Massive != Helpful
I don’t know Ruby, but the one thing I’ve noticed about it, and something you read almost every time you hear anyone mention it, is how great and wonderful the community is. This is actually one of the major reasons why Ruby has taken off so well is how helpful and open the community is.
Besides that, as long as you can find information on places like SO easily and find at least 1 or 2 people to help you when you have a problem, the community size should have no bearing on anything. Scala is a tiny community and the Play Framework is even smaller, but I never have a problem finding the information I need. If all else fails, there are plenty knowledgeable people on SO or if it’s not a good SO question, the Freenode channels are both very active.
You can run anything just about anything you want on a VPS. I rent my dev box for $5/mo and when my credit runs out I’m going to switch to one that performs better and runs $25/yr (different tech, but still a vps). You get startup cloud servers free until you grow to the point where you need to add more power, all of these support Ruby. Right now I’m running my next project on Heroku, it was originally designed as a Ruby host. (I’m working in Scala though) There are lots of other similar options as well and even AWS also does some free stuff, but I’m not experienced with it anything AWS because it frankly scared the crap out of me.
You shouldn’t consider anything on a shared host even remotely serious. Just because PHP can run on outdated shared hosts, doesn’t mean much. If you want to go another route, Python is installed by default on every single Linux distro that I know of.
My point is, support on “web hosts” is moot.
Well no… not really. Indeed lists PHP at almost 16,000 jobs. It lists Ruby at almost 12,000 jobs. Not a big difference. Indeed is kind of an aggregator, so it’s a pretty good resource for this kind of information.
Adding to that though, PHP is notoriously one of the lowest paid job markets out there. Mostly due to the very high amount of bad developers and the fact that a large majority of the jobs are for managing/building websites. Where as other techs that are used more in web applications tend to hire more developers at a higher rate. 1 PHP dev could manage 20 sites where as it could take 5 or 6 devs to run a single web application. This leads to more jobs.
A website is semi-static information that is used to put a face on something, like a Restaurant or maybe even a small online store. It could very well be running on a CMS, which is a Web App, but that doesn’t make it a web app itself. Web Apps are functional and interactive in one way or another.
The low pay can also be attributed to the very low entry bar for PHP. You can easily develop a pretty functional PHP website and still not really understand what you’re doing programmatically. PHP is one of the few places in Software Development where you can be a “PHP Developer” but not actually be a “Software Developer”. If you know Ruby or Python or Node.js or pretty much anything else, there is a very high chance that you probably know or could pick up any other kind of stack fairly easily.
Because of these things in this last point, I think that the “large community” and “low entry bar” for PHP is actually a very bad thing, rather than a positive.
And because of the things I said in this post, I flat out refuse to suggest PHP to new developers asking me things and try very hard to steer as far away from PHP as I possibly can. I feel like I am doing them a disservice if I don’t.