xforms vs. ruby - a rebuttal (sort of)

by Kurt Cagle

Adriaan de Jonge's article Xforms vs. Ruby on Rails has created quite a stir in both the XML and Ruby communities, and for good reason. He asked a fairly important question - are XForms an also-ran technology that Ruby has managed to supplant?

I've been thinking about the article for some time myself. Certainly it's a difficult question to answer, because to a certain extent I tend to agree with him ... on some aspects. XForms had a lot of potential that it hasn't yet lived up to, does require more than a little bit of advanced computing skills (or at least the right mindset) and suffers the fate of many of the W3C standards, which is to be smashed up against the rocks of browser vendor indifference.

And yet ... I'm not quite ready to throw in the towel. Now, don't get me wrong. I've worked with Ruby, and overall I think it is a delightful language for many of the same reasons that Adriaan does - it is more declarative than imperative, it places unit test planning well ahead of coding, it fits in very nicely with the web development paradigm, and it works reasonably well in mapping basic data sources into objects. It's contributions to the development of JavaScript have been crucial to the success of AJAX, and overall I think that it would not be a bad skill for any web developer to have on his or her resume.


2007-03-30 14:55:36
Like always, lots of grist for the mill here, and I totally agree that the sum of the parts offers more design space than creating a dichotomy. At the same time, I understand why people want to reduce this design space. If you are a ruby developer, you are better off asking yourself "can I do this without using XForms" rather than "what more can I do if I use XForms", but the better question would be "can using XForms on the front end actually simplify the design space?"

Does your involvement with GSC 2007 extend to eXist? It looks like their proposed projects should generate some *really* good things!

Johan Martin
2007-03-30 15:29:42
"...you are quite literally floating in an XML sea..". Love that statement since it frees me from being tied to a particular platform/language/framework or templating language.
2007-07-11 08:15:57
Thanks for these insights. Adriaan's posting was impressive, almost intimidating, so it's good to have some balance from another web tech / XML guru. Here I was wondering if I needed to abandon XForms for RoR. (Incidentally, you keep referring to "Ruby" but I think Adriaan's argument was really only about Ruby on Rails.)

I can see the points about (1) getting the best possible solutions by having both XForms *and* RoR in your toolchest; and (2) piers' note that you "may want to reduce the design space". After all, things change so fast, and developers can only keep current on so many languages at once. Even if I personally am happy to learn RoR, I can hear my team members giving a collective sigh ... "We have to learn *another* technology?" And then we end up with another project or component that only I can maintain and extend. (Note this is a risk, not necessarily always the reality.)

So there is a real value to being able to pick one framework and stick with it. Part of the value of RoR over XForms is that RoR provides the whole stack (or at least more of it).

2007-07-12 10:21:55
"...you are quite literally floating in an XML sea..."

I agree with the sentiment, but... come on, Kurt... "quite literally"?! Guess I'd better wring the pointy brackets out of my clothes!

It seems that "literally" doesn't mean what it used to mean.
You're definitely not alone in using "literally" to mean "really".

Kurt Cagle
2007-07-12 20:23:56
True, maybe a wee bit of hyperbole there, but its still cool being in that space.