Choosing web framework: ASP.NET MVC vs Django Python vs Ruby on Rails

How often do you emerge from you cubicle to look around, note new faces or new facial expression on old ones? How often do you emerge from you technology stack to consider better another approaches/practices?

If you do this rarely – bad for you, you will miss important changes in your environment, loose the track or even worse – you will work hard in wrong direction. This is important not only to be qualified, but also to be competitive and have broad experience.

But, my time is very valuable, so even downloading something and reading its documentation is an investment I’d rather shortcut if I can. Therefore I definitely need some way to measure current trends, so I can predict outcome of my investment – diving into new technology (or even technology stack).

As a super-web-developer I’m about to consider the following frameworks to learn: ASP.NET MVC, Django Python and Ruby on Rails.

[Note: I’m aware that PHP has its own MVC frameworks, the most popular of which I believe are CodeIgniter and CakePHP.  While PHP is vastly more popular than any of frameworks above, I decided to do not consider PHP frameworks and leave them for another post.]

Here are important factors to consider before start learning any new language:

  • Quality and availability of libraries.
  • Quality of tools like IDEs, debuggers, automation systems.
  • Size and healthy of the active community using the framework.  (i.e. If I run into a problem, how easy is it to google the answer?)
  • Demand of technology specialists

Quality and availability of libraries

It obvious that you can’t have both. It will be either limited in functionality, but well tested or will have a lot of libraries (probably third-party) which may not work or require some modifications. I tend to think that ASP.NET MVC is the first case and Django and Ruby is the second. What option is better depends on a project, deadlines and you competency in web-related areas. Hard to judge, really…so lets move on to the next section.

Quality of tools

I’m a big fan of JetBrains company and their products, so I was pleased to find out they have RubyMine for Ruby development, PyCharm for Python development. And I’m pretty satisfied with combo Visual Studio + Resharper in ASP.NET world.

I didn’t review non-windows IDE, so probably I’ve missed something awesome. Please let me know if something worth-to-checkout is out there.

As a result – I don’t see a big difference in quality of tools for those frameworks.

Community

Oh, that’s really interesting part. Because here we can measure something(not only rely on our own opinion). I often use Google Trends to measure relative interest in technologies.

image

Please note, you have to search for “django python”, otherwise you’ll get invalid results – “django” is a quite popular word in non-programmers areas.

“But that’s not fair” – django-fan would say. Okay, we can do another search by using Google Insights and specifying “Programming” category

image

Interest level (click to enlarge)

image

Growth relative to the Programming category (click to enlarge)

image

On this stage it’s obvious that Django and ASP.NET MVC are not so common as Rails framework. But at the same time, interest to ASP.NET MVC is growing more than to Django and Ruby.

Another way to avoid invalid results for “Django” meaning is to compare frameworks websites popularity:

image

But it is not so useful as it shows traffic for domain (asp.net), but not exact path (asp.net/mvc). So we can’t take it into consideration.

Another good resource for technology statistics is TIOBE Programming Community Inex:

Position
May 2012
Position
May 2011
Delta in Position Programming Language Ratings
May 2012
Delta
May 2011
Status
1 2 C 17.346% +1.18%   A
2 1 Java 16.599% -1.56%   A
3 3 C++ 9.825% +0.68%   A
4 6 Objective-C 8.309% +3.30%   A
5 4 C# 6.823% -0.72%   A
6 5 PHP 5.711% -0.80%   A
7 8 (Visual) Basic 5.457% +0.96%   A
8 7 Python 3.819% -0.76%   A
9 9 Perl 2.805% +0.57%   A
10 11 JavaScript 2.135% +0.74%   A
11 10 Ruby 1.451% +0.03%   A
12 26 Visual Basic .NET 1.274% +0.79%   A
13 21 PL/SQL 1.119% +0.62%   A
14 13 Delphi/Object Pascal 1.004% -0.07%   A
15 15 Lisp 0.941% -0.01%   A
16 24 Logo 0.839% +0.35%   A–
17 17 Pascal 0.808% +0.10%   A
18 18 Transact-SQL 0.654% -0.04%   A-
19 16 Ada 0.649% -0.10%   B
20 12 Lua 0.566% -0.54%   B

And it’s not all yet. I’m proud to be a part of Stackoverflow community, so let’s count how many questions each framework rises:

35,182 asp.net mvc
33,409 django
47,220 ruby
75,875 ruby on rails

(these numbers are subject to change each day, so you’ll definitely will see larger numbers)

Well, looks like Ruby on Rails has twice as many questions as Django or ASP.NET MVC. To me this indicates pretty clearly that Rails is more active than Django or ASP.NET MVC. Or Rails is more confusing and people ask more questions about it, but I doubt that. Also please remember our findings from google – Ruby community is much bigger than Django or ASP.NET MVC, so Stackoverflow numbers just confirm that.

