Mar 4, 2016 · 2 min read

When Ruby on Rails first got going, I spent a lot of time contrasting code with the folks in Javaland. Rails had drawn substantial inspiration from the frameworks pioneered there, but with a bend to liberate the ideas from the shackles of the Java language. This back and forth lasted for a couple of years in the early days, but then sorta just died out.

Java had gone from the unavoidable leviathan of Enterprise Computing to well, being completely avoidable. Far fewer people had to do Java, so its monopoly on frameworks and web infrastructure faded, and you could simply ignore it after the advent and popularity of Rails, Django, and other full-stack frameworks in the dynamic languages.

For me, personally, it’s been many years since I’ve had much interaction with what’s going on in Javaland. The main exposure has been following what’s happening with the JVM and then of course keeping an eye on JRuby. A blissful ignorance, you could say.

Then I stumbled across this fact the other day: The language with the second most repositories on GitHub is… Java! Not only is the former leviathan still around, it’s alive and kicking.

This brought two thoughts to mind:

  1. How reminiscent of Microsoft’s predicament: Long after they lost their stranglehold on the computing business, they were still crushing it in earnings and their monopolized pockets of enterprise backland. Microsoft stopped being something you simply had to relate and care about, but that didn’t prevent them from shoring up their substantial domains. It just happened out of the limelight.
  2. This is what the late majority looks like! When the early adopters leave a successful platform, and take their passionate blog posts, flashy conferences, and video presentations with them, this is what’s left. A very large, yet quiet majority of users simply getting things done.

Here I thought that the battle for the limelight was the one that mattered (and well, it did, since if you don’t win that round, you don’t get to progress to the next). But there was a far greater prize on offer. Winning over the early adopters is a fun game, but it’s ultimately a small numbers one. The impact of getting the Hacker News crowd riled up is a pretty shallow one.

Compare that with the impact of being able to tilt at giants in the late majority. Now we’re talking! A huge mass of programmers who for a wide variety of reasons simply has to pick The Safe Choice, often stuck with offerings from the likes of Microsoft and Java.

That is the next big domain for Ruby on Rails. Going the distance such that we get to make a dent in that late majority. Making programming better, more fun, and more productive for people working far away from the glamour of Web Scale.


Written by


Creator of Ruby on Rails, Founder & CTO at Basecamp (formerly 37signals), NYT Best-selling author of REWORK and REMOTE, and Le Mans class-winning racing driver.

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