David Heinemeier Hansson

January 13, 2024

Rails World and Rails 8 in 2024

The first major Rails conference on the European continent in over a decade was a smashing success this past October in Amsterdam. Not only did the conference sell out more than 700 tickets in less than 40 minutes, but it was the atmosphere from those in attendance that really made it soar. It was simply electric.

So much so that I was actually a little worried in the weeks after about how we’d possibly top this spectacle for Rails World 2024. But as the plans have been solidifying, I’ve replaced any shred of worry with an unbounded excitement for September in Toronto. It’s going to be special.

Not only are we going to nearly double the capacity for attendance, we’ll also have so much super exciting new stuff to talk about, as well as following through on all the goodies that were announced at Rails World 2023.

Solid Queue, for example, was just a slide in Amsterdam, but now it’s shipping software, and by the time Rails World 2024 rolls around, it’ll be the new default queuing system for Rails 8. And Rails World will be where you dive deep with the people who actually wrote it. I can’t wait for Rosa’s presentation on this one!

And that’s sorta become the guiding principle for putting the program together for Rails World. That this should be the conference where you go to hear about the latest technology and techniques in the Rails world from the people who build and advanced it.

Because that’s really what we aim to do with Rails World. Make it the yearly gathering where the ecosystem’s attention is aimed at what’s new and what’s next. We did that really well in 2023, and the fruits of all those announcements are now coming ripe, so we’ll stick with the recipe for this year too.

It’s a real point of pride that we’re able to do this while keeping ticket prices affordable to freelancers, bootstrapped startups, and even individuals trying to break into the business. While the cost base in Toronto won’t allow us to go quite as low as we could in Amsterdam, Rails World will still be substantially cheaper than any major, high-production conference that I’m aware of.

This is because Rails World doesn’t aim to turn a profit. In fact, the first conference was subsidized to the tune of some $200,000 by the members of The Rails Foundation. You can thank our founding members Cookpad, Doximity, Fleetio, GitHub, Intercom, Procore, Shopify, and 37signals for their generosity in endowing the foundation with a million dollars to make that possible, and now we also have AppSignal, BigBinary, cedarcode, Planet Argon, and Reno as contributing members going into Rails World 2024 to solidify that position.

But I want to highlight Shopify here in particular. Not only was Tobi the first person I reached out to when setting up The Rails Foundation, he instantly committed to the mission, and it feels only fitting that we’ll be hosting Rails World 2024 in Shopify’s hometown. I know Amanda is working with the Shopify team to make that coming together something really special.

Shopify is more than just the first founding member of The Rails Foundation, though, they’re the damn patron saint of the whole Ruby on Rails ecosystem at this point. Beyond supporting Rails with several Rails Core members and other contributors, Shopify has moved Ruby itself forward in spectacular fashion with YJIT and related projects. That work that’s been years in the making, but to me, it really paid off in 2023, as Ruby on Rails got dramatically faster with a YJIT-powered Ruby 3.3.

I’m therefore also ever so pleased to see Shopify represented on the board of Ruby Central, alongside fellow Rails Foundation founding member GitHub. It really feels that after some messy years dragged down by unnecessary nonsense, there’s a path forward for reconciliation and stronger collaboration. We need a strong Ruby and a strong Rails to make the most of this ecosystem, and with Ruby Central’s board now sharing a heavy corporate presence that overlaps with that of The Rails Foundation, I’m really optimistic about the future here.

I'd connect this to the broader vibe shift in technology. We went through some awful years during the pandemic that made everyone a little crazy, and we didn’t have the in-person gatherings to renew social connections, so bad ideas were allowed to fester, and rifts opened up seemingly everywhere. But that seems largely in the rearview mirror now. There’s a new dawn of optimism spreading, and I’m 100% here for it.

Because ultimately that’s why I’m still so fired up about Ruby on Rails, even after twenty years. We need the web more than ever, and the web hasn’t been this exciting in a very long time. Whether it’s #nobuild, PWAs, Web Push, CSS :has, or even cloud exits, there are so many interesting threads to pull on. So many ways for us to realize a bigger potential by compressing complexity, embracing progress, and simply making things better.

That continues to be the mission for Rails 8. And I’ve personally been busy extracting a ton of wonderful new concepts, frameworks, and leaps forward from the rich ores of HEY Calendar and our forthcoming ONCE series. All stuff that I love to turn into open source gifts. Some, like Kamal and Hotwire, benefit not just Rails, but the broader web community. Others, like Action Notifier or PWA encapsulations, will be specific to Rails.

As I said in my Rails World 2023 keynote, the pendulum is swinging in the direction of Ruby on Rails. Technically, culturally, and economically. More and more programmers are just getting tired of the scattered, complicated, and unintegrated approach to web development that’s been the norm for a while now. They’re ready for full-stack ideas again, and Rails has been honing those concepts to near perfection over literally two decades.

At the same time, those divisive years where politics seeped into everything, all the time, now seem almost but a distant memory. It’s amazing how quickly the fog can clear, and I’ve been ever so pleased to see it happen much faster than I would have anticipated during the darkest days of the early 2020s.

Finally, while it looks like we’re in for another rough year of tech layoffs, many of the stalwart companies in the Rails ecosystem are looking really strong. I’ve talked about Shopify, but GitHub, under Microsoft’s benevolent leadership, is thriving, and Copilot, VSCode, and devcontainers are all making the lives of developers easier. It’s a treat to see.

Meanwhile, the layoffs, however painful, are going to seed the next generation of startups. A generation born into the capital constraints of our present moment. Which suddenly puts a huge focus on doing far more with far less. When money isn’t free, you can’t just throw warm bodies at the problem. You have to work with better, simpler, more productive tools. That’s what The One Person Framework is all about. Pair that with Copilot or another AI companion, and suddenly the sky’s the limit again in a way it hasn’t been for at least a decade.

2024 is the year optimism makes a big comeback. The Rails Renaissance is fueled by this optimism. Let’s go make great things happen ✌️❤️

About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.