Ruby vs. Python: Pros, Cons, and Where to Start

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Ruby and Python are popular, powerful, and relatively easy to learn programming languages for developing web applications. New programmers often choose one or the other to start, but which is best for you?

[Featured image] A programmer working on a project

Ruby and Python are two popular computer languages used in building web applications. Both are clean, readable, and open-sourced and are high-level, back-end languages used to create the server functions needed to support the application’s front end. Developers can create web applications on different browsers and operating systems with either Ruby or Python. 

There are differences, of course—Ruby and Python are not identical. As a prospective developer, you might want to choose one or the other based on your interests in programming and the types of applications you want to build.  

Python is generally better for educational use or for people who want to build quick programs rather than work as developers, while Ruby is better for commercial web applications. There are more specific differences when comparing Ruby versus Python, and they have in common that there are many ways to learn both.

Ruby

Ruby is a computer programming language developed in 1995 by Yukihiro Matsumoto. He wanted to create a flexible, object-oriented language that programmers would enjoy using. They enjoyed it enough that Ruby became one of the most popular languages for developing web applications. 

It’s a general use language that’s popular in the industry. Apple, GitHub, Twitter, Hulu, ZenDesk, and Urban Dictionary are websites developed with Ruby, demonstrating its versatility. Ruby is a general use language that's more popular in the industry than in science or academia.

Using Ruby to build applications

Ruby is mainly used to build web applications and is useful for other programming projects. It is widely used for building servers and data processing, web scraping, and crawling.

The leading framework used to run Ruby is Ruby on Rails, although that’s not the only one. Ruby on Rails was released in 2004 and made the language much easier to use. That’s one reason developers at many start-ups use Ruby to build their applications.

Features

Ruby is a general-purpose, object-oriented programming language that runs on Mac, Windows, Unix, and most operating systems. It has a flexible approach to solving problems, which some programmers appreciate and some do not. 

Advantages

Ruby’s syntax is similar to English, so many English speakers find it easy to learn and use. The program itself is free, and it’s open-source, with users sharing improvements and ideas for how to use it. The Ruby community tends to focus on web development over other types of programming and has created a vast library of program elements.

Disadvantages 

One of the disadvantages of Ruby’s user-friendly approach is that bugs can get hidden, making it more difficult to find and fix code problems, mainly because the documentation for Ruby isn’t as complete as it is for some other languages. Also, Ruby and Ruby for Rails tend to take longer to boot and have a slower runtime than other programming platforms.

Ruby and Python programmers are in demand

Programmers who work in either language are in demand. If you’re thinking of learning programming, both Ruby and Python can potentially offer entry into good developer jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for web developers will increase faster than average between now and 2030 [1].

One way to decide which language to learn is to look at job listings to see which appeal to you.

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Python

Python is a simple programming language often used in data science, AI, and financial applications. It’s prevalent in academic settings and widely taught in universities. It was developed in 1989 and released in 1994. In 2011, Google announced that it used Python for many internal processes—that news caught gained attention. 

Google isn’t the only commercial user, as Dropbox, Instagram, Mozilla, and Yahoo also use Python.

The most popular Python framework is Django, but you may well come across others [2]. Django was released in 2005 and made Python highly competitive with Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework.

Applying Python in Applications

Python is used to write scripts for automating workflows. One of its most common uses is to connect software written in different languages and can be used to scrape data. Python developers can build web apps, machine learning programs, and trading apps when used with a framework. 

Read more: What Is Python Used For? A Beginner’s Guide

Features

Python is a relatively simple language that looks similar to English and allows users to write clean code. This can be frustrating at times, but it makes the language more usable in the long run. It supports different programming paradigms, and its user community concentrates on Linux and academic uses. It is used in industry, too, but its share of the educational market is more extensive.

Advantages

One of the significant advantages of Python is that so many people know it. This means that non-developers in industries like financial services can build scripts to analyze data or connect databases. These individuals may not know enough to build entire applications, but they can add power to their applications. 

Disadvantages 

Python is not fully object-oriented, which some people find more difficult to use than Ruby. Because its user community is biased toward academic applications, the library of tools for commercial applications is smaller. It’s not optimized for mobile development, which is another limit to commercial use.

How to Learn Ruby or Python 

If you’re considering a short-term certification or bootcamp program, you can always choose a language by first looking at places where you would like to work.  Then you can observe which language their developers use and try learning on your own. Many people find it easier to learn through a certificate or bootcamp course.

Certificates

You can demonstrate your knowledge of Ruby or Python through Certificate programs. The nonprofits that administer the programs offer certification exams that allow you to prove your skills. You can take classes to prepare for the exams, or choose to study independently.

For more information, take a look at:

Many educational programs offer certificates to graduates to show that they completed the course—these are different from the certificates offered by Ruby and Python. 

Bootcamps

Coding bootcamps are short-term, intensive training programs that cover the basics of programming and offer immersion in a specific language. Some are offered by universities, while for-profit training companies operate others. Depending upon your schedule, you can pick up Ruby and Python skills from in-person and online options. 

You can begin getting ready to develop apps in Ruby, Python, and other programming languages with courses and Specializations on Coursera.

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Outlook Handbook: Web Developers and Digital Designers-Summary, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/web-developers.htm." Accessed March 3, 2022.

2. GitHub. "Top Python Web Frameworks, https://github.com/mingrammer/python-web-framework-stars." Accessed March 3, 2022

Written by Coursera • Updated on

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