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Ruby on Rails was created by David Heinemeier Hansson as a kind of byproduct of Basecamp’s development at 37signals in 2004. Basecamp was built in Ruby because Hansson found PHP and Java not powerful or flexible enough. It was quite an obscure language back then, without the large eco-system available today. To make development easier, Hansson rolled his own Web development framework, based on simple ideas that had proven successful elsewhere. Rails is founded on pragmatism and established paradigms instead of exotic new ideas. And that’s what made it so successful.
Rails is based on the Model-View-Controller pattern that splits your application into three parts:
-The Models are your business objects describing the structure and behavior of the problem your application is trying to solve. These are usually backed by an Object-Relational-Mapping framework that persists your objects to a database in the background.
-The Views are the templates that render data to the user and all the logic surrounding presentational aspects of your app.
-The Controller sits at the heart of everything, processing requests from clients, initiating changes in the models and triggering the rendering of the templates.
Rails is “opinionated software.” It doesn’t want to be everything for everyone. It focuses on one way of doing things and streamlines all its parts around that way. That’s not to say there’s no possibility of doing things differently if you need to, but you’ll definitely have it easier if you do things “the Rails way.” And that way happened to be exactly the right one not only for Hansson but for a lot of other developers, too, another important reason for Rails’ success.
Programmer productivity was the main goal during Rails’ development, not performance. This has led to a lot of controversy and claims that arise over and over about how Rails can’t scale. This is Rails’ own fault to a certain degree. In its early days, it had the image of a Web development framework messiah of hope and wonder that would lead us all to the promised land were applications wrote themselves. The Rails team didn’t do enough to keep expectations more realistic, and some people became disappointed.
While it’s true that Ruby on Rails is slower than comparable stacks on PHP or Python, it certainly does scale, as hundreds of successful deployments are proving. You’ll just need to scale sooner and put some thought into it. Remember also that Ruby’s current default implementation is terribly inefficient, but alternatives are on the way. There’s nothing inherently slow about the language, though, as blazing-fast implementations of Smalltalk (a language very similar to Ruby) prove.