They’re both fast. They’re both powerful. They’re both loved by programmers. But what sets the Ruby and Python scripting languages apart? Why are developers loyal to one or the other? And which is best for which type of application?
A lot of the differences between these two dynamic programming languages boil down to a matter of taste—how one developer prefers to code over another. But there are distinguishing features that separate them, and the more these two languages mature, the more we’re seeing their respective strengths shine through.
Let’s do a side-by-side comparison of two of the most popular high-level scripting languages in web development today.
First, the Similarities
Both are high-level, server-side scripting languages focusing on simplicity and prioritizing rapid development—getting things done fast, in fewer lines of code. These scripts eschew verbose code, strict hierarchy, and syntax correctness for more behind-the-scenes, object-oriented logic.
They’re used by entrepreneurs and startups alike to rapidly whip up web apps and prototypes, thanks to standard libraries, persistence support, and feature-packed frameworks—Python’s Django framework, and Ruby’s Ruby on Rails. Both are interpreted scripting languages, which means they don’t require a compiler like Scala or C++ do. Compiled languages tend to run faster, though. Rule of thumb? What you get in speed of development, you lose in runtime speed.
Now, let’s dive into their differences, starting with Ruby.
Ruby & the Ruby on Rails Framework
Created in 1995, Ruby is object-oriented to its core, influenced by languages like C++, Perl, and Java. Here’s a look at Ruby, a language that’s ideal for collaboration, speed, and businesses that want a programming language that thinks as fast as they do.
Preferred for: Web development, functional programming
Best used for: Getting complex, high-traffic sites and apps up and running quickly
Philosophy: “Do more with less.” Developer freedom and flexibility, and more than one way to do things—something it inherited from Perl
Characteristics: Expressive, efficient, elegant, and powerful. Rails has “gems”—libraries of prepackaged code that streamline development.
Apps built on Ruby: Basecamp, Hulu, Twitter (originally), Github, and Airbnb
Why developers love Ruby: Loose and creative coding, frequent updates, freedom and flexibility, and readable code that’s never confusing
Learn more about Ruby in this article.
Python & the Django Framework
Python is all about efficiency and supporting calculation-heavy applications used in the fields of data and science. Along with its Django framework, Python enables super fast development.
Preferred for: Academic and scientific programming. Python has a slew of libraries for data work.
Best used for: Data-heavy sites; servers with high-traffic volume; fast time-to-market; math, big data, and calculations. Data scientists use Python for prototypes and data analysis.
Philosophy: “One right way to do things”
Characteristics: Easy to learn, conservative, more strict than Ruby, code readability, speedy, and efficient
Why developers love Python: Stability over change, conservative code, fewer updates
Apps built on Python: YouTube, Instagram, Spotify, Reddit, and BitTorrent
Software written in Python: Blender 3D, Unity 3D, and Mercurial
In summary, both are fast, efficient, and have loyal followings. If your app will be doing a lot of computing and processing a ton of data, Python might be your best bet. If you want to rapidly prototype apps that will be traffic-heavy, Ruby is a lightning-fast option. Consult with a Ruby expert or a Python pro on Upwork today and get more insight into what’s best for your next application.