Developers
August 4, 2020

Ruby vs Python For Web Development: Which Is Better?

Two behemoths in the web development arena square off. Which one will come out on top?

In the world of web development, Ruby and Python are two of the most popular languages—and for good reason. Both languages are powerful options, providing the developer with a myriad of tools at their disposal. Each language is well-documented, has a vibrant community and boasts some of the most popular websites and web applications in their portfolio.

If you’re just starting out in web development, or moving from another language and considering these two heavyweights, which should you choose? Which of these two options will serve you better?

Similarities Between the Two

Both languages have some basic similarities. First and foremost, Ruby and Python are both interpreted languages, rather than compiled. With a compiled programming language, the developers writes the code and then compiles it into native code that the target platform can run.

In contrast, both Python and Ruby are interpreted languages. This means an interpreter translates the code on-the-fly into something the target platform can run. While this does result in higher overhead, and slower performance than a compiled app, it often leads to faster development, as the programmer doesn’t need to recompile their app after every change.

Both programming languages are very popular. Python has consistently ranked in the top 10 programming languages since 2003. While Ruby is not as popular, it was the 11th most popular language in 2019 and is the 16th most popular language at the time of writing.

Both languages have frameworks that greatly improve and speed up the web development process. Ruby on Rails is easily the most popular framework for Ruby. In fact, Rails is largely responsible for Ruby’s sudden surge in popularity following the framework’s release in 2004. While there are other web frameworks for Ruby, none of them are as well-known as Rails, which is practically ubiquitous with Ruby and web development.

Python also has a number of frameworks to aid in development. While none of them have received the fanfare of Rails, they are every bit as capable and are solid options. Some of the most popular are Flask, Django, Web2Py and CubicWeb.

Differences Between the Two

Despite their similarities, there are a number of differences between the two programming languages.

First and foremost is each language’s philosophy. Python’s philosophy is best summed up in the Zen of Python document:

Beautiful is better than ugly.

Explicit is better than implicit.

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

Flat is better than nested.

Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.

Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.

Although practicality beats purity.

Errors should never pass silently.

Unless explicitly silenced.

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.

Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.

Now is better than never.

Although never is often better than right now.

If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.

If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

As this demonstrates, Python places a great deal of emphasis on finding the single, best solution to any given problem. It does not espouse the idea that there are multiple, equally good ways of doing something. There should be only one, and a capable developer should be able to see it. In other words, “there should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.”

In contrast, Ruby takes a much more organic approach to programming. It’s creator, Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto, placed an unusual emphasis on user interface design principles when creating his language, as he believed that computer systems and programming languages needed to be adapted to how humans work, rather than the other way around.

Ruby’s official site Matz was “trying to make Ruby natural, not simple,” much like life itself. He adds: “Ruby is simple in appearance, but is very complex inside, just like our human body.”

As a result, Ruby tends to emphasize creative freedom more than Python’s philosophical rigidity. There is more than one way to do things, and many of them may be equally good, according to Ruby’s philosophy.

The two languages’ approach to object-oriented programming is another significant difference. While Python is object-oriented, it also supports structural and functional programming methods.

In contrast, Matz wanted Ruby to be object-oriented from the ground up, as opposed to Python’s approach, which he saw as a tacked-on afterthought. As a result, everything in Ruby is an object.

According to the official site: “In Ruby, everything is an object. Every bit of information and code can be given their own properties and actions. Object-oriented programming calls properties by the name instance variables and actions are known as methods. Ruby’s pure object-oriented approach is most commonly demonstrated by a bit of code which applies an action to a number.”

Another difference is stability. Because of Python’s more rigid approach, changes to the language tend to happen at a slower pace and are more measured.

With Ruby, and its emphasis on creative freedom, developments often happen at a much faster pace. These advancements, however, sometimes come at the cost of stability and reliability.

Which Should You Choose?

Both languages are powerful options that will serve any developer well. Both are easy to learn and can be used to create virtually any kind of web application needed.

Much will come down to your goals and style as a developer. If you want to quickly prototype an application and get up-and-running as quickly as possible, Ruby and Rails are hard to beat. On the other hand, if you want the maximum in performance and scalability, Python and Django will have a clear performance edge of Ruby and Rails.

You must also choose which philosophy feels more natural. Some programmers do well with Python’s more restrictive approach, while others prefer Ruby’s creative philosophy.

Whichever option you choose, the future is bright for both languages and their developers.

TagsProgramming LanguageRubyPython
Matt Milano
Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a background in web and software development.

Related Articles

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DevelopersAugust 4, 2020
Ruby vs Python For Web Development: Which Is Better?
Two behemoths in the web development arena square off. Which one will come out on top?

