Ruby and Python are some of the most commonly used programming languages for web application development. According to the Stack Overflow’s annual survey conducted among 90,000 developers worldwide, Ruby and Python were in the Top 15 most in-demand programming languages in 2019. It’s quite something considering that there are about 700 programming languages in the world!
Ruby and Python have a lot in common. They are high-level object-oriented languages focused on simplicity and clarity. However, as you may have already guessed from the title, today we are going to compare these scripting languages and figure out which one is better for your web app development project. Let's start with basic information about Ruby and Python before proceeding with their comparison.
Ruby was released in 1995. Yukihiro Matsumoto, Ruby’s founder said: “The goal of Ruby is to make programmers happy.” Ruby was designed as a dynamic developer-friendly language. It’s also a highly flexible language that allows developers to easily alter its elements and combine different approaches in powerful ways. The language is focused on human needs, not on the computer ones.
Ruby code example. Source: GitHub
Any type of software can be created with the help of Ruby, from web to mobile applications. However, Ruby can be used for various purposes, it is well-known as a programming language for building web applications. Ruby on Rails (RoR), an open-source web application framework written in Ruby, is focused on simple and productive programming. RoR is loved by programmers as it provides them with readymade tools for fast application development.
Ruby is an object-oriented programming language. In Ruby, every value, even a class itself, is an object. The default behavior can be modified by adding new methods to the classes and expanding the custom classes. Also, Ruby allows developers to reuse code and units of programming logic for other projects. Besides, object-oriented programming ensures bundling objects together into modules for convenient and clear project structure.
Ruby uses a garbage collector that is an automatic memory management system, so the programmer does not have to allocate memory manually. Besides other useful features, Ruby programming language is highly adaptive to innovations and easily accepts updates and new releases.
Python was created by a Dutch programmer, Guido van Rossum. Released in 1991, Python is a first-class general-purpose programming language for backend development. It is a powerful scripting language that allows you to create the script and execute it over and over again without the need to retype it each time.
Like Ruby, Python is a high-level object-oriented language. Python’s philosophy is a focus on readability. This is what the high-level part of Python stands for. Python’s code looks like the English language, its syntax is easy to use and very simple to read. That’s why Python programming language is great for beginners and can be mastered just in a few days. It is also popular among experienced developers who often choose Python as their second or third language.
Python code example
Python was designed for scientific and academic programming. It can conduct fast operations with big data and is used for the development of data-heavy websites. Python is the most preferred programming language for artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics applications. It’s also worth mentioning that Python can be used for mobile application development.
Python is a cross-platform language with portable code. It means that developers can use Python code on many operating systems (Linux, Windows, Unix, Mac) and they don’t have to change it.
Python-based open-source web framework, Django, encourages rapid development and clean, pragmatic design. This dynamic and accessible framework powers popular websites such as Spotify, Instagram, and YouTube. No wonder that according to Github’s PYPL rating Python is the most popular programming language in 2020.
Ruby vs Python: Main Differences
As it was already mentioned, both Ruby and Python are high-level object-oriented scripting languages of a new generation. However, the main difference between them lies in the philosophy behind each language. Ruby aims to make developers happy with its elegant and beautiful syntax, while Python’s main mission is to make everything obvious to them. Ruby provides developers with freedom and flexibility. They can solve an issue choosing among different approaches and methods, while Python implies there is only one correct way to do something. Such different approaches to problem-solving make Ruby and Python suitable for different web application types.
The table below illustrates the main differences between Ruby and Python.
When to choose Ruby?
Ruby programming language is a great choice for small businesses and startups that expect fast application development. Ruby is helpful when there is a need to build a quick prototype even if the scope is not clearly defined and project requirements are going to change in the future. Overall Ruby is recommended in cases with strict deadlines and budget limitations.
If to be more specific about types of applications that best are built with Ruby, these are e-commerce websites and streaming solutions. Shopify is an inspiring example of a complex e-commerce solution developed with the help of Ruby on Rails framework that has been in the market since 2006 and given a home to over 800K online stores.
Ruby on Rails framework fits perfectly into the tech stack for developing custom web applications with a lot of functionality. Ruby has one of the strongest communities which ensures complete and accurate documentation and collaborates to support extensive libraries called Ruby gems. They offer particular functionalities to Ruby applications and speed up every stage of the development process.
At the same time, you have to remember that Ruby won’t be the best programming language for creating innovative web applications that require overall control over the product architecture, program modules, or data integrations.
When to choose Python?
Python will be the better choice for complex scientific solutions and applications on the cloud. It is also used for developing apps that scale horizontally. Such applications have a benefit of elasticity and can manage variable workloads.
Building applications with Python, it is possible to go far beyond web app development than when using Ruby. It can be explained with the fact that Python is used in different industries, from data science to robotics. That’s why the Python community is one of the most diverse out there. Thanks to the continuously growing Python ecosystem, you will have full control over the development process and won’t be left without an answer. On Stack Overflow, the largest and most trusted online community for developers, there are 1,455,817 questions asked about Python.
Python, coupled with the TensorFlow library, significantly simplifies the development of AI-based solutions as it has built-in machine learning algorithms. Python is also widely used in data processing and analysis. It is especially useful in audio and video analysis for its data visualization and data wrangling abilities.
It will be unfair to declare “a winner” between Ruby and Python. Both of them are powerful high-level languages loved by developers. However, you have to remember that Ruby and Python suit better for different application types. If you are planning to develop data-heavy websites and applications with built-in elements of machine learning - choose Python. In case you expect fast web application development - Ruby is a great choice for you. To learn more about Ruby, I recommend you read the article “5 things you need to know about Ruby before using it for your next project”. I hope it will help you decide and create an engaging, reliable, and secure application.