Update (06–17–2018): Looking at job postings, the results for Rails are much better than Stackoverflow
Key finding: simply put, Rails is “yet another framework” in 2018. Still popular, but suffering from a chronic loss of popularity lasting from it’s all time high in 2011 — all the way to it’s all time low in 2018. At the same time, relative newcomers like Laravel are growing impressively.
Caveat: the numbers come from Stackoverflow and might do injustice to some frameworks since they’re basically measuring the number of question asked about a Stackoverflow tag. If, for example, ASP has tags that are called ASP, ASP.NET, and ASP.NET Core which all relate to the same framework (more or less), the stats will do it injustice. With that in mind let’s dive into the data:
Looking at 2011, Rails was pretty much dominating the server side MVC market. Laravel hasn’t been born yet , Node was only recently born and hasn’t really come up with MVC of it’s own, ASP was experiencing an astounding drop in popularity (it still is, but in a stable manner). Yet in 2018, for the first time both Django and Laravel trend higher than Rails. By a tiny bit — sure, but it still shows you how fickle the programming world can be.
Some more findings:
ASP.NET: Seems to have experienced an all time high in 2009, took a tremendous hit shortly after and stabilized (it trends lower than both Django, Rails and Laravel)
Django: Showing amazing stability. Other than a short high in 2010 it pretty much remains the same all the way to 2018 (rising slightly above Rails for the first time).
Node: Express and Sails are showing steady growth but their numbers are nowhere near “the big four”. It could be that the Node MVC community is more fragmented than the others, or that many people choose to go “frameworkless” in the Node world. But the numbers just don’t show any big followings for server side MVC frameworks in the Node world. It probably also means that Node is used in a bunch of different scenarios, not strictly for server side MVC.
Rails growth back in the day was amazing. It was both the result of it being an innovative, great framework and of marketing genius: You have to see how Rails creator dhh promoted the framework back in the day — in ways unseen in programming communities back then, to fully understand how it got to where it was. For example take at the famous build a blog in 15 minutes by dhh (this was 2005!). Back in the day this was great technology, with virtually no other framework (perhaps maybe Django) coming anywhere close to that level of streamlining web development. But it wouldn’t have peaked so high without the charismatic dhh promoting it like he did.
This led to Rails clones starting to appear everywhere — from the php world to .net (yes, many Rails ideas influenced ASP and other frameworks, this deserves a whole post of it’s own). It may have also caused a hyperbole effect that can ultimately work against the framework, a great hype can lead to unrealistic expectations and in the end to disappointment. This could explain why a framework like Django never experienced such ups and downs. It never had that much hype to begin with.
I belive that Rails will soon stabilize on it’s current popularity level, after the marketing boom has long subsided and after it’s ideas where successfully implemented in other frameworks.