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Prototype's future in Rails

Posted in , , , Thu, 20 Jul 2006 22:22:00 GMT

The future of Prototype (the JavaScript AJAX library), both as a stand-alone library and as a part of Rails, is being discussed by the community on the rails-spinoffs list. The primary concerns appear to be:

  • Prototype is driven by one person who hasn't been very active on the list. Some patches are integrated but often without communication
  • it is difficult for others to contribute
  • there is no visibility into the roadmap for prototype
  • prototype is "falling behind" relative to other libraries

The one person vs. community aspect of the discussion reminds me of Red Hat rebuilds. When Red Hat stopped distributing free binaries, a number of projects took advantage of GPL and started providing free rebuild binaries. At first, White Box Enterprise Linux (WBEL) was the most popular and wide-spread rebuild but it was maintained by one person who occasionally got busy. It was eventually overtaken by CentOS which is maintained by a community.

For now, Prototype will remain popular because it comes bundled with Rails and is the basis for RJS and Scriptaculous. Thomas Fuchs has come out and said, "script.aculo.us will always depend on Prototype". Still, I wonder if community maintenance isn't a better way to go for something that's relied on by so many people. Some are even concerned that Rails itself will become less viable if it continues to attach itself to Prototype and the project management doesn't change.

You can follow the thread by going to the list archives page and looking for the subject name "Documenting Prototype...". Greg Hill's post seems like a reasonable place to start.

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  1. Steve Akers said about 3 hours later:

    The problem with prototype, scriptaculous and others is that they are last generation Ajax libraries. What developers should be looking for is a next generation Ajax framework that supports all of the top 8 Ajax evaluation criteria.

  2. Tijs said 6 days later:

    In my opinion it simply shouldn’t be that closely integrated. I consider rails for commercial/enterprise apps much more if it allowed me to drop in Dojo and map the rails-ajax stuff to that instead.

  3. John Wang said 10 days later:

    I think they’d be more than happy if someone did drop-in replacements for other libraries, e.g. Dojo and JQuery (it’s been mentioned on the #rubyonrails IRC channel) but the trick is finding someone to do it.

  4. John Wang said about 1 month later:

    I just found out that Sam Stephenson is on the Rails core team and works for 37Signals. That probably means Prototype is going to be the AJAX library for Rails no matter what discussion is happening in the community.

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