Django’s tipping point

Django seems to have reached its tipping point, that critical mass which will enable its momentum to skyrocket. Getting here took a while though; partially because of a lack of hype and partially due to Rails’ very prominent presence in the market. Now this well deserving framework has finally begun to be widely adopted and considered as a valid alternative to Rails, for agile web development. Why do I care about what other people are going to use? I care because I’m deeply passionate about technology that works and that keeps things as simple as possible – as such forms of innovation always should. Independently from their adoption, promotion, and the differences in their approaches, both Django and Rails have at their core, a lot of substance and can greatly simplify and improve the way a web developer’s creative process flows.

Stating that Django has reached its tipping point is a bold claim, but I can present some evidence to back it up. I will use Rails and Ruby as a comparison for Django and Python – but don’t construe this as a race between the two frameworks. Rails is still the most popular and will probably continue to be for a long time. I’m only comparing the numbers to get an idea of where Django stands right now.

Visiting, I’ve noticed that the Python (#python) channel is often more populated than the Ruby one (#ruby-lang), and the same goes for Django (#django) and Ruby on Rails (#rubyonrails). For example, right now I see 517 members for Python and 354 for Ruby, 382 for Django and 298 for Rails. Django and Python consistently have more hackers in their chats than Rails and Ruby. This doesn’t say too much, given that the average developer doesn’t hang out on irc, but it’s still somewhat indicative of Django’s growing community.

Moving to newsgroups/Google Groups, things start to change a little. As I write this, there are 12,457 subscribers for comp.lang.python and only 6,935 for comp.lang.ruby (with 1,857 members in ruby-talk-google). “Django users” has 8,178 members versus the 13,355 of “Ruby on Rails: Talk”. So far this month, the Django group has had 1,244 messages versus the 2,890 of the Rails one. By looking at these numbers, without any pretense of being too scientific in our comparative methods, we get the impression that the Rails community is almost twice as big as the Django one, which sounds about right. On the other hand we also get that the Python community is larger than the Ruby one (confirmed also by the irc results above). In looking at these numbers, Rails also has the advantage of being the most used Ruby framework by far. In Python-land, Turbogears (3,303 members), Pylons (1,333 members) and good old Zope split the pie too, even though Django remains the most popular choice. Guido van Rossum’s blessing for Django was just the icing on the cake.

By observing the TIOBE Index, we see that Python is in 7th position versus the 10th position where we find Ruby. Perhaps more interestingly, Python has had a +0.70 delta since last March, while Ruby a -0.11%. Again, this is certainly not an exact science, my friends. TIOBE accuracy is often disputed for good reason, but I think it’s still an indicative factor.

Speaking of less than entirely reliable things, Alexa (django vs rails), Compete, and Google Trends (yes, rails is a very generic term) all confirm the anecdotal evidence that Rails is still far more popular. That said, the values start to be at least somewhat comparable.

In my opinion the strongest indicators of Django’s increasing popularity come from the publishing world. You’ll see many books in print for a given topic, only if their publishers believe that there is a large enough market for them. In 2007 the following two books were published: Professional Python Frameworks: Web 2.0 Programming with Django and Turbogears and The Definitive Guide to Django: Web Development Done Right (available for free online). 2008 has only just started and already there’s been one Django title published (Sams Teach Yourself Django in 24 Hours), with two further titles lined up: Practical Django Projects and Python Web Development with Django (which I’m currently reviewing for Pearson, as it’s in the process of being written – and I must say, I think it’s going to be a very good one).

5 books on Django announced to date and more lined up to be released this year, I’m sure. There are now many books in print that cover Rails (my recommendations here), but the sudden spur of Django books reminds me of Rails a couple of years ago and will surely help widen Django’s popularity. Watch closely because things will move fast in Django-land.

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