In the world of web development, Ruby and Python are two of the most popular languages—and for good reason. Both languages are powerful options, providing the developer with a myriad of tools at their disposal. Each language is well-documented, has a vibrant community and boasts some of the most popular websites and web applications in their portfolio.

If you’re just starting out in web development, or moving from another language and considering these two heavyweights, which should you choose? Which of these two options will serve you better?

Similarities Between the Two

Both languages have some basic similarities. First and foremost, Ruby and Python are both interpreted languages, rather than compiled. With a compiled programming language, the developers writes the code and then compiles it into native code that the target platform can run.

In contrast, both Python and Ruby are interpreted languages. This means an interpreter translates the code on-the-fly into something the target platform can run. While this does result in higher overhead, and slower performance than a compiled app, it often leads to faster development, as the programmer doesn’t need to recompile their app after every change.

Both programming languages are very popular. Python has consistently ranked in the top 10 programming languages since 2003. While Ruby is not as popular, it was the 11th most popular language in 2019 and is the 16th most popular language at the time of writing.

Both languages have frameworks that greatly improve and speed up the web development process. Ruby on Rails is easily the most popular framework for Ruby. In fact, Rails is largely responsible for Ruby’s sudden surge in popularity following the framework’s release in 2004. While there are other web frameworks for Ruby, none of them are as well-known as Rails, which is practically ubiquitous with Ruby and web development.

Python also has a number of frameworks to aid in development. While none of them have received the fanfare of Rails, they are every bit as capable and are solid options. Some of the most popular are Flask, Django, Web2Py and CubicWeb.

Differences Between the Two

Despite their similarities, there are a number of differences between the two programming languages.

First and foremost is each language’s philosophy. Python’s philosophy is best summed up in the Zen of Python document:

Beautiful is better than ugly.

Explicit is better than implicit.

Simple is better than complex.

Complex is better than complicated.

Flat is better than nested.

Sparse is better than dense.
Readability counts.

Special cases aren't special enough to break the rules.

Although practicality beats purity.

Errors should never pass silently.

Unless explicitly silenced.

In the face of ambiguity, refuse the temptation to guess.

There should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.

Although that way may not be obvious at first unless you're Dutch.

Now is better than never.

Although never is often better than right now.

If the implementation is hard to explain, it's a bad idea.

If the implementation is easy to explain, it may be a good idea.

Namespaces are one honking great idea -- let's do more of those!

As this demonstrates, Python places a great deal of emphasis on finding the single, best solution to any given problem. It does not espouse the idea that there are multiple, equally good ways of doing something. There should be only one, and a capable developer should be able to see it. In other words, “there should be one-- and preferably only one --obvious way to do it.”

In contrast, Ruby takes a much more organic approach to programming. It’s creator, Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto, placed an unusual emphasis on user interface design principles when creating his language, as he believed that computer systems and programming languages needed to be adapted to how humans work, rather than the other way around.

Ruby’s official site Matz was “trying to make Ruby natural, not simple,” much like life itself. He adds: “Ruby is simple in appearance, but is very complex inside, just like our human body.”

As a result, Ruby tends to emphasize creative freedom more than Python’s philosophical rigidity. There is more than one way to do things, and many of them may be equally good, according to Ruby’s philosophy.

The two languages’ approach to object-oriented programming is another significant difference. While Python is object-oriented, it also supports structural and functional programming methods.

In contrast, Matz wanted Ruby to be object-oriented from the ground up, as opposed to Python’s approach, which he saw as a tacked-on afterthought. As a result, everything in Ruby is an object.

According to the official site: “In Ruby, everything is an object. Every bit of information and code can be given their own properties and actions. Object-oriented programming calls properties by the name instance variables and actions are known as methods. Ruby’s pure object-oriented approach is most commonly demonstrated by a bit of code which applies an action to a number.”

Another difference is stability. Because of Python’s more rigid approach, changes to the language tend to happen at a slower pace and are more measured.

With Ruby, and its emphasis on creative freedom, developments often happen at a much faster pace. These advancements, however, sometimes come at the cost of stability and reliability.

Which Should You Choose?

Both languages are powerful options that will serve any developer well. Both are easy to learn and can be used to create virtually any kind of web application needed.

Much will come down to your goals and style as a developer. If you want to quickly prototype an application and get up-and-running as quickly as possible, Ruby and Rails are hard to beat. On the other hand, if you want the maximum in performance and scalability, Python and Django will have a clear performance edge of Ruby and Rails.

You must also choose which philosophy feels more natural. Some programmers do well with Python’s more restrictive approach, while others prefer Ruby’s creative philosophy.

Whichever option you choose, the future is bright for both languages and their developers.

Programming Language
Ruby
Python
About the author
Matt Milano -Technical Writer
Matt is a tech journalist and writer with a background in web and software development.

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