So in the middle of all the Visual Studio 2008 release messaging, another web application development tool released .... This time, not from Microsoft, but the second release of the Ruby on Rails Web development framework was released late last week.
The major feature that they added into this release is better support for REST (Representational State Transfer) and improved security.
It'll probably come as no surprise that Rails picked sides in the SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol]-versus-REST debate. The only problem is that I believe that you will need both. Particularly if you are building sites which provide high value services. However REST now looks like it is integrated rather than a clutch.
However, while REST is a big play in Rails 2.0, there are some other features which are interesting, particularly around the security moniker. This release makes it easier for developers to deal with XSS (cross-site scripting) attacks while still allowing users to embed HTML in your pages. Basically they have added support for HTTP-only cookies. This has been available in IE since around SP2? (with some issues with access via jscript), but has not been available in firefox so far, but it due in version 3 which came out in beta in late November. They have also added a new module to work with HTTP Basic Authentication, which allows a way to do API authentication over SSL. This is a step in the right direction, but this has been around for a long time in other frameworks.
So what is out? Firstly the Active Record-well sort of. Active Record connected business objects and database tables together to create a persistent domain model where logic and data is presented in one wrapping. What they seem to have done now is put this capability into individual plug-ins on the Rails subversion repository. They have also pushed what they call "commercial database adapters" into gems. So Rails now only ships with adapters for MySQL, SQLite and PostgreSQL. Hmmm
Overall 2.0 is a step in the right direction, but also if you are a user of Visual 2008 Studio Express, you will also notice many new capabilities, including the integration of snippets, newsgroups and a really nice on-line help system which are really nice points, together with integration with popfly.
It will be interesting to see whether ROR can once again regain the high ground around web development tools for the casual/semi pro developer. That was a long development cycle and a lot has changed in the time being.