You don’t have to look hard to find some article, Tweet, or comment proclaiming that Ruby on Rails is “dead”.

If you love working with Rails, then you can’t help but feel nervous each time it’s attacked. The tech community loves announcing the death of a language or framework. You know this, but you still can’t help but worry that it might be true.

Like myself, you likely came from another language and fell in love with Ruby for its expressiveness and readability. Rails’s conventions provided unmatched development efficiency. For the first time, you actually experienced “developer happiness.”

But if Rails is no longer a viable option, then you’ll have to start looking for a new framework to use. You may even have to consider a new programming language. Elixir doesn’t seem bad, but its similarity to Ruby is only superficial. More than likely it’ll be JavaScript or even PHP. Writing a bit of JavaScript on the front-end is one thing, but can you imagine it being your main language across the entire stack?

You would want to keep using Ruby/Rails, but you also don’t want to struggle to find future work. And you don’t want other developers to ridicule you for clinging to something that’s “dead.”

Sure, you could always ignore the talk, but that won’t ease the doubt. You’ll continue to second-guess yourself, especially whenever the “Rails is dead” topic comes up. Worse yet, you might start to believe the talk and decide to abandon the framework that you enjoy so much.

Instead, the right approach is to hear out the arguments and judge for yourself if they are valid. That is the only way to be confident about the future of Rails and your decision to keep using it.

So what is the “Rails is dead” crowd actually saying…?

Claim #1 - Ruby is slow

The number one criticism leveled against Ruby (and thus Rails) is that it’s too slow. The lack of speed is allegedly driving developers to more performant languages.

This idea is so pervasive that even those in the Ruby community seem to accept it without question.

Questions to consider:

  • Does a language die because there are faster alternatives?
  • Do we always choose the fastest option available? Are other factors such as developer happiness and efficiency important?
  • Is Ruby’s performance “good enough”? Does it meet a minimum acceptable threshold?
  • Will Ruby 3, Truffle Ruby, and others make performance a non-issue in the future?

Claim #2 - Rails usage has gone down

Some try to show that Rails’s usage is waning by using statistics and graphs from various sources. These include Google Trends, GitHub, Stack Overflow, and others.

The TIOBE index is also frequently cited. In 2016 Ruby fell out of its top 10 list of programming language which caused a stir. For what it’s worth, in 2017 it’s back at #10.

Questions to consider:

  • What are these statistics actually telling us? Does declining growth mean that the framework is bad? Or does it mean that it’s stabilized and become mature?
  • Are we making the right comparisons? Is it fair to compare the usage of JavaScript (the only front-end language) to Ruby?
  • Is the TIOBE index a reliable indicator? In 2017, JavaScript fell down a spot– do we now assume JavaScript is dying?
  • Is there a better alternative to Rails, or are people trying to build different kinds of apps? Is Rails still used for the things that it’s good at?

Claim #3 - Company XYZ stopped using Rails

There are cases of companies that migrate away from Rails, the most famous one being Twitter. These stories are used to prove Rails’s decline.

Along the same lines, instances of development bootcamps dropping Ruby/Rails are being used to make the same point.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you face the same kinds of issues that these large companies do? Are you trying to solve the same class of problems?
  • What about companies that have stayed with Rails (e.g. Shopify, GitHub, Airbnb, and many others)?
  • How do bootcamps build their curriculums? Do trendy languages sell more seats than established ones?

Claim #4 - Rails is hard to maintain

A common complaint about Rails is that large monoliths are hard to scale and maintain.

Questions to consider:

  • Is this problem specific to Rails or universal for any large application? Do maintaibility issues and poor performance exist no matter what language or framework you choose?
  • Do other frameworks solve this issue better than Rails? Can any of them prevent creeping complexity?
  • Are poor development practices more to blame than the language or framework iteslf?

Claim #5 - Rails jobs are declining

Job growth rates according to Indeed show Ruby/Rails on the decline.

Questions to consider:

  • Are job postings on Indeed a good reflection of the market for developers?
  • Will there continue to be maintenance work for existing Ruby on Rails applications?
  • What is the impact of your skill level? Are mid- and senior-level developers finding themselves less hirable?
  • Have you yourself experienced any difficulty finding Ruby or Rails work?

I encourage you to consider these questions for yourself. Draw your own conclusions about whether the claims that Rails is dead are valid. Let me know what you think in the comments!

Need more reassurance? Here is a list of the best articles explaining why Rails is still worth doing in 2017 and beyond.

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