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Ruby vs. JavaScript: An In-Depth Comparison

So you want to learn Ruby or JavaScript, but can‘t decide which language to dive into? You‘ve come to the right place! As experienced developers, we know that choosing between Ruby and JavaScript can be an challenging decision.

Both languages have their own strengths and suit different needs. This in-depth, side-by-side comparison will arm you with the knowledge to pick the right language for your goals.

We‘ll examine the origins, purposes, frameworks, performance, and best use cases for Ruby and JavaScript. By the end, you‘ll understand what makes each language unique and when to use Ruby or JavaScript for your projects. Let‘s get started!


Ruby and JavaScript are two of the most versatile and widely-used programming languages in web development today.

Ruby excels at developer productivity, elegance, and rapid prototyping. JavaScript dominates the front-end space while also offering back-end versatility through Node.js.

Here‘s a quick rundown of their main differences:

Feature Ruby JavaScript
Type System Dynamic Loosely typed
Paradigm Pure OOP Multi-paradigm
Syntax Natural, expressive C-style
Speed Slower Very fast (V8)
Purpose Backend, web apps Front-end, full stack

This comparison aims to give you a deeper understanding so you can confidently choose the right language for your needs. We‘ll start by going over the origins and history behind Ruby and JavaScript.

Brief History

First, let‘s examine the history and motivations behind these two influential languages:

The Creation of Ruby

Ruby was conceived in 1993 by Yukihiro "Matz" Matsumoto in Japan. Matz was motivated to create an object-oriented scripting language that balanced programmer productivity with fun.

He blended aspects of his favorite languages like Perl, Smalltalk, Eiffel, Ada and Lisp to design Ruby as a general-purpose language optimized for developer happiness and simplicity.

After refining the initial Ruby interpreter (named Ruby 0.95), the first stable version Ruby 1.0 was released in 1996. Enthusiasm grew around Ruby‘s expressive syntax and transparent object-oriented design.

Ruby gained international recognition in the 2000s after the launch of the Ruby on Rails web application framework in 2004. Rails introduced innovative patterns like convention over configuration that inspired new frameworks in other languages.

Today, Ruby has a strong following and active community. The latest version is Ruby 3.0 released in 2020.

The History of JavaScript

JavaScript was created in 1995 by Brendan Eich at Netscape as a scripting language for adding dynamic interactions to web pages within Netscape Navigator.

The language was first called LiveScript but was soon renamed to JavaScript for marketing reasons related to Java‘s popularity at the time. JavaScript gained widespread use as the scripting language for frontend web development.

Standardization under Ecma International led to the release of the first ECMAScript specification in 1997. Widespread browser competition in the 2000s helped drive innovation and performance gains for JavaScript engines.

The launch of Node.js in 2009 allowed JavaScript to be used for server-side development. Combined with improvements from standards like ES6 (ECMAScript 2015), JavaScript has become one of the most widely used languages.

Key Differences

Now that we‘ve seen the history, let‘s explore 5 key technical differences between Ruby and JavaScript.

Purpose and Usage

Ruby is a general-purpose language well suited for web development. It is commonly used to build web applications and APIs using popular frameworks like Ruby on Rails.

JavaScript is primarily used for developing frontend web and mobile apps due to its ubiquity as the client-side scripting language of the web. With Node.js, it can also be used for server-side development.

Execution Environments

Ruby code runs on the Ruby Virtual Machine. It needs the Ruby environment and libraries installed locally.

JavaScript mainly runs inside a web browser‘s JavaScript engine like V8. For Node.js backend usage, code runs in the Node environment instead of a browser.

Type Systems

Ruby utilizes dynamic typing where variables don‘t need explicit type declarations. Types are handled at runtime.

JavaScript uses weak dynamic typing so variables can change types freely. This allows flexibility but also risks unintended coercion bugs.

Object Oriented Programming

Ruby is a purely object-oriented language – everything is an object under the hood. JavaScript supports OOP via prototypes rather than classes, but is multi-paradigm by design.

Syntax and Readability

Ruby syntax is designed for readability using natural language conventions. JavaScript‘s C-style syntax is a bit more complex but also familiar to many developers.

Strengths of Ruby

Now that we‘ve compared some core aspects, let‘s focus on some of Ruby‘s biggest strengths:


Ruby‘s expressive syntax, dynamic typing, and meta-programming features lead to very high developer productivity. Much less code and boilerplate is needed compared to other languages like Java.


The syntax design, influenced by natural language, makes Ruby very readable. Code written by other developers is easy to understand.

Open Source Ecosystem

Ruby has a vibrant open source ecosystem centered around the Ruby on Rails web framework as well as tools like RSpec, Sinatra, and Puma.

