Other frameworks have cloned features of Rails. But according to its creator, David Heinemeier Hansson, the Rails philosophy of convention over configuration and abstracting the user from making choices, continues to give competitive advantage to the developer community. The only parallel that can compete will have to be something that is significantly better than Rails which, although it is a possibility, doesn't seem very likely.
Users seem to like the idea of having many things to choose from, but when it comes to the moment of making a choice, they're abhorrent to the idea of having to choose. People just want to get their work done and have all the default choices made for them. When they've got a goal to accomplish, they don't want to be spending time evaluating all the choices. That is why Rails is popular. Its philosophy of convention over configuration makes all the default choices for the user, allowing him to change only what he needs to. Some Java frameworks cloned scaffolding but that didn't drive away the Rails crowd because Rails is so much more than the sum of what it offers. Other frameworks cloning features doesn't seem to be a threat; neither does the emergence of a new, competing framework that will only be marginally better than Rails. The only possibility, and a very unlikely one, to parallel Rails might be the emergence of a new paradigm that is many times better than Rails, like Rails was many times better than today's mainstream frameworks that dominate the market.
Even though Rails has been around for more than four years, it is still a tiny sliver in the grand scheme of things. It offers its community a competitive advantage of being a minority with a highly valuable skill that is in great demand. David refers to this advantage as "the great surplus," that allows Rails developers to be more productive. While others seem to squander away the surplus, Dave urges developers to re-invest their surplus in themselves by being better developers. He offers tips on how to improve oneself as a better developer.
David Heinemeier Hansson is a programmer and evangelist of Less Software. He's the creator of applications such as Instiki, Basecamp, and Ta-da, and works with the open source community and design extraordinaires 37signals. Since its release in late July 2004, he's also been leading the development of Ruby on Rails, a web application framework and environment for building real-world applications with joy and less code than most frameworks spend doing XML sit-ups.
This free podcast is from our Rails Conference series.