Ruby on Rails 2.0 released for Web apps

Web framework emphasizes REST Web services

Version 2.0 of Ruby on Rails, the popular open source Web application development framework, was released this morning, said the developer of the framework, David Heinemeier Hansson, on Friday.

Key to this release is its reliance on REST (Representational State Transfer) Web services instead of SOAP Web services. Security enhancements also are featured. Available for download at the Ruby on Rails Web site, the framework leverages the Ruby programming language.

"The big thing we've been pushing in Rails 2.0 is the whole notion of REST and the whole notion of building REST-ful applications," as opposed to using SOAP, Hansson said.

"Rails used to ship with a library that did SOAP Web services. We've yanked that out and put in a bunch of things instead focused on doing REST Web services," he said.

REST is favored over SOAP now because those in the agile development camp feel it has become too complex, with its many WS-* standards to follow, said Hansson. Spoken as "ws star," Hansson instead denigrated the WS-* specifications by referring to them as "ws death star."

Featuring specifications such as WS-Security, WS-* has been championed by companies such as Microsoft. "[These standards] don't really do anything in a simple way, to put it mildly," said Hansson.

"We feel that [SOAP is] overly complicated. It's been taken over by the enterprise people, and when that happens, usually nothing good comes of it," Hansson said.

REST, meanwhile, has been built on the principles of the Web such as HTTP and straight XML, he said.

In the security space, Rails 2.0 makes it easier to protect against phishing, with provisions to guard against CRSF (cross-site request forgery) intrusions. Safeguards against XSF (cross-site forgery) attacks are included as well.

"We tried to make it really easy for people to deal with both of the scenarios," said Hansson.

Also featured in Rails 2.0 is improved testing support and backing for Atom feeds. "We're making it really easy for applications to emit feeds," which is critical to application updates, Hansson said.

Another new feature in version 2.0 is a framework called ActiveResource, which encapsulates Web services and makes them as easy to use as databases, Hansson said. This is similar to the ActiveRecord feature for encapsulating database calls in Rails, he said.

While Hansson, from Denmark, was the original creator of Ruby on Rails, he stressed he is no longer the only cook in the kitchen. "I'm only one out of hundreds of people who work on the framework," he said. He currently is a partner at software development firm 37signals, based in Chicago.

Hansson previously stressed the REST bent of Ruby on Rail 2.0 during the RailsConf 2007 event in Portland this past May.

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