Rails Rumble Observations, part I – jQuery on the Heels of Prototype

As a Rails Rumble judge, I spent quite some time reviewing the applications and I noticed several patterns regarding the gems/plugins used during the 48-hour contest. The participants were asked to submit whatever tools they were using to build their app. With a few exceptions they complied, creating an interesting data set to observe the current trends in the Rails world.

Collecting the Data

Unfortunately it was not possible to gather the information automatically using screen scraping or other mechanical methods, since the input was varying from free text (stating details like ‘we used Rails, macs, TextMate, cocaine (the drink!)’) etc. to the output of _gem list_ – and everything in-between, not following any guideline (perhaps because none was given). So I hacked up a small app with a single form and harvested the info manually. I only collected data for the first 100 entries, for two reasons: the stuff used in the rest of the apps was pretty much the same, and mainly: the task was rather daunting 🙂

Why Does this Matter?

I believe that because of the rules (I mostly mean the 48-hour deadline) the findings are quite representative – I am sure that every team reached after the most productive/easy to use/effective tool they could grab since the deadline was tight. Rails Rumble is not about experimentation or showing off some new shiny toys, but lightning fast hacking aided by state-of-the-art gems and plugins so I think it’s safe to assume that the tools used here are pretty much the crème de la crème of the Ruby/Rails world.

Prototype vs. jQuery

In the first exhibit, I’d like to check out Prototype vs. jQuery usage. To prepare this chart, I took the extra mile and didn’t rely on the user-supplied data, but opened the pages by hand and checked the headers for Prototype/jQuery javascript includes. Here is what I have found:


1 team was using mootools, the rest of the cake is divided between Prototype and jQuery.
Most probably the real result is even more in favor of jQuery, I would guess well above 60% – all the teams that added jQuery to their application.html.erb were actually using it (why would they bother adding it otherwise), while this is not necessarily true for Prototype, which is included by default and maybe some teams didn’t even use it, just didn’t care to delete it (as you will learn in the next part, every 3rd team used bort, which includes the Prototype/script.aculo.us files by default).

This is not the first indicator of jQuery’s rising popularity in the Rails world – Hampton Catlin’s Ruby Survey found out the same (i.e. jQuery is more popular right now than Prototype). Merb is using jQuery by default.

Is Prototype Dead?

My favorite Austrian Ruby-hacker friend told me over lunch a few weeks ago: ‘Prototype is dead!’. I think this statement is questionable at the moment to say the least, since Prototype is still the default javascript framework of Rails and this is not likely to change anytime soon due to the fact that Prototype is heavily used by 37singnals (and probably entrenched into other older Rails-apps as well).
However, the trend seems to be that jQuery is spreading really fast, replacing Prototype in a lot of cases.

So be sure to check jQuery out (it’s dead easy to install and use it) – I immediately fell in love with it (maybe I was used to Hpricot-style CSS selectors too much?) and I am happily using it in my projects now.

The Next Episode

Which testing tools are used by the community? How about rails skeleton apps? OpenID support? exception-notifier or hoptoad? attachment_fu or paperclip? mocha or flexmock? factory-girl or traditional fixtures? Find out in the next installment!

6 thoughts on “Rails Rumble Observations, part I – jQuery on the Heels of Prototype

  1. Pingback: Ruby, Rails, Web2.0 » Blog Archive » Rails Rumble Observations, part II - trends in gem/plugin usage

  2. @chris: haha… I never said who is my favorite austrian ruby hacker 🙂
    No, he is more progressive than that: he told me last time that merb is too mainstream for him 🙂

  3. Pingback: Rails Rumble Follow Up - Transcending Frontiers

  4. Pingback: jQuery on Rails: Why Bother? « A little story

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