JavaScript vs Ruby

For someone who has just about to start learning web development, choosing the right programming language to start with can be quite confusing. There are many, many different programming languages that are used for web development, and learning them all is simply impossible. However, there are recommendations circulating that a beginner should start with either JavaScript or Ruby before moving to the next subject to learn.

Both JavaScript and Ruby are widely used in web development. Some people recommend JavaScript for beginners because of the relatively easy learning curve. Some others recommend Ruby because of the comprehensive understanding that it brings. Still, different people may have different needs and preferences. Because of that, let’s now see the differences and comparisons between JavaScript and Ruby so that you will be able to choose one that suits you best.

Overview

JavaScript, sometimes abbreviated as JS, is a high-level, dynamic, object-based, multi-paradigm programming language. It is one of the three core technologies of World Wide Web content production along with HTML and CSS. Although JavaScript was only implemented client-side, the engines have been embedded in web servers and databases to allow server-side implementation as well as in non-web programs such as word processors and runtime environments. Although there are many similarities between JavaScript and Java, we should point out that they are distinct and greatly differ from each other in terms of design. JavaScript was developed by Brendan Eich in 1995.

Ruby, on the other hand, is a dynamic, object-oriented, multi-paradigm, general-purpose programming language. It was developed also in 1995 by a team led by Yukihiro Matsumoto. Ruby can be used for various purposes, but, in web development, it is typically used on the server side. Thus, people generally consider it as a server-side language.

Learning and Implementation

Some people consider JavaScript as easier to learn, apparently because the syntax is similar to Java. If you have some background in Java, you will not find much problem learning JavaScript. However, if you are unfamiliar with Java, learning JavaScript can be far more difficult.

JavaScript focuses on functional programming ideas – compared to Ruby, it encourages you to solve problems in a totally different manner. Still, JavaScript is heavily used in today’s interfaces to make smooth, dynamic, user-friendly experiences. So, if JavaScript is not your first thing to learn, you will still have to learn it later.

On the other hand, learning Ruby is actually quite easier for a beginner that does not have much programming background because the syntax is easy to read and understand. After just a short period of time, you will be able to write and execute Ruby programs and solve complex algorithm challenges.

As a programmer, there is an argument that the most important thing to master is not the programming language syntax. Instead, it is the ability to identify problems, understand algorithms, create solutions, and choose the right technology to solve a particular problem. Ruby gives you that ability while minimizing syntactic mastery issues thanks to the relatively simple syntax.

By the way, JavaScript is widely used as a front-end (client-side) programming language. It governs interactions on the browser level, and, in such case, executes on the client’s device. However, there are JavaScript-based frameworks, such as Node.js, that you can use for the back-end (server-side) infrastructure – in this case, it executes on the server. Meanwhile, Ruby is a back-end language. Ruby can generate HTML and JavaScript, but is compiled on the server. As a back-end language, Ruby is able to interact directly with databases.

Linguistic and Syntactic

JavaScript and Ruby have several similarities. They are both object-oriented programming languages, they are both dynamic, they are both scripting languages. In an object-oriented programming language, you create elements called as objects that represent data, as opposed to actions. A scripting language is a programming language that supports programs written specially for a runtime environment by interpreting rather than compiling. The file extension of JavaScript is .js, whereas Ruby is .rb.

In Ruby, you can set variables and hashes using shorter lines. Semicolons (;) are not obligatory. As long as you are writing only one statement per line, you won’t have to end each statement with a semicolon.Ruby usually uses the end of the line (the return character, a.k.a. the ‘enter’) as the ending of a statement. If it encounters a return character while still expecting something to follow, it is smart enough to continue looking to the next line. However, if you are writing more than one statements in a line, you will have to separate the statements using semicolons.

Methods in Ruby that don’t take arguments do not require parenthesis. Writing loops is somewhat less tiresome and less confusing for a beginner because you won’t have to deal with too many semicolons and parenthesis.

Setting variables and hashes on JavaScript is a little bit longer because you will have to really type ‘var’ on the beginning of each. Hashes are referred as objects, and the key is simply a variable. Just like in Ruby, when writing multiple statements on the same line, you have to separate them using semicolons.

If you are writing just a single statement on each line and you don’t end them with semicolons, JavaScript parsers can insert the semicolons automatically for you. So, you can say that using semicolons is optional in such case. Still, many people consider using semicolons to end statements in JavaScript is a good and wise habit because it makes your code easier to parse and to compress. When the line breaks are removed, you won’t have to worry about several statements bumping up unseparated on the same line.

Methods in JavaScript almost always require parenthesis, even if the one you are using does not take any argument. Writing loops can be confusing for a beginner because of the semicolons and parenthesis.

JavaScriptRuby
- A front-end language, executes on the client side (except for back-end JavaScript-based frameworks)- Typically a back-end language, executes on the server side
- Relatively more complex syntax that is more difficult to understand and learn- Simple syntax that is easy to understand and learn
- It is recommended to end each statement with a semicolon- You don’t have to end a statement with a semicolon if there is only one on a line
- Almost all methods require parenthesis- Methods that don’t take arguments don’t require parenthesis

Conclusion

Ruby is typically used on the server side as a back-end language. For a beginner, Ruby is relatively easier and faster to learn due to the simple syntax. Ruby is more recommended to learn first if you want to focus more on the core programming abilities instead of dealing with complex syntaxes.On the other hand, JavaScript is widely used as a front-end, client-side language, though there are also JavaScript-based frameworks for back-end purposes. You will need to learn some JavaScript sooner or later because it is heavily used for making good dynamic interfaces. However, the syntax is relatively more complex and harder to understand.

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