Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Why did Ruby get Rails but Python got a whole bunch of things...

My question about the history of Ruby/Rails and Python/Django got a bit of attention of late, so I finally got around to answering it. Ah, the beauty of talking to oneself in public! The question:

This is a(n) historical question, not a comparison-between-languages question:
This article from 2005 talks about the lack of a single, central framework for Python. For Ruby, this framework is clearly Rails. Why, historically speaking, did this happen for Ruby but not for Python? (or did it happen, and that framework is Django?)
Also, the hypothetical questions: would Python be more popular if it had one, good framework? Would Ruby be less popular if it had no central framework?

My notes:

Check out this article on why we'll never see Python-on-Rails. The author gives some of the basic reasons why Python has never had and will never have a central framework. I might add, myself, that Java doesn't have one either, and for the same reasons.

According to the author, Rails is strictly tied to its "implementation," which is Ruby. Rails was adopted by many developers and Ruby was just part of it. Rails works perfectly on Ruby (or Ruby copy-cats like Groovy), but more importantly, as many other answers say, Rails led the way to Ruby adoption.

This is why Rails-for-Python won't work, or at least what people have been focusing on with Rails isn't correct. It's not about the implementation or the quality of the framework, it's about the pattern of adoption. It's about putting the framework up front, and the implementation in the back -- even if this wasn't the Rails developers intentions (though maybe they are clever and this was their intention).

Basically, you can't get a bunch of language-loving folk to gather around a single framework. On the Java side, while Spring is well-loved, it's no Rails in terms of popularity in the Java community. In a mature community developers have their own ideas about what metaphors work and don't work in a framework. This is why Rails leads to Ruby and not the other way around (typically, mostly, not in all cases).

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