Picture it! Summer 2004! “Confessions Part II” by Usher is the number one song on the radio, Zach Braf’s “Garden State” has just been released in theaters, and James Patterson’s “Sam’s Letters to Jennifer” is atop the New York Times Bestsellers list. And amidst all this, a young developer in Chicago decided to open source a tool he was using to put Ruby on the web.
What our friend David (now better known as DHH) had done was take some less than revolutionary ideas, such as MVC and DRY, that had been around for a while and make them a part of Ruby, a language engineered for developer happiness. At the time, many people were happy with Ruby, though getting it on the web was not easy. Not to mention the web was beginning its next big boom after the initial burn from the dotcom bust.
While it was open source, DHH maintained it and controlled the base. It wasn’t until February of 2005 that other people were brought in to start helping and maintaining the code. This truly brought Rails to open source and a community began to build. It was a small movement at first. It took another year for the first RailsConf to be organized. Put together by Chad Fowler and Ruby Central, it was a small affair. Rumor has it there were less than 100 attendees, the venue was small, but it was intimate and the energy was there. When DHH took the stage, there was an air of excitement.
As more and more people took notice, things like “Build a blog in 15 Minutes” served to show the ease and speed of use Rails offered to people waiting to get their brilliant Ruby apps on the web. The conference became a yearly thing and more and more people were contributing, speaking about, and playing with Rails.
In the following years, books would be written, talks would be given, and a competitor would appear by the name of Merb. Luckily, when the time was right, the core teams of Merb and Rails decided a merger would be the best for all of us programmers and we continue to benefit from it today.
Back in 2006, three programmers saw the potential of Rails and found a convenient way to get it on a server. They used their Rails magic to create Engine Yard, and we continue to serve the Ruby on Rails community to this day.
That’s not to say there weren’t ups and downs along the way. For a while, Rails development was impossible on a Windows machine. Luckily, community members got together to resolve that for both Ruby and Rails. When it was announced CoffeeScript and Sass were the way to go, the community went up in arms…and realized it was a suggestion not a demand.
Things have come a long way since July 2004, both for the Ruby and Rails communities and for the technology itself. It’s never been easier to get started on a Rails project than with 4.1.4. More and more companies are looking at Rails as a competitive web technology and it continues to grow outside of the open source and start-up communities.
So grab some cake and raise a toast to the first 10 years of Rails…and to the next 10 years, which promise to be even more amazing.