Ruby on Rails 3.0 was a big evolution of the Rails DNA. Architectural changes were hard to miss - true. But, more happened - more changed.
The jQuery Effect
There I stood as a Rails developer - proud as ever - because above all this move showed that the Rails Core Team leads. I call this The jQuery Effect and it’s about getting out of the way of progress:
I consider these frameworks the major Contenders: Prototype, jQuery, MooTools and Ext JS. As with all Wars the issue is about assets and who owns what. Here, the asset is the infamous dollar ($) sign.
All this over a dollar ($) sign? Yes! Only one framework at a time could use the dollar ($) sign. Since the $() function was an integral part of each of these frameworks, no one wanted to change there use of the dollar ($) sign just to suit “that other framework.”
Finding Common Ground
What John Resig and the jQuery Core Team realized was that people used the $ for efficiency not identity. So let other frameworks use the $ and give jQuery developers the best of both worlds:
As a result jQuery developers didn’t have to choose efficiency over flexibility. While the other frameworks pandered, “One Framework to Rule Them ALL.” jQuery played it’s hand and moved aside.
One Developer’s Story
jQuery was young and I was an accomplished Prototype developer. I had my favorite Prototype modal dialog I just had to use for a recent project - I had too. But I also wanted to broaden my horizons and try another framework as my main.
I really liked how polished MooTools plugins were, but chosing MooTools meant I was locked into using MooTools and only MooTools. And as I stated earlier, “I just had to have the Prototype Modal Dialog plugin.”
So I went with jQuery. I went with jQuery because it gave me options. And in a world of uncertainty, options are the currency of progress. With a single line of code, I was able to use jQuery as my foundation and still got to use my “favorite” Prototype Modal Dialog.
How did that happen? How? A single line of code? Really? Yes. jQuery.noConflict(); allowed me to test the framework and not have to choose between some of my favorite plugins and jQuery. It was not an all or nothing transaction.
I often wonder how many developers converted to jQuery in that fashion. How many picked up jQuery and never looked back because of The jQuery Effect. We may never know the true numbers, but I’d gamble the numbers would be both shocking and impressive.
Rails 3.1 and jQuery Sitting in a Tree
When Rails 3.0 was released, I believe DHH and the Rails Core Team took a similar stance as the jQuery team did so long ago: Give developers options and get out of the way of progress - let evolution play its course.
Earlier today DHH announced:
I believe Ruby on Rails is the most powerful and beautiful web application framework today. If you doubt that, I dare you to look around the ecosystem. You WILL NOT find a single - respectable - web framework, written in any language, that hasn’t adopted the paradigms and philosophies of Rails. Not a single one!
DHH and the Rails Core Team know Rails is the best framework out there and it is up to them to reduce the friction needed to adopt the framework. With the countless number of developers using jQuery, shipping Rails 3.1 with jQuery is a powerful move indeed.
The lesson here is simple. Reduce the friction between your Product and potential Customer. Make it easy for your customer to access your product. Then the product can stand on its own and wow the customer.
But until you get the product in your customer’s hand, what do you have? Nothing. Not even a chance. That’s a powerful thing that John Resig and the jQuery Core Team understood well and it paid off big time. First by its adoption my Microsoft and ASP.Net MVC and now by Ruby on Rails.
I commend both the jQuery Core Team and the Rails Core Team. And many thanks for teaching this powerful lesson indeed. I can’t wait to get my hands on the Rails 3.1 release.