David Heinemeier Hansson

May 7, 2024

The last RailsConf

Few numbers exemplified the early growth of Rails like attendance at RailsConf. I think we started with something like 400-600 attendees at the inaugural conference in Chicago in 2006, then just kept doubling year over year, as Rails went to the moon. If memory serves me right, we had something like 1,800 attendees in 2008? It was rapid, it was wild, but next year, it'll be over. RailsConf 2025 will be the last RailsConf.

This is for the best. RailsConf, as it exists today, is a legacy from when the Rails ecosystem didn't have its own guardian institution. For many years, it was left to Ruby Central to fill this role, but that was always going to be a secondary pursuit to their primary mission of furthering Ruby in general. 

But now we have The Rails Foundation, which is focused 100% on Rails, backed by the biggest names in ecosystem. It's also the organizer of Rails World, which just sold out its own thousand-attendee conference in Toronto this coming September -- in less than twenty minutes! The baton has been passed.

This is good. With Ruby Central focusing their efforts on general-purpose Ruby endeavors, like maintaining Bundler and RubyGems, as well as putting on RubyConf, the division of responsibilities between it and The Rails Foundation is now clear. Which makes it much easier for both organizations to collaborate on furthering Ruby on Rails, each putting emphasis on their side of the conjunction.

I'm going to choose to remember RailsConf for all the wonderful memories it brought me and the ecosystem, especially in the early years. Working with the original crew of Chad Fowler, David A. Black, and Rich Kilmer was the treat of a lifetime. We bootstrapped something from nothing, turned it into an epoch-defining event, and I delivered some of my most memorable keynotes in that era.

It's a bit of a shame what happened later, during those mad years in and immediately following the pandemic, but that kind of nonsense is thankfully now largely behind us, not just in the Ruby world, but in tech in general. And Ruby Central is now almost entirely run by people who didn't have anything to do with that debacle anyway. Making it much easier just to look forward, and simply appreciate that those odd years helped motivate finally getting The Rails Foundation off the ground.

Either way, the future of Rails shines incredibly bright. The ideal of the one-person framework has never been more relevant. The world has woken up from the ZIRP years with a complexity hang-over, and Rails is the perfect painkiller. From #nobuild to bare-metal deployment to the eternal appeal of a full-stack solution comprised by Active Record, Action Pack, Active Support, and the million other arguments and assets that underpin the modern appeal of Rails. We never went away, but the renaissance is palpable none the less.

So I raise my glass to the final RailsConf. Let's go out with a bang in 2025, celebrate the legacy, and then keep plucking away on spreading the joy of beautiful code, incredible productivity, and programmer-centric development with Ruby on Rails. Cheers!

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.