Python Vs Ruby: Complete Side-by-Side Comparison

In the programming world, both beginners and professionals looking into career transition are often faced with the question, “which programing language is the best for me?”

Choosing a programming language is no easy task, thanks to the sheer amount of choices available out there. However, the decision can become easy once you figure out your career goals and what projects you would like to work on. Although fluency in multiple languages is highly valued (and preferred in many organizations), you must first decide which programming language to break the ice with. 

Today’s discussion revolves around two such programming languages that have long been the favourite of Developers and programmers around the world – Python and Ruby. 

In this post, we’ll take you through a detailed account of Python and Ruby, their primary characteristics, their similarities, and of course, their differences. Hopefully, this will help you decide which language will be best suited for you!

What is Ruby?

Ruby is an open-source, general-purpose, and interpreted OOP language. Yukihiro Matsumoto designed it in 1995. Ruby is a 100% object-oriented language, and hence, in it, everything is an object. Also, OOP imparts a clear modular structure for the developer’s projects.

The core philosophy of Ruby:

  • To focus more on the human aspect of programming – language should be designed to fit the needs of people.
  • To follow the principle of least astonishment – whenever one comes across any new aspect of Ruby, they should not be surprised or confused. 

Ruby was designed to be fun to use. When Matsumoto created the language, he emphasized that he intended Ruby to be both easy-to-use and fun. He laid greater emphasis on the “human” side of programming rather than the “computer” viewpoint.

Ruby boasts of dynamic typing, automatic memory management, garbage collection, and much more. It is a very innovation-friendly language. So, while you get plenty of default features to choose from, Ruby also accepts most new implementations and updates. Furthermore, Ruby has a host of useful web frameworks, with Ruby on Rails taking the crown.

What is Python?

Python, too, is a high-level, general-purpose, cross-platform, OOP language, just like Ruby. It was developed in 1989 by Guido van Rossum. The feature that makes Python beginner-friendly is its simple syntax that is easy to learn, clear to read, and simple to write in. This is how Python speeds up development without compromising on reliability or scalability. Read more about why python is so popular with the developers.

The core philosophy of Python:

  • Explicit is better than implicit
  • Simple is better than complex
  • Complex is better than complicated

Although Python is a general-purpose programming language like Ruby, unlike Ruby that focuses on the human factor in programming, Python is more focused on the readability factor. Python has a neat and straightforward syntax (almost like the English language). This is mainly why Python has emerged as the top choice for beginners. Python developers’ salary also makes it one of the favourite for the developers.

Python is a highly flexible and versatile programming language that can cater to diverse needs and be used for:

  • web development,
  • machine learning,
  • fintech,
  • academia and data science,
  • IoT

Ruby vs Python: Similarities

Ruby and Python have many similarities, such as:

  • Both are scripting, server-side, cross-platform, general-purpose programming languages.
  • Both are available under open-source licenses, namely OSI-approved (Ruby) and FSF-approved (Python) licenses. So, you need not pay any license fees to use them or to distribute the software you build with them.
  • Both are high-level scripting languages, and hence, their programs need not be compiled.
  • Both languages are dynamically typed, which means that you do not have to declare variables firsthand. 
  • Both languages are available through Lambda functions at Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Ruby vs Python: Differences

The few similarities aside, there are many points of difference between Ruby and Python. Let’s check them out.

1. Flexibility

Python values simplicity over complexity (already pointed this out under the core philosophy of Python). Thus, in Python, you get only one way to perform or approach a specific task. Although this makes a Python code less flexible, it is this very aspect that makes the code more readable to others.

When it comes to flexibility, Ruby takes on the Perl approach, that is, there’s more than one way to do something. This is what makes Ruby more flexible as you will always get many different methods to approach a particular task. However, this can also become a source of discord and confusion for programmers who read or wish to use another developer’s code in Ruby.

2. Learning curve

It is a known fact that Python is hands down the easiest and most beginner-friendly language out there. Python’s straightforward and simple syntax makes it easy to learn, read, and understand. Hence, most freshers always opt for Python when beginning their coding journey.

Ruby, however, doesn’t have the easiest of learning curves. For a beginner, Ruby can be slightly challenging, as the language usually takes much getting used to. Thanks to the built-in features of Ruby on Rails like Scaffolding and Active Record, you can expedite your project development in Ruby as well.

3. Reusable code availability

It is immensely helpful if a programming language has readily available reusable and ready-to-use code. As for Python, you’ll find a plethora of ready-to-use code or “modules” that are easily accessible via PyPI – it contains over 150,000 modules! Although Ruby, too, has nearly the same number of ready-to-use code called Gems, the difference between Ruby and Python reusable code lies in the filtering factor – Python’s PyPI allows developers to filter by categories like development status and so on. This is definitely much more straightforward than manually comparing many libraries and evaluating their code.

Also, when talking about packaging and automatic dependency resolution, both Ruby and Python allow for a seamless installation of dependencies in any environment. However, Python again has the upper hand here – its virtualenv lets developers isolate different versions of the Python interpreter. While Ruby also comes with similar features – rbenv or rvm – they are much more complicated than Python’s functionality.

4. Popularity

In this aspect, Python clearly has the upper hand over Ruby again! In the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey, Python took the 4th rank while Ruby was way behind at the 12th spot. The 2018 Octoverse report by GitHub further showed Ruby’s declining popularity in the developer community – from being the 5th ranking language in 2014, it fell down to the 10th spot just four years later. Contrary to Ruby, Python has steadily maintained its popularity and kept the top spot – it moved up from the 4th position (2014) to the third spot in 2015 through to 2018. 

The same can be said for the job offering criteria on top platforms like LinkedIn and Stack Overflow. Based on Stack Overflow stats, the site displays twice as many job results for Python searches as compared to Ruby. Even on LinkedIn, Python remains ahead of Ruby by 20%. Clearly, Python is more in-demand that Ruby in the present job market.

5. Community

Both Ruby and Python are backed by active and dedicated communities. Also, both languages have an extensive range of high-quality documentation and learning materials that are readily available online. However, Python enjoys a much broader and inclusive community than Ruby. This is primarily because Python has found application in a host of diverse use cases, from academics to Data Science – Python is all-pervasive. 

In Python, you get plenty of groups and forums to help you out with any problem or challenge. From Beginner-level issues to expert advice, you can always look up to Python communities like:

Conclusion

After assessing all the points of similarities and differences between Ruby and Python, the message is clear – Python is the best choice between the two unless the project at hand requires exclusive knowledge of Ruby. It is important to note that you can do with Python whatever you can do with Ruby. However, you cannot do the other way round. Python is the go-to language for statistics, mathematics, machine learning, and even data analytics. So, you can start with Python, and once you’ve mastered it, you can move on to Ruby. 

If you are reading this article, most likely you have ambitions towards becoming a Python developer. If you’re interested to learn python & want to get your hands dirty on various tools and libraries, check out IIIT-B’s PG Diploma in Data Science.

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