So Avi Bryant finally showed off the work he's been doing with the Gemstone folks at Railsconf, and it's made quite a splash. With performance improvements like that it shouldn't be a surprise. The most interesting thing about it to me though is that it's the first time in a very long while that we've seen a proprietary implementation of a major tool absolutely destroy all the Free implementations. We've had things like Intel's C compiler outperforming gcc before, but nothing on this level, especially because the main ruby implementation is so notoriously slow. Just another feather in the cap of Smalltalk's long legacy.
What's troubled me for some time about the post-Rails Ruby community is that it has a distinct bent away from its Free Software roots. I understand Matz actually used to use (not sure about today) Debian Unstable, and Ruby traditionally displayed its roots quite strongly, with a Perl heritage and a community consisting largely of hardcore *NIX people. With the advent of Rails, the move has been towards things like TextMate and OSX. Software like Gems (no relation to Gemstone) fits in fine with one of these systems, but not so well with modern Free Software systems, and I think it's symptomatic of the change. Given this propensity in the Ruby community, and given the numbers Gemstone is posting, I'd be surprised if lots of Rubyists don't move that way as soon as it's available.
Given all this, I really have to wonder if the modern Ruby fits me any more. I generally think it's important for the Free Software community to support itself first and then try to grow out from there, and the Ruby community isn't really on this path right now. That's fine, there's nothing wrong with it, it's just not something that really interests me. It does make me wonder how something like this could happen, and it really comes down to the fact that a lot of smart people who might otherwise be really passionate about Linux systems are choosing OSX instead. Maybe it's hardware support (I hope the modernization of X will help here) and maybe it's just the whole package being nice and easy to use. Whatever it is, people are choosing it and we're the poorer for it.