Less is more for Ruby on Rails, inventor says

When David Heinemeier Hansson gives an update on version 2.0 of his web application framework at its user conference in September he's as likely to talk about what's coming out as what's going in.

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When David Heinemeier Hansson gives an update on version 2.0 of his web application framework at its user conference in September he's as likely to talk about what's coming out as what's going in.

The goal is to keep Ruby on Rails fast, lightweight and easy to use, characteristics that have helped it become a trendy alternative to Sun Microsystems' Java and Microsoft's .Net, and led to a raft of companies offering Rails development services for businesses.

"We're going to pull out a fair number of elements, features that aren't a good fit for what people want to do most of the time, and make them plug-ins instead," said Hansson said. "If your application absolutely depends on them you won't be stranded, you'll be able to get the plug-ins easily."

Among the elements to go will be Action Web Service, for creating web service APIs using SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol), Heinemeier Hansson said. It's a way of steering developers towards using REST (Representational State Transfer), his preferred method for linking applications in Rails.

"We don't want to turn into Java - this pack rat that just holds onto any possession. We're not afraid to take out stuff that's not relevant or that we plain don't like," he said.

There will be some additions - the Rails team has some "pent up stuff" in the repository that it's keen to push out, he said. But the focus of Rails 2.0 is to "consolidate and sharpen" what's already there.

Keeping the framework light and simple comes at a price, however, and many companies are jumping in to offer Ruby on Rails packages that bundle tools and plug-ins to make the framework more suitable for demanding business needs. Many of those products will be on show at RailsConf 2007 in Berlin in two weeks.

Borland Software's CodeGear division is expected to release its Ruby on Rails IDE at the show, Heinemeier Hansson said. The product is based on the Eclipse platform and has been in beta since May. Sun will be likely give an update on JRuby, an implementation of Ruby for Java environments.

The vendor support helps quell jitters among corporate users that Ruby on Rails is not backed by a large company. If the prominent support of Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp. helped get Linux in the door at big enterprises, the support from Sun and IBM for Rails could do the same.

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