on the number of job postings or the number of developers with experience in a language may show a different trend. The number of job postings for Ruby developers on job search websites (LinkedIn and Indeed) has remained relatively consistent over the past few years. That could clearly be an indicator that the absolute number of Ruby developers has increased.

Now, let’s talk about the present and future of Ruby on Rails. But we need to touch on a bit of history first.

The history of Ruby on Rails

Ruby is a high-level programming language designed by Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto in the mid-1990s to create a powerful and fun language. It's known for its simplicity, readability, and flexibility. One of the best things about Ruby is that it was designed to be ‘for humans, not machines,’ so it is super easy and simple to program in it.

On the other hand, Ruby on Rails (RoR) is a web application framework built on top of the Ruby programming language. It's designed to make it easy for developers to build and deploy web applications quickly and with minimal configuration. It includes tools and libraries that handle many common tasks in web development, such as routing, database interaction, and form validation. Rails is a model–view–controller (MVC) framework with convention over configuration (CoC), don't repeat yourself (DRY), and the active record pattern.

The creator of Ruby on Rails is David Heinemeier Hansson (also known as DHH). He is a prominent figure in the Ruby community known for his contributions to the language and its ecosystem of libraries and frameworks. He has written several books on Ruby and Ruby on Rails and is a regular speaker at conferences and events.

Who uses Ruby on Rails?

Many companies and organizations use Ruby on Rails in numerous industries, including major tech firms such as Airbnb, GitHub, and Shopify. The framework is loved among developers because it abstracts and simplifies repetitive tasks making programming less mind-numbing and time-consuming. RoR has a large and passionate community of developers who contribute to the language and its ecosystem of libraries and frameworks.

We in Devōt prefer RoR because it’s a full-stack framework that lets us develop whole apps quickly. Our CEO, Martin, got in touch with Ruby back in 2011. Throughout his career, Martin has seen the power of Ruby on Rails. So it was not a surprise that, after five years of working in IT in Ireland, Martin chose RoR as a base technology for Devōt.

Since then, Ruby on Rails has seen its ups and downs. Yet, it’s still advisable to learn it because it can open many doors for entry-level or even senior developers. And Ruby is MVC, so developers familiar with that pattern don’t struggle to learn Rails.

It’s not surprising that Rails is still popular 19 years after its creation (18 since the official release). Overall, that framework is one of the most affordable ways to develop a web app, so it’s clear why Rails is more popular than Sinatra and other Ruby frameworks.

David Heinemeier Hansson must be proud to see Rails thrive. It still does what he made it for - improving programmers' happiness and productivity without dropping quality.

Ruby on Rails Usage

What factors have influenced the popularity of Ruby on Rails?

As we will see later, Ruby on Rails is still a valuable framework for developers, and learning Rails could benefit new developers. However, its popularity has been a hot topic in recent years. While some have pointed to controversial tweets by Rails creator DHH as a factor, the primary cause is more likely to be found in the market.

According to the recent list of the most popular programming languages to learn in 2023, the demand for RoR developers will stay high. However, Tiobe Index shows that Ruby was more popular in 2018 than in 2019 and beyond. Still, the popularity of Ruby depends on the market too. Looking at the statistics of Top Computer Languages (last update 27 Jun 2022), it's clear that Ruby is more prevalent in the US than in India or the EU. It's the 11th most popular language in the US; it's 19th in India. And 20th in the UK, Germany, and France.

The fact that it's more about the market than those who use the framework, it's exactly how our CEO, Martin, explains the current situation:

"At one moment, many startups sought Ruby Developers and couldn't find enough of them. That raised work prices, so developers started shifting to Ruby. However, that still wasn't enough to satisfy the market's need for RoR developers.

On the other hand, the academic community needed to recognize the opportunity. They're still using PHP-a, JAVA, and Python.

Over time, some startups crashed, but some grew into unicorns. That raised the demand for developers. And finding that many RoR developers was impossible. So CTOs decided to follow the Wall Street logic. Without enough Ruby developers, we can't grow, so we need to change something.

And they have. They've moved away from Ruby and tried to work in PHP or JAVA, hoping to find more affordable high-level developers. So instead of laying down a long-term strategy, they've picked the easy route by focusing on languages colleges teach."

So the real reason for the drop in popularity might be the non-technical people who lead technology companies. Their Wall Street logic makes them abandon RoR and use other languages.

