Brad Feld

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PHP vs. Ruby

Oct 24, 2006
Category Technology

Ever since I started teaching my 15 year old neighbor Ruby (and learning it simultaneously), I keep running into people who ask “why don’t you just learn / teach PHP?”  When I was up in Seattle, I met with Scott Collison who is running a neat company called Ohloh whose goal is to “map the open source world by collecting objective information on open source projects.”  Neat.

Robin Luckey at Ohloh was about to release an article titled PHP Eats Rails for Breakfast.  Before you devolve into the standard flame war with the “PHP is a language; Rails is a framework; you are an idiot” rhetoric, the article is really about PHP vs. Ruby vs. Python vs. Perl.  And – the data (and results) that Ohloh and Robin have put together are fascinating.  Following are the key graphs from the article.

PHP dominates the new lines of code and only PHP and Ruby are on a steady curve upward.  Yeah – I know that “number of lines of code” is not a great measure, but none of these languages are overly verbose so it’s an interesting proxy metric.

Active developers tells a different story.  While PHP is growing a little relative to the others, they all seem to have a relatively flat curve.  The well known shortage of Ruby developers is reinforced by this data, as well as the next graph.

This was the chart I found really interesting.  Ruby is clearly the trendy new language.  Given normal supply / demand lags, you’d expect that this is a leading indicator of a significant uptick for Ruby on the other two charts in 2007.  My conclusion is different than Robin’s – while PHP appears to be dominant today, the rapid growth in new projects in Ruby indicates that it is currently positioned as “the language of the next wave of applications.”  This is consistent with what I’m hearing and seeing from many new startups.