What is Ruby? An Intro to the Dynamic Programming Language

What is Ruby? - Why Do You Teach It In Web Development?

Ruby is one of the most popular coding languages for web development. Renowned for its simplicity and code readability, this high-level coding language has become a fundamental part of our web development programs. It is ideal for building websites, processing data, automation tools, and desktop applications.

Why do we teach our students Ruby? Why does it matter? In this article, we’ll dive into its history, features, community and support.

What is Ruby used for?

Origins & motivation behind Ruby development

First conceived by Yukihiro Matsumoto in the mid-1990s, Ruby was introduced to fill the gaps of existing programming languages. Matsumoto aimed to create an object-oriented scripting language with simplicity, readability, and productivity in mind.

A scripting language is a programming language that does not communicate with hardware. It is written in a text file, parsed line by line by an interpreter, then converted into code.

An object-oriented programming (OOP) language revolves around the concept of "objects." The code is organized by creating objects that contain both data and functions (or methods) that operate on that data. Programmers can also reuse objects across applications or parts of the program.

Matsumoto's goal was to combine the efficiency of scripting languages with object-oriented programming and encourage code reuse. The robustness of object-oriented programming lies in its ability to create code that is reusable and easy to maintain. He also wanted a programming language that was human-friendly so that developers can write clear and concise code much faster.

As a result, Ruby’s syntax resembles natural language, which contributes to its perceived simplicity. It lacks excessive punctuation or complex structures, making it ideal for beginners and experienced developers.

Key milestones

Let's take a look at some critical milestones of Ruby development:

  • Birth of Ruby (1993): Yukihiro Matsumoto (Matz) released the first version of Ruby. Several languages, such as Perl, Smalltalk, and Eiffel, influenced it.

  • First Stable Release (1995): Ruby 1.0 was launched, marking the language's readiness for broader adoption and usage in multiple applications.

  • Introduction of RubyGems (2004): RubyGems - the package manager for Ruby - was introduced. It provided a standardized format for installing, managing, and distributing Ruby libraries and programs.

  • Ruby on Rails (2004): David Heinemeier Hansson introduced Ruby on Rails, a robust web application framework built on Ruby. Rails quickly gained popularity due to its human-friendly approach, simplifying and accelerating web development.

  • Ruby 1.9 and 2.0 (2007 and 2013): Ruby 1.9 introduced performance enhancements and language refinements, while Ruby 2.0 introduced features like refinements to make modifying code easier.

  • JRuby and Rubinius (2001 and 2006): Alternative implementations of Ruby, such as JRuby (Ruby on the Java Virtual Machine) and Rubinius, offered different performance and integration capabilities.

  • Ruby 3.0 (2020): Ruby 3.0 focused on performance and concurrency. It led to the introduction of the Ruby 3x3 initiative, which aimed to make Ruby three times faster than Ruby 2.0.

Features of Ruby


Ruby is an object-oriented programming language. In object-oriented programming, developers create containers for data that can be modified without changing the entire program. This object-centric approach fosters encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism—as defined below.

  • Encapsulation - refers to the ability to wrap the data in a unit. By encapsulating data, programmers can modify the code intentionally and avoid unintentional manipulation.

  • Polymorphism - refers to the execution of similar methods using various objects. You can obtain different results with similar functions by using other input objects.

  • Inheritance - allows programmers to reuse the code by creating a new class based on an existing class with similar code. That way, developers don't have to come up with extra code.

These concepts enable developers to structure code into reusable objects and simplify code maintenance.

Dynamic typing

Ruby offers dynamic typing. The Ruby interpreter can check and resolve code on the fly, which streamlines the coding process. While it makes the code faster and more concise, it also requires careful testing to ensure proper handling to prevent type errors.


Ruby is designed to be a simple and readable programming language. Its syntax is designed to be readable and straightforward because it resembles natural language constructs. This simplicity allows developers to accomplish complex tasks with fewer lines of code and bolsters productivity and collaboration.

Is Python similar to Ruby?

Python and Ruby are distinct programming languages, but they have vital similarities and differences:


  • High-Level Programming Languages: Python and Ruby are high-level programming languages designed for readability and ease of use. As a result, they can be used by both beginners and experienced developers.
  • Interpreted Languages: Both languages are interpreted rather than compiled. They are executed line by line by an interactive console interpreter, which can read and run the code.
  • Object-Oriented: Python and Ruby are object-oriented programming languages. The code is organized around objects, which supports encapsulation, inheritance, and polymorphism.
  • Strong Community: Both languages have vibrant communities which contribute extensive documentation, libraries, and frameworks to facilitate development and problem-solving.


