What’s the Difference Between Ruby on Rails vs JavaScript

Ruby on Rails and JavaScript are commonly used together for web development, but each technology has its own distinct history and strengths.

Ruby on Rails is a server-side web framework written in the Ruby programming language. It was created in 2004 by David Heinemeier Hansson as part of the Basecamp project. Rails emphasize convention over configuration and aim to increase developer productivity by following the “don’t repeat yourself” (DRY) principle. Some of Rails’ key advantages are its built-in MVC architecture, Active Record for interacting with databases, and large ecosystem of gems (reusable packages of code). However, Rails also has a steep learning curve for beginners.

JavaScript is a client-side scripting language that runs in web browsers. It was created in 1995 by Brendan Eich at Netscape. JavaScript gained widespread adoption after being incorporated into all major web browsers. It enables interactive front-end features and asynchronous communication. With frameworks like React, Angular, and Vue, JavaScript can also be used for complex single-page applications. The flexibility of JavaScript is a double-edged sword though – it has loose typing and limited structure.

While Ruby on Rails handles back-end logic and JavaScript powers front-end interactivity, the two are frequently used together in full stack web development. Rails provides structure while JavaScript adds dynamic behavior. Overall, both technologies have proven to be very effective for building modern, interactive web applications. They each have strong communities and abundant resources for new developers.

Head-to-Head Features Comparison Between Ruby on Rails and JavaScript

Let’s find the comparison table between Ruby on Rails and JavaScript.

Feature Ruby on Rails JavaScript
Language Type Server-side Client-side
Frameworks Rails, Sinatra React, Angular, Vue
Performance Slower Very fast
Learning Curve Steep Gradual
Setup and Config Built-in conventions Flexible options
Routing Rails provides routing React Router, own logic
Templating Embedded Ruby (ERB) JSX, Template literals
Databases ActiveRecord ORM SQL, NoSQL (MongoDB)
MVC Architecture Built-in MVC conventions Custom implementation
Testing RSpec, Minitest Jest, Mocha
Mobile Development React Native React Native
Popularity Declining Skyrocketing

What is Ruby on Rails?

Ruby on Rails is a server-side web application framework written in the Ruby programming language. It was created by David Heinemeier Hansson and released publicly in 2004. Rails follows the model-view-controller (MVC) pattern and emphasize conventions over configuration, rapid development, and don’t repeat yourself (DRY) principles.

Ruby on Rails

Pros of Ruby on Rails

  • Rapid development cycle.
  • Great for MVPs and prototypes.
  • Convention over configuration.
  • Strong community with many gems/plugins.
  • Stability and maturity as a framework.

Cons of Ruby on Rails

  • Not as performant as Java or Go.
  • Not easily scalable.
  • Not as trendy as modern JavaScript.
  • Steep learning curve for beginners.

JavaScript Introduction

JavaScript is a lightweight, interpreted programming language, alongside HTML and CSS, that powers dynamic web pages and web applications. It was created in 1995 by Brendan Eich at Netscape.


Pros of JavaScript

  • Ubiquitous – runs everywhere on the web.
  • Huge ecosystem of tools and libraries.
  • Very versatile across applications.
  • More interactive, responsive UIs.
  • Easier for beginners to pick up.

Cons of JavaScript

  • Weak typing leads to bugs.
  • Async programming is complex.
  • Too many tools/options to evaluate.
  • Front-end framework fatigue.
  • Not as fast as compiled languages.

Community and Popularity: Ruby on Rails vs JavaScript

Both Ruby on Rails and JavaScript have large, active open-source communities supporting them. However, JavaScript definitely has a larger community overall.

The Stack Overflow Developer Survey for 2021 had over 80,000 respondents. JavaScript was voted the most popular language for the 10th year in a row. Ruby came in at #8 most popular.

For web development specifically, JavaScript also edges out Rails. The survey found that:

  • 68.4% had done front-end web development with JavaScript in the past year.
  • Only 15.2% had done back-end web development with Ruby in the past year.
Indeed, JavaScript growth continues to accelerate with the rise of Node.js, React, Angular, Vue, and other frameworks. Rails and Ruby have been stable but not seeing as much growth.