In a way, Ruby on Rails is responsible for its popularity drop. It was good, fast, and easy to understand, so it became too popular too quickly and created a gap between the demand and supply of quality developers.

To ensure the continued success of Ruby on Rails, the community needs to continue to evolve and adapt to market changes. This includes investing more in training and education to help bridge the gap between supply and demand for skilled Ruby developers, promoting the language and its benefits to potential users, and making efforts to improve the language and make it more appealing to a broader range of developers. And that is exactly what we in Devōt are doing.

Is it still worth learning Ruby on Rails?

New developers create their opinion based on research, but it’s important to check the source to see its real value.

An opinion from someone experienced in Ruby and other languages is more valuable than someone who never worked in RoR.

So if someone wants to switch careers and become a developer, think about learning RoR. If nothing else, at the moment, the competition between developers in some other languages is much worse than in RoR. Or in other words, those who learn RoR might get good chances thanks to that skill.

Take us as an example. Devōt employed and trained over 60 Ruby developers in the last 2 years. Of course, those were people who worked in other languages or even other industries. But we couldn’t find enough people who knew RoR, so our senior developers turned teachers for a while.

We’re happy that those 60+ people are satisfied with the decision to learn Ruby. And not only because it’s one of the highest-paid languages but also because it’s easy to learn and use.

So yes, we think it still pays off to learn Ruby on Rails. We hope that it will keep paying off in the future too. And numbers show that might be the case.

Numbers don’t lie; Ruby is alive! Or?

Ruby on Rails is the leading technology in Devōt, so our company is an example that aspiring developers can benefit from learning RoR. As mentioned, we trained more than 60 developers. That shows how high the demand for Ruby experts is.

Many companies want their projects done in Ruby because they recognize its benefits. Why else would American health tech companies hire a Croatian software company that works in Ruby on Rails?

Also, Devōt is the company working on a project with the highest number of RoR teams in this region (possibly in Europe). So we know firsthand that the demand for new forces with RoR knowledge is high, especially for quality employees.

Cool, but what if I don’t want to work as an RoR developer in Devōt?


Nothing. We’d love to have you with us. Everyone in Devōt helps other team members grow in every way. We don’t just train developers - we keep developing them day after day.

However, numerous companies are seeking Ruby on Rails developers at this exact moment. That may be a sign that the RoR popularity drop is taken out of context. So if you’re learning Ruby, don’t give up on it just because someone said it’s not worth it.

There are many high-paid Ruby on Rails jobs!

We checked how many companies seek Ruby developers (or full-stack developers who know Ruby). The results might surprise you. According to that, Ruby on Rails isn't going anywhere. But again, let's look at some numbers.

At the moment of writing this, here's how many RoR jobs are available on LinkedIn (some fully remote):

Ruby on Rails LinkedIn jobs

New developers who want to break into the American market would probably boost their chances of landing dream jobs by learning Ruby.

Yet again… LinkedIn alone isn't enough to show the market's health. And it's not like new developers log in to LinkedIn and get jobs just because they exist. So, let's look at one of the leading freelance digital platforms. It’s the place where beginners have much better chances of landing gigs. If there are many listed RoR jobs, it will be difficult to deny that Ruby is healthy on every level - from entry to senior positions.

At the moment, on that platform, 575 jobs mention Ruby on Rails. That's not a huge number, but the platform shows us something else. RoR developers are making a lot of money.

Out of those 575 jobs, only 28 are in the entry ($), while 266 are in the expert ($$$) category. However, that still means the majority is in the middle, considering needed experience and paychecks (281 jobs fall in the intermediate ($$) category).

Before we wrap this up, let's list why everyone looking for a shift in their career should consider learning Ruby on Rails:

  • It's an easy-to-use full-stack framework

  • The demand is high on every level

  • It's still (in our opinion) the best framework for the rapid development of web apps

  • The RoR developer community is very active and always there to help

Overall, Rails is a powerful and widely used web application framework that can be a good choice for developers, particularly young developers, who want to build and deploy web applications quickly and with minimal configuration.

On the note of the last bullet, if you're an aspiring developer who needs help with Ruby on Rails, don't hesitate to send us your questions, we'll be glad to help you.

If you're already skilled in Ruby (or would love to work for Devōt), check out the Devōt careers page.