What is Ruby on Rails? Unpacking the Basics & Beyond

Ruby on Rails (RoR), also referred to as Rails, is a full-stack framework written in the Ruby programming language. It is based on the model-view-controller (MVC) pattern and provides a rich toolkit for both frontend and backend development. Rails is used to create web applications and APIs, and it has been widely adopted by companies such as GitHub, Shopify, and Zendesk. The framework offers advantages like cost efficiency, security, and an active community.

What Is Ruby on Rails Used For?

Rails is used to create web applications and application programming interfaces (APIs). It can be used for creating API-only applications or applications that manage both the backend and frontend. Many companies and developers use Rails to create websites and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications. Rails’ Active Record handles the model behavior, including the four CRUD operations: create, read, update, delete. Rails also provides the Spring application pre-loader, which allows developers to see changes without restarting processes. Developers can extend Rails with Ruby gems managed by Bundler.

What Are the Advantages of Ruby on Rails?

Rails provides several advantages for web application development:

Cost Efficiency

Rails provides a complete toolbox for web development, which saves time and effort. It includes built-in functionalities for models, views, and controllers, as well as features like routing, security, and database management. With Rails, developers can focus on building the essential features of an application without having to reinvent the wheel.


Rails has a strong focus on security. It incorporates various security measures by default, such as protection against cross-site scripting (XSS) and cross-site request forgery (CSRF) attacks. Rails also includes built-in support for secure password hashing and protection against SQL injection attacks. This emphasis on security makes Rails a popular choice for developing applications that handle sensitive user data.

Free and Actively Supported

Rails is an open-source framework, which means it is free to use and contribute to. It has a large and active community of developers who continuously improve and maintain the framework. This active support ensures that Rails stays up-to-date with the latest web development trends and security best practices.


Rails provides a modular and flexible architecture that allows developers to extend the framework’s functionality. This is done through the use of Ruby gems, which are packages of reusable code. Developers can easily add functionality to their Rails applications by installing and configuring the appropriate gems. The use of gems ensures that developers can leverage existing solutions and focus on building unique features for their applications.

Ruby on Rails Alternatives

While Ruby on Rails is a powerful web development framework, there are several alternatives available. These alternatives can be considered based on factors like programming language preference, specific project requirements, and performance considerations. Some popular alternatives to Ruby on Rails include:


Laravel is a web application framework written in PHP. It follows the MVC pattern and provides a rich ecosystem of tools and packages for web development. Laravel is known for its elegant syntax, expressive and intuitive APIs, and emphasis on developer productivity. It also includes features like routing, caching, and database migrations.


Sails.js is a web framework for Node.js that follows the MVC pattern. It provides a structure and conventions for building API-focused web applications. Sails.js is designed to be simple, flexible, and scalable. It includes features like customizable routes, model-driven APIs, and real-time capabilities through integration with Socket.io.


Django is a high-level web framework written in Python. It follows the MVC architectural pattern and emphasizes rapid development and clean design. Django includes features like an object-relational mapper (ORM), automatic admin interface generation, and built-in security measures. It is known for its robustness, scalability, and extensive documentation.


Flask is a micro web framework for Python. It provides simplicity and flexibility, allowing developers to get started quickly and customize their applications based on specific requirements. Flask is lightweight and does not include as many built-in features as the other frameworks mentioned. It is often used for building small to medium-sized applications or prototyping.


Sinatra is a minimalistic web framework for Ruby. It provides a lightweight alternative to Ruby on Rails, focusing on simplicity and ease of use. Sinatra is often used for building small web applications or APIs. It is known for its simplicity, flexibility, and fast development cycle.

When choosing a web development framework, it is important to consider the specific requirements of your project and the strengths of each framework. Evaluating factors like documentation, community support, performance, and the availability of plugins and extensions can help you make an informed decision.

Creating a New Rails Project

To get started with Ruby on Rails, you’ll need to create a new Rails project. This can be done using the rails new command followed by the name of your project. For example, to create a project called “blog”, you would run:

rails new blog

This command will generate a new Rails project with the necessary directory structure and files. You can then navigate into the project directory:

cd blog

Hello, Rails!

Once you have created a new Rails project, you can start building your application. Let’s begin by creating a simple “Hello, Rails!” page.

