Python and Ruby belong to the new generation of high-level languages, focusing on simplicity and ensuring the programmer is equipped with the ability to get things done fast, rather than strict hierarchy and syntax correctness. Ruby gives you the freedom to choose from several different methods to solve the same problem, while Python comes with only one approach. Their differences are mostly rooted in their philosophies rather than outcome. What unites them is the goal to write clean, concise, readable code.
What is Python?
Python is inspired by a multitude of languages, including C/C++, Java, Perl, Lisp, and ICON. Google and Youtube are two famous Python-built websites. Python is conservative by nature and detests Ruby’s ‘many ways of doing the same thing’ philosophy. Instead, it believes there is only one best way to do a particular thing, and language should embrace the best way. Resulting in a language strict on indentation and layout, even the amount of whitespace to use. These dictates come across as stifling to Ruby followers. Nevertheless, this disciplined philosophy has resulted in Python turning out to be easy to learn and extremely readable.
What is Ruby?
Ruby is unabashedly object-oriented and influenced by C, Java, Perl, and C++. Twitter, Groupon, and Hulu are a few of the famous sites built using Ruby. Ruby’s philosophy has always been rooted in power, expressiveness, and elegance. Its practitioners believe, a language’s code should always cause as little confusion as possible for the developer. One of the star features of Ruby’s is its use of blocks or first-class objects. A block is treated as a unit within the program, making the language extremely potent, particularly when combined with its other strength, use of lambdas and functional programming. Additionally, Ruby takes the OOP concept to its greatest extent.
How are they similar?
Their performance is similar since both Python and Ruby are high-level, object-oriented scripting languages. They both come with standard libraries, an interactive shell, and persistence support. Both are also an excellent choice for web development, especially when you take advantage of each language’s purpose, building web frameworks, Django for Python and Rails for Ruby. However, Ruby on Rails is slightly more popular as a web development tool than Django-Python. Python is more favored in the academic and scientific space.
How are they different?
Python has a much more diverse community than Ruby does. Ruby’s popularity truly began when Rails came out in 2005. The community quickly grew around Rails and has since focused mostly on web development. Of course, today the community around it is much more diverse, but it hasn’t experienced the same diversity Python has. While they may seem similar, there are some significant differences between the two. Much of the difference lies in the fact that both the languages are visually similar but remain worlds apart in their approaches to solving problems. Ruby strives to be elegant, while Python focuses on readability. Ruby empowers its programmers since it is infinitely flexible, allowing the developers to do many little tricks to make an elegant web framework. Python has adopted a more direct approach to programming, the primary goal being to ensure everything is obvious to the programmer.
So which is better?
Depends. What are you trying to achieve? In most cases, half of the time you end up wanting to use ruby and the other half you’ll want to use Python. There are probably some other minor cases which push the ratio here or there, upsetting the balance, but they’re quite esoteric and niche at best.
The two languages embrace radically different philosophies. Ruby focusses on giving programmers the freedom to adopt whichever approach they want. Python, on the other hand, insists on ease of use and learning by zeroing in on a single right way of doing something. This makes Python developers somewhat conservative in their approach since they value stability over change. Meaning developments and new features are added slowly. Ruby followers seem to thrive on freedom and change. The Rails framework is thus, constantly changing, and also many of the new features and modifications in Python are first tested in Ruby.
Despite the heated arguments from both communities, it's not possible to say which language is overall better than the other. It’s clear each has areas it is better suited to, because of its features and support from other users in the same area. For Python, it is academic and scientific programming, and for Ruby, it happens to be web development using the Rails framework.
Anything you can do in Python and Django you could also do in Ruby on Rails. Which framework is better is more a question of what support is like for you and your team and not a question of capability.
If you're looking to build web applications, go with Ruby on Rails. They are an active community, always on the bleeding edge of it and built upon it. Now check out Python and Django, if you are interested in developing web applications but would also like to learn a language used more generally. You’ll discover a diverse community, influenced and supported by the various industries it is used in. You can’t go wrong either way. Just about everything you learn in Ruby can be translated to Python and vice versa.