Performance Benchmarks: JavaScript vs Ruby On Rails

Let’s look at some performance benchmarks comparing Ruby on Rails and JavaScript:

  • Hello World Test: Measures the time to generate “Hello World”. JavaScript executes in about 3 ms in the browser while Rails takes 200+ ms with a roundtrip to the server.
  • Data Access: Querying a database of 25,000 rows takes Rails 1200 ms but JavaScript can filter data locally in the browser in just 16 ms.
  • Page Load Time: The average Rails site takes 7+ seconds for a full-page load. A JavaScript-heavy site with asynchronous calls loads in under 2 seconds.
  • Requests Per Minute: In benchmark tests, Rails can handle 800-1500 rpm. A JavaScript Node.js server handles 5000-10,000 rpm due to asynchronous event handling.

So, while Rails provides structure and conventions, JavaScript delivers extremely fast interactivity and performance in the browser. For the best experience, many modern web apps use both together.

Use Cases: Ruby on Rails or JavaScript

Given their different strengths, Ruby on Rails and JavaScript are suited for different use cases:

Rails works well for:

  • Custom web/mobile backend applications.
  • Database-backed web services with APIs.
  • Prototyping MVP ideas quickly.
  • Admin panels and dashboards.
  • Websites with lots of server-rendered pages.

JavaScript excels at:

  • Adding interactivity to web pages.
  • Building reactive single page apps.
  • Creating mobile/desktop applications.
  • Game development.
  • Animations and visualizations.
  • Asynchronous server-side programming.
  • Real-time web apps.

For web development, using JavaScript on the front-end and Rails on the back-end is a robust combo. You get Rails rapid development with JavaScript speed. Other backends can also be used with JavaScript like Node.js, PHP, Python, Java, etc.

Learning Curve: JavaScript and Ruby on Rails

For those new to web development, Rails generally has a steeper initial learning curve than JavaScript.

Rails is a full MVC framework with structure and many libraries to learn upfront. There are more concepts like Migrations, Routing, ActiveRecord, etc.

JavaScript has a relatively minimal core language. You can start by adding a few lines of JavaScript to a webpage to see visible effects. It can be incremental.

However, JavaScript applications and frameworks like React and Angular also have a lot of complexity long-term. Mastering JavaScript thoroughly is challenging given its flexibility, asynchronous nature, evolving ecosystems, and more.

Job Trends: Ruby on Rails and JavaScript

Both Ruby on Rails and JavaScript developers continue to be in high demand in the job market:

  • There are over 30,000 Rails job listings on Indeed.com with an average salary of $120,000. Ruby on Rails roles have grown 25% YoY.
  • JavaScript has over 130,000 listings on Indeed with an average salary of $108,000. Demand for JavaScript skills has grown 50% over the past 5 years.

Rails jobs are abundant at companies focused on web application development. JavaScript jobs are everywhere thanks to its versatility across industries. Knowing both JavaScript and Rails provides the most opportunities.

Which is Better – Rails or JavaScript?

So, which technology is better for web development – Ruby on Rails or JavaScript? The answer depends on your specific needs and use case.

When Ruby on Rails is preferable:

  • You need to build a functional prototype or MVP quickly.
  • You value convention over configuration.
  • Your app is not expected to scale massively.
  • You want a batteries-included framework to avoid decision fatigue.

When JavaScript is preferable:

  • You need a highly interactive UI with dynamic functionality.
  • You want greater creative flexibility over architecture.
  • You are building apps for multiple platforms (web, mobile, etc).
  • You expect your app to scale to a very large size.

For many use cases, both technologies can work very well. For example, having Ruby on Rails on the back end and JavaScript on the front end is a robust stack for web development.

Ultimately there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each technology and pick the best tool for your specific needs. Both Ruby on Rails and JavaScript will continue playing major roles in web development for years to come.

Final Thoughts on Ruby on Rails vs JavaScript

Ruby on Rails and JavaScript have their own strengths that make them valuable in modern web development.

Rails enables fast and productive server-side programming. JavaScript delivers a responsive client-side experience. Using them together provides the full advantages of each technology.

Understanding the key differences in type, speed, use cases and more allows developers to best leverage Ruby on Rails and JavaScript for a given project. Both continue to be popular options that show no signs of slowing down.

Amelie Lamb

Amelie Lamb

Amelie Lamb is an experienced technical content writer at SoftwareStack.co who specializes in distilling complex software topics into clear, concise explanations. She has a talent for taking dense technical jargon and making it engaging and understandable for readers through her informative, lively writing style.

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