Rails uses the concept of routes to map URLs to actions in controllers. To define a route, you can open the config/routes.rb file and add the following line:

get '/hello', to: 'welcome#index'

This line tells Rails to map the URL /hello to the index action in the WelcomeController.

Next, let’s create the controller and the corresponding action. Run the following command in your terminal:

rails generate controller welcome index

This command will generate a new controller called WelcomeController with an index action.

Now, open the file app/views/welcome/index.html.erb and add the following code:

<h1>Hello, Rails!</h1>
<p>Welcome to my first Rails application.</p>

Finally, start the Rails server by running rails server in your terminal. You can then open your web browser and navigate to http://localhost:3000/hello. You should see the “Hello, Rails!” page rendered in your browser.

Autoloading in Rails

Rails applications have a unique feature called autoloading. This means that you don’t need to explicitly require application files. Rails automatically loads the files when they are used for the first time.

This feature makes development more convenient and efficient. You don’t need to worry about loading dependencies manually, as Rails takes care of it for you.

However, there are some cases where you still need to use the require statement. These include when loading files outside the app directory, when working with third-party libraries, or when using specific Rails features that require manual loading.

MVC and You

Ruby on Rails follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern. This pattern separates the code into three main components:

  1. Model: Responsible for defining the data structure and business logic of the application. In Rails, models interact with the database using the Active Record pattern.
  2. View: Handles the presentation logic of the application. It displays the data to the user and includes HTML, CSS, and JavaScript code.
  3. Controller: Acts as an intermediary between the model and the view. It receives requests from the user, processes them, and interacts with the model to retrieve or modify data. The controller then renders the appropriate view to display the response.

The separation of concerns provided by the MVC pattern allows for better code organization, maintainability, and reusability. Each component focuses on a specific aspect of the application and can be developed independently.

In Rails, you define models in the app/models directory, controllers in the app/controllers directory, and views in the app/views directory.

Is Ruby on Rails Dead?

Despite the rise of new web development frameworks and technologies, Ruby on Rails is far from dead. Rails continues to be widely used and actively maintained by its community of developers. While the number of websites using Rails has decreased in recent years, it still holds a significant market share compared to similar frameworks.

The continuous updates and improvements to the Rails framework contribute to its security, performance, and ability to meet modern development needs. Rails has a strong community and a significant number of companies using it for their web applications. Its ecosystem of libraries, gems, and plugins provides developers with a wide range of tools and resources to build robust and scalable web applications.

The growth of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications also suggests that Ruby on Rails will remain relevant in the foreseeable future. Rails’ emphasis on rapid development, convention over configuration, and its extensive ecosystem make it well-suited for building SaaS applications.

In conclusion, Ruby on Rails continues to be a popular and actively supported web development framework. Its strong community, continuous updates, and extensive ecosystem make it a reliable choice for developers looking to build web applications efficiently and securely.


Ruby on Rails is a powerful web application development framework that provides a structured and efficient way to build web applications. It follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) pattern and comes with a range of built-in features to handle common web development tasks. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can get started with Ruby on Rails and begin building your own web applications.

Remember to experiment and explore the various features and functionalities offered by Ruby on Rails. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of the framework and enable you to build robust and scalable web applications.

Key takeaways:

  • Ruby on Rails is an open-source web application development framework written in the Ruby programming language.
  • It follows the Model-View-Controller (MVC) architectural pattern and provides a rich toolkit for both frontend and backend development.
  • To get started with Rails, create a new Rails project and define routes, controllers, and views to build your application.
  • Rails simplifies web development by providing a pre-built structure and necessary tools, enabling developers to focus on application-specific code.
  • Understanding the MVC pattern is essential in Rails development and contributes to better code organization and maintainability.

Next steps:

  • Read the official Rails documentation and guides to learn more about the framework’s features and best practices.
  • Join the Rails community to connect with other developers and stay updated with the latest developments.
  • Explore additional resources such as online tutorials, books, and courses to deepen your knowledge of Ruby on Rails.
  • Practice building small projects to apply and reinforce your learning.
  • Consider contributing to the Rails project on GitHub and sharing your experiences with others in the community.

Continue your journey with Ruby on Rails and unlock the potential to build robust and scalable web applications. Happy coding!