Are More Programmers Using Ruby or Just Window-Shopping?

by Ostatic Staff - Oct. 15, 2008

Since acquiring the code search engine earlier this year, Black Duck Software has added more than 200 million lines of code to the search repository. Black Duck says that an analysis of search requests reveals, "Ruby is now the fourth most requested language on, after Java, C/C++ and C#." That's interesting information, to be sure, but what does it mean?

According to Black Duck, developers and engineers are searching for Ruby code in unprecedented numbers. Eran Strod, director of product marketing at Black Duck Software, says, "We believe this to be a leading indicator of usage and momentum. If developers are searching for Ruby code, it means they are looking for examples, methods, algorithms and the like. It probably means that new development is being done using Ruby.

"In terms of installed base, Ruby may not be ahead. However, installed base is the past and new development is the future. Major companies are using Ruby on Rails for their workhorse web applications."

Strod admits that, with Ruby representing only 5% of the language-specific searches on, it's not likely to overtake Java or C++ any time soon. "Ruby is usually compared with PHP, Javascript, Perl and Python. Like Ruby these are all scripting languages which are used for lots of different miscellaneous tasks. However, much of the excitement around Ruby is for Ruby on Rails – the killer application is web application development. When we started tracking our data in 2004, PHP was 11% of language-specific searches. Today that has dropped to 3%. According to our data, Ruby is the king of the scripting bunch."

Not everyone agrees that Ruby use is on the rise, however. CIO's Esther Schindler says maybe it is, maybe it isn't -- and that the nature of the Ruby community makes it very difficult to tell. "The whisper of a paen to Ruby (or even more exciting, any criticism) attracts more Ruby devotees faster than black flies find a picnic in Maine," she says. "But that doesn't mean Ruby is popular; it only means that it's an active and interested developer community. That speaks well (most of the time) for the passion of its users."

Whatever the reason for the surge in Ruby searches, it's always interesting to see data surrounding how the open source community uses programming tools. If you're interested in more metrics, Black Duck has plenty more where the Ruby stats came from. "We collect analytics on code searches and for fun, publish it at web page is currently pointed at the Ruby statistics page, but you can see information on several other popular languages by following the appropriate links. For example, in September 2008, the most popular Ruby search term was 'proxy.' The top Ruby project, based on search, was SafariWatir."