Is Node.js the next Ruby on Rails?

January 31, 2012 in Web Development

I got into a conversation at work today about whether or not Node.js might become as popular and as ubiquitous as Ruby on Rails has become, or if it’s just a fad.

At first I was like “It’s going to become the most used framework evar!” But then I thought about it a bit more and realized that this might not be the case.

How does a framework or a language become popular?

One way to think about how a new programming language or a framework becomes popular is examine what needs to be in place.

  • A vibrant active community.
  • Good libraries and/or a healthy amount of contributors of libraries
  • The use case for the language / framework must be clear
  • It must be easy to get into, to learn.
  • Easy to set up and get up and running

To me Node.js checks all the boxes on those, and it seems to have a lot of tailwind blowing its way.

The usability and barrier to entry

Another way to think about languages and frameworks is what the user experience for a beginner to intermediate developer is when starting their first steps trying out the language. How hard is it to get up and running with something simple? How useful is the default stack? On how many platforms is the framework/language available on?

To me, getting up and running with Node was super super easy. There’s plenty of examples out there and there are interesting frameworks like Express that do all the heavy lifting for you.

There’s also a plethora of Javascript developers already out there who are already building stuff in Javascript (although sometimes they might be referred to as “jQuery developers”), so they already are familiar with the language and the evented paradigm.

Will Node become ubiquitous?

In my mind I think it will. I’m also a bit afraid that Node.js will become the next PHP. Is that bad? I don’t know. PHP gets a lot of crap usually, but when you think about it, it does one thing really well: It’s super easy to get up and running in PHP so the barrier to entry is low. It really is perfect for beginner developers.

Node.js doesn’t have the same ease of use, but imo it’s better than Ruby on Rails (although people are free to argue about that)


It’s code year. Get on the horse and start coding. I don’t care what language or what “stack” you choose and ultimately it doesn’t matter. But if you want to choose Javascript, I can’t blame you.

Node is the future.

  • Bart van der Schoor

    Node.js is super easy to get started in (with the windows installer it literally takes 5 minutes to get examples running), but once you start exploring the ecosystem and NPM and it’s so crazily confusing: every dude and his dog is dumping modules all over the place and making best-of-daily-review-must-know-lists-blogs, which is good at a higher-level (parallel experimentation et al), but for a beginners it’s very tricky to find and compare dependable info.

    • Arnor Heidar Sigurdsson

      Yeah, that’s definitely true in many regards. It’s also a sign of just how young the ecosystem is. It will probably be 1-2 years until people settle down on what is the “de facto” standard thing to use when you need to do X, etc.. It took Rails, what, 5 years?