Object Oriented Programming

With everything as an object, Ruby encourages good object-oriented analysis and design. Ruby‘s flexibility makes OOP easy.

Rapid Prototyping

Ruby‘s simplicity, metaprogramming, and OOP support make it a great choice for hacking together prototypes and proofs of concept quickly.


Ruby provides advanced metaprogramming capabilities allowing developers to extend or modify code at runtime for amazing flexibility.


Built-in MiniTest framework plus widely used external libraries like RSpec make testing productivity seamless in Ruby.

Strengths of JavaScript

Now let‘s switch gears and see some of JavaScript‘s most prominent strengths:


The ubiquity of JavaScript across all modern web browsers and devices makes it universally usable on the frontend.

Beginner Friendly

Basic JavaScript is relatively simple for total beginners to learn compared to languages like C++ or Java.

Frontend Capabilities

For front-end web development, JavaScript delivers an amazing ability to build responsive, dynamic user interfaces.

Back-end with Node.js

Node.js brings JavaScript to the server-side as well, allowing full-stack JS development.


Modern JS engines provide near native code performance via advanced optimizations like just-in-time (JIT) compilation.


The npm repository hosts over 1.5 million open source JavaScript packages allowing developers to easily leverage dependencies.

Asynchronous Programming

Native async/await syntax hugely simplifies writing asynchronous, non-blocking programs compared to languages like Python or PHP.


JavaScript‘s popularity has cultivated an enormous global community of developers learning and supporting each other.

Use Cases and Suitability

Based on these comparisons, let‘s examine some common use cases where Ruby and JavaScript are each suitable:

Use Ruby For:

  • Rapid prototyping and experimentation
  • Server-side web applications and services
  • Backend programming and scripting
  • Situations valuing developer productivity
  • Small to medium sized projects
  • A balance of simplicity and powerful features

Use JavaScript For:

  • Front-end web and mobile development
  • UI intensive web applications
  • Real-time and collaborative applications like chat
  • Cross-platform apps and frameworks
  • Programming GPUs and microcontrollers
  • Full stack development
  • Performance critical applications
  • Startups needing quick time to market

For New Web Applications

  • Use Ruby on Rails if you value quick development and more conventions
  • Use Node.js and JavaScript frameworks like React for a modern architecture
  • Combine Rails APIs with frontend React code for full stack JavaScript

Ruby or JavaScript for Web Development?

For frontend work, JavaScript remains unrivaled due to its browser integration. No other choice makes sense.

For backend work, Ruby and Rails provide a full featured and productive framework while Node.js offers other benefits like performance and language uniformity.

Overall, both languages are excellent choices for modern web and mobile development.

Summary of Key Differences

To recap, here are the most salient differences between Ruby and JavaScript:

  • Ruby optimized for developer happiness and productivity. JavaScript highly performance focused.
  • Ruby excels for readable, reusable object-oriented code. JavaScript is more flexible and versatile.
  • Ruby uses dynamic typing while JavaScript is loosely typed.
  • Ruby stable and matured over decades. JavaScript evolving more rapidly.
  • Ruby simplifies coding with a natural expressive syntax. JavaScript is ubiquitous.
  • Ruby is purely object-oriented. JavaScript supports OOP but is multi-paradigm.
  • Ruby has a smaller but active and supportive community. JavaScript‘s community is enormous.
  • For web development, they complement each other with Ruby on backend and JavaScript on frontend.

Which Language Should You Learn?

Learning Ruby If:

  • You value simplicity, readability and expressiveness.
  • You want to work on backend services and APIs.
  • Your focus is more on applications and product capabilities than underlying performance.
  • You want exposure to more computer science fundamentals like OOP.

Learning JavaScript If:

  • You want to focus on frontend web or mobile development.
  • You‘re interested in modern web programming with React, Angular, and other JS frameworks.
  • You need your skills to be as marketable as possible for web jobs.
  • You want to build real-time collaborative applications.

Consider Learning Both

Gaining skills in both Ruby and JavaScript will make you extremely versatile as a web developer.

Ruby shines for backend capabilities while JavaScript dominates on frontend. Combining them together allows you to build full stack web and mobile apps.


Ruby and JavaScript are both incredible languages for web development with unique strengths. Ruby delivers simplicity, elegance and productivity. JavaScript provides versatile frontend and backend abilities.

This guide armed you with a deep understanding of how Ruby vs. JavaScript compares – from their histories to technical differences to use cases.

Whether you choose to learn Ruby, dive into JavaScript, or become a polyglot – you‘re on the path to an amazing career in web development. Happy programming!