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Are Rails plugins still necessary?

Back in the day, plugins were an acceptable way to extend Rails because gems were hard to create and publish. It was easier to just put up a public repo and have people pull a plugin from there.

In Rails 3, I think that we’ve got a good solution to these problems. Bundler allows us to type bundle gem and quickly get the skeleton of a gem. Bundler also also allows us to easily pull in unpublished gems via the :git option from any public git repo. The new allows us to easily publish gems that are ready for prime time.

Yes plugin maintainers will need to take a little time to update their plugins to be gems but I think that time is outweighed by the benefits of less code in Rails (because the plugin architecture code will be removed), possibly increased startup time because less code is running and adhernace to a standard way of loading Ruby extensions via the gem mechanism.

What do people think?

A lot of hard work has gone into modularizing the Rails3 codebase to make it easier to work with and faster.

Do we continue the spring cleaning and get rid of other remnants from the past?

  1. Thijs Cadier says:


    We should have a single way of managing dependencies and gems are is far the best choice for that at the moment.

  2. Matt White says:

    Absolutely. Plugins can become stale really quickly if you don’t watch them, and the more you have the more painful that is. It’s a lot easier to update gems and maintain proper dependencies with bundler. I never use plugins anymore unless I have to.

  3. Mike Gehard says:

    Please post your comments at the link below so we can get the conversation started on the Rails Core mailing list:


  4. Personally, I have no reason to use plugins anymore. Bundler has made this a moot point.

    However, I spend a lot of time teaching Rails, and (unfortunately) many people don’t have git installed, and it frankly doesn’t make sense for them to just for the :git option in a Gemfile. I think we need a quick way to install gems/plugins without requiring git before we can fully rely on bundler. Maybe a new form of script/plugin install that just adds an appropriate line to the Gemfile with :path would suffice. It would make it easier for the newcomers.

    The last couple times I’ve taught, showing off plugins has seemed a bit archaic. In the absence of git, however, they are still easier than any alternatives.

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