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PHP vs. Ruby, Take 2

Are PHP and Ruby developers ever the same animal?

Talking to some of my colleagues who work across a lot of languages, I get the impression the Ruby/Rails community has more comp sci background on average than the PHP community.

Most of my clients are developing massive scale eCommerce or communication networks and only want PHP.

Interesting. I’m still seeing a lot of Java interest in that area – but that may just be because my resumé leans that way. Java or Groovy/Grails. And some Ruby/Rails. I don’t have PHP on my resumé (despite having built PHP sites on and off for about a decade – I started with PHP3 but quickly moved to PHP4) so that’s probably why recruiters don’t contact me about PHP 🙂

Where does Ruby come in – for lighter weight, rapid web development?

Certainly for rapid web development but I don’t see it as only suitable for smaller sites. Despite the age of Ruby (almost as old as PHP), it’s only been with the arrival of Rails (about five years ago) that Ruby/Rails has moved from a fringe general-purpose programming language to a (fairly) popular web programming system. That means you’ll see a lot of buzz about it but in reality, it doesn’t have huge market share.

I’d say Ruby/Rails is a strong competitor to PHP, particularly in terms of speed of development and, with JRuby running on the Java stack, access to a lot of enterprise-grade libraries and projects. I personally prefer Groovy/Grails which is more recent and closer to Java in syntax (as well as being built on enterprise standard technology like Spring and Hibernate) while still retaining the speed of development of Ruby/Rails.

Does a PHP developer have deeper – or just different – coding ability?

Given that PHP has only sprouted OO features in an evolutionary manner (and it was only with PHP5, in mid-2004, that it became in any way mainstream) whereas Ruby was designed from day one as an OO language, I suspect that the two communities have very different approaches to problem-solving in general.

I’d draw a parallel to the CFML community. Allaire released Cold Fusion 1.0 a month after PHP1 appeared and CFML didn’t get useful OO features until it was rewritten from its early C++ codebase to Java (CFMX 6.0, May 2002 – although CFMX 6.1, July 2003, was the first release where true OO programming was possible). Even today, after three more major releases – and with two free open source CFML engines available as well – CF developers are still only gradually adopting OO practices, unless they’ve come in from a C++ / C# / Java background and already programmed that way.


To find out more about Sean Corfield, CEO at Railo, U.S., visit:  http://getrailo.com


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