  • Syntax: Both languages prioritize readability, but there are differences in syntax. Python advocates indentation and spacing to make the code appear organized. Coding with Ruby syntax is flexible and makes it feel like you’re talking to a human.
  • Philosophies: Python adheres firmly to the principle of "One best way of doing things." In contrast, Ruby follows the principle of "Many ways of doing things," which emphasizes multiple ways to achieve tasks.
  • Community Culture: Python's community is known for its emphasis on clarity, consistency, and a more rigid style guide (PEP 8). In contrast, the Ruby community often prioritizes creativity, flexibility, and the exploration of different coding styles.
  • Popularity in Domains: While both languages are versatile, Python has a stronger foothold in data science, scientific computing, and machine learning due to libraries like NumPy, Pandas, and TensorFlow. Thanks to frameworks like Ruby on Rails, Ruby is famous in web development.

Ruby on Rails: The game changer

Ruby skyrocketed in popularity after David Hanemeyer Hensen created Ruby on Rails, otherwise known as Rails. Ruby on Rails is a powerful open-source web application optimized for happiness,' according to rubyonrails.org.

Ruby on Rails has a vast collection of pre-written code for building websites, functioning on the assumption that developers can get more done by writing less code. Rails assumes that there is a 'best way' to accomplish tasks. As a result, it can help boost productivity.

Rails has two fundamental principles:

  • Don't Repeat Yourself (DRY): emphasizes the need to avoid redundancies within a system. It states, "Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.” By avoiding redundancies, the code becomes more accessible to maintain, improves extensibility, and has fewer bugs.
  • Convention Over Configuration: Rails suggests the best to perform tasks based on its set of patterns or standardized practices. That way, you don't have to go through a vast array of files for configuration.

Ruby on Rails is used by top companies worldwide, like Basecamp, Twitch, Airbnb, Coinbase, and Shopify.

Community and support

Ruby has a thriving and supportive community that fosters collaboration among developers worldwide. Here are some valuable resources that can support beginners and seasoned professionals.

Community engagement

  • Online forums and communities: Platforms like Ruby Forum, Reddit's r/ruby, and Stack Overflow's Ruby tag are hubs for discussions, troubleshooting, and sharing insights. Here, developers can seek guidance and offer solutions to various programming challenges.

  • Meetups and conferences: Ruby enthusiasts often gather at local or global conferences like RubyConf and RailsConf to network, attend workshops, and discuss the language's advancements, best practices, and emerging trends.

Key resources

  • Official Documentation: Ruby's official documentation is fundamental for understanding language features, syntax, and usage.

  • RubyGems: The RubyGems repository offers a vast collection of libraries and packages known as "gems." These Ruby gems provide additional functionalities to simplify various development tasks. Notable gems like Devise for authentication, RSpec for testing, and Sidekiq for background processing exemplify the richness of available resources.

Gems and libraries

  • Rails: The Ruby on Rails framework revolutionized web development with its conventions and efficiency. It garnered a significant following and contributed to Ruby's popularity.

  • Bundler: An essential gem manager, Bundler helps build a consistent gem environment for Ruby projects. It helps monitor and install the vital gems and versions for better productivity.

Community contributions

Is Ruby Worth Learning In 2023?

In 2023, learning Ruby is valuable because of its widespread application across various industries.

Here are some examples of Ruby use cases:

  • Web development: Ruby on Rails powers numerous high-traffic websites and applications. Platforms like GitHub, Airbnb, Shopify, and Basecamp were built using Ruby on Rails, which proves its capability to build complex applications.

  • Product development: Ruby's ease of development and the robust Rails framework make it an ideal choice for creating Minimum Viable Products (MVP) and prototypes. Its rapid development capabilities allow businesses to iterate quickly and validate ideas.

  • Education: E-learning platforms and content management systems like Codecademy, and GitHub Classroom use Ruby-based technologies for their designs and backend functionality.

  • E-Commerce: Ruby on Rails is well-suited for e-commerce applications due to its flexibility and speed. For example, Shopify uses Ruby, which makes it capable of handling millions of transactions.

  • Finance and healthcare: Ruby's readability and developer-friendly environment have made it popular for fintech and healthcare startups due to its agility in building scalable systems and managing data.

Ruby has a supportive community that contributes to the language's growth. While it does not have the same growth as newer languages, its community ensures ongoing updates, gem development, and support.

Many existing applications and systems built with Ruby also require maintenance and updates. As a result, proficiency in Ruby can benefit developers involved in maintaining or enhancing these systems.

Learn Ruby from Lighthouse Labs

Ruby is a versatile programming language used in web development. It has powered popular real-world applications for e-commerce, finance, and healthcare.

If you want to learn the programming language, Lighthouse Labs is an excellent place to start. Our comprehensive Web Development Program is designed to provide hands-on experience and practical skills in web development using Ruby.

Our curriculum covers foundational programming concepts in Ruby like MVC architecture. As students progress, they can build web applications using the Ruby on Rails framework to apply their knowledge in practical scenarios.

In addition, our supportive community of instructors, mentors, and experienced alumni helps create an environment conducive to learning and skills development.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced developer looking to improve your web development skills, our structured programs will give you Ruby development tools and expertise needed to excel in the field.