According to wikipedia, a revolution (from the latin revolutio, “a turn around”) is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.
Somehow, I believe this is exactly what Ruby has done in the programming world, especially with the help of Rails. Over the last few years, Ruby lead a mini revolution in the midst of software development. Thanks to Ruby, developers now look at software development differently. One thing for sure, it pushed DHH to write Rails and then convinced thousands of people to develop Ruby based applications on a daily basis.
How did it happen?
Let’s take a look at history of revolutions. Some people get frustrated their situation, they try to find workarounds until it’s just too much and the revolution kicks in.
Ruby came up with a new holistic perspective on things. Unlike most other programming languages, one of the main key value of Ruby is that writing code should feel right for the developer. You feel good about it because the language was written for humans and not machines. Basically, the language was designed to make you productive because it’s designed to please you.
As people were discovering web 2.0, Ruby also came with an opinionated framework, pushing for productivity, testing, simplicity and elegance. People started to see a new way of doing things and it quickly became the new, cool technology. Rails became a buzz word, developers were hired to work on cool projects, and books were selling by the thousands.
What did it change?
If you ask my mom, she would probably say: nothing, except that now my son works from his home office and he seems to really enjoy what he does for living.
Relatively speaking, Ruby did not change the way we work or live. However, I believe that it has influenced many software developers around the globe. Why else do you think that companies like Microsoft, Apple or SAP are working on their own implementation of the Ruby language?
When I first discovered Ruby, I was amazed at how “right” it felt, at how much fun it was to write code using its syntax and idioms. Now, if I don’t get that feeling when testing a programming language, I think there is something wrong.
The Ruby community also revived the Agile/XP world. Testing being a strong value of the community, we spent a lot of time discussing TDD, BDD, integration test as well as other practices such as pair programming, code review, sprints etc..
A few years ago, when people were asking me what programming language I would write their app in, I would reply Ruby and had to explain what it was, why it is great and would have to answer a lot of questions from potential clients. Nowadays, people don’t even argue, sites like hulu.com, twitter.com, yellowpages.com and many others are written in Ruby and it’s just part of the tools known to work very well.
The revolution is over!
Yes, Ruby made it’s revolution and the world “has changed”. But a real movement doesn’t die after its revolution, that’s actually when it has to be strong and defend its values.
This doesn’t mean that Ruby is dead or that Rails is “passé”. To the contrary, Ruby imposed itself as a new valued and respected player, a new standard if you will.
Ruby is certainly not the “new kid in the block"anymore nor the “popular kid”, however lots of older kids seem to want to have her on their team. (.NET, Java, Objective-C can all use Ruby)
The TDD + Ruby combo doesn’t surprise anyone anymore and the Enterprise is slowly but surely adopting Ruby. Ruby is now just getting better, tools and libraries are improving and the amount of users is growing.
Certainly the Ruby community is still small compared to other software developer communities, but the fundamental change was done and we are now working on improvement and keeping things running smoothly, growing and getting new ideas inspired by our experience and other communities.
Long live Ruby!