Demand of technology specialists

This factor is a little bit tricky and probably should be considered along with average salaries per technology. But salary vary from company to company, so let’s omit this axis.

Indeed company has good insights on what is going on a market, so let’s examine it:

image

And again, we see the same picture. Ruby on Rails has spread more, but starting from January 11, interest to the technology is falling. Some may explain it by recession, but let’s take a look on ASP.NET MVC – it is growing during the whole 2011 year and start falling (along with other technologies) this year.

Summary

Choosing web framework is tough task because of big number of aspects to consider. Some of them we’ve examined in this post, but there are others such as language beauty, performance, hosting cost, integration cost and so on. It’s up to you to decide what framework to use and I believe your choice may vary from project to project. Despite your choice, make sure you make data-driven decision.

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  • someone

    a nice MARKETING background check. a nice technical check would be also interesting for a developer.

  • James Hurst

    From my own experience with these three platforms, I would have to say that a big part of the supposed “popularity” of Ruby-on-Rails on the sites like Stackoverflow, is the massive amount of googling one has to do to accomplish anything on Ruby. It is the complete opposite of ASP.NET-MVC. With the Microsoft stack (ASP.NET-MVC), things seem to just work. I can grab the latest tool stack, the latest version of the platform, and go. There are great books with tutorials, which do actually work – and just a smidgeon of googling is required. With Ruby-On-Rails (RoR), .. well, perhaps part of the problem is that you have a zillion script-kiddies shoving incompatible, non-working code into it. It takes a massive number of third-party (that is, from strange unvetted sources) libraries to just get started. And everything is version-dependent, so you have to pull in and learn more tools like rvm, bundler, gemsets, rbenv, and deal with platform differences (Debian vs Red Hat vs Mac etc). I am not proud to report that I recently spent 24 straight hours trying to get what should have been a very trivial website back on it’s feet, just because basic tools refused to work. There are google resources online, true: but 90% are flat-out wrong, or out of date. So, it would surprise me if there were NOT a massive number of google-searches for the poor developers struggling with trying to get something to work in Ruby. My experience with Django was not as smooth as ASP.NET-MVC, but not nearly so bad as Ruby. It is far, far cheaper to spend a little money on a good tool that works, rather than something free that will bury you in time-traps. That being said, if you do insist on implementing with RoR – I’d advise using a virtual machine (I am having great success with VMware Workstation). At each milestone of your development, test your app – and if it still works, create a snapshot. That way, when it gets hopelessly broken (and it will, many many times) – you can always revert back to that last snapshot.

    • vardarac

      Git and Rails have for me been a joy to work with. Configuration of the different environments is especially painful for the uninitiated, but I’ve found that I neither required gems for this purpose, nor have I run into substantial problems with the native framework.

      Perhaps I will find that I enjoy ASP.NET better when I get to working with it. Good thoughts.

    • TheMayorsOffice

      I agree with most of everything in this comment as well except this tidbit: “It is far, far cheaper to spend a little money on a good tool that works, rather than something free that will bury you in time-traps”. OSS does not bury you in time-traps. I know why you feel this way, I too have had the same nightmare of getting a very basic RoR web site back on it’s feet after a server migration, it took way too long and too many gem versions and kludgey code. It was an ABSOLUTE nightmare to say the least. I have stopped with the RoR stuff. We use Django and ASP.NET MVC5 mostly now and there have been no real issues that I can complain about. I find the issue with RoR and PHP is there are far too many script kiddies in both of these communities. I get that both are easy frameworks and languages to learn and it’s inviting for newbies to pick-up but it’s causing problems.

  • Michael Kropat

    Love how you compiled Google Trends, indeed.com, and all that to get the big picture. You already cite tag counts from StackOverflow, but you can get an even better picture from data.stackexchange.com. I put together a basic query showing tag trends over time: https://data.stackexchange.com/stackoverflow/query/162567/technology-trends-questions-per-tag-per-month#graph

  • bon

    A good worker will always get work or create their own. All this nerd-chat tires me, which is “better” this or that. It doesn’t matter how clever the latest tech is or whether someone can quote the difference between one set of tools and another. It doesn’t matter as getting a job or a promotion is usually based on who you know rather than what you know. A well networked worker will get promoted over someone with zero or little network even if they have less technical skills. 99% of managers really couldn’t give a toss if you use Ruby on Rails or ASP.NET mvc or supertech9000 if you show no enthusiasm or motivation.

    Some people really need to stop being so fucking pretentious and start looking at the bigger picture.

  • Radek

    Django is my fav :)