Rails: The Lisp of our Generation?

By Deane Barker on April 11, 2006

Why Ruby on Rails won’t become mainstream: I don’t know if I agree with this, but it’s well-written and well-reasoned. The writer predicts that Rails will become a the Smalltalk or Lisp of this generation — a highly advanced technology that still works great but never got popular.

There is no denying that Ruby on Rails is turning the Web programming world on its head.

Now that this introduction is out of the way, I’d like to take some time to explain why, in spite of all its qualities, Ruby on Rails will never become mainstream.

His reasons:

  1. Ruby itself (too complex, he says)
  2. Rails itself (too advanced and too clever, he argues)
  3. “Still no credible IDE.”
  4. Fanaticism.

    This is a crowd convinced that it has found the ultimate answer to everything, and they are not afraid to let you know.

    This is so, so true. My first opinion of Rails was that all the developers were insulting and condescending as hell. I’ve gotten over that, I guess, but I’m still bitter.

    In fact, my adoption of Rails was delayed about a year just because everyone involved in it just seemed like such a jerk, and they all seemed to be single-mindedly focused on making sure I knew how stupid I had been up until that point.

    Yes, your framework is snazzy, but PHP still works just fine, thank you very much.

  5. Crowd of a single mind.

    If you want to write a Web application in Ruby, there is only one solution. Only one. […] Ruby on Rails has pretty much nuked the field of Web development in Ruby […]

  6. Enterprise capabilities and scalability unclear.

  7. Lack of support from Internet Providers.


  1. I use rails and I’m really clever. Rails rules. PHP is a yawn-inducing sickle to RoR’s nuclear-fuelled comnine harvester. The worst thing about this comment is it’s true! This jibberish about enterprise scaling is just that, jibberish. RoR scales in the same way google scales, you just throw more cheap commodity hardware into your cluster and front it with a load balancer. With the tools we’ve built on top of RoR it’s possible to churn out in a day sites that would take a month in PHP. We could have developed such tools for PHP too of course, but their usage would require a much steeper learning curve without Ruby’s metacass hackery.

    Lisp is inferior to Ruby because it’s not friendly enough to the common person so will always be niche and never have the wider support Ruby does – thus it will never die but it will always be niche – staying with the Emacs hackers in their temple of Stallman. Ruby will erode at both PHP and Java growing in market share year after year. And if you think the RoR crowd is arrogant try talking with the Lispers! Bahaha. Now there’s a folk who really think they found the holy grail.

    Rails has it’s faults but there is no better web framework for RAD in general release right now.

    Ruby has it’s quirks but it strikes a nice balance between being fairly english-like and consise without (getting (carried) away).

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