Sinatra is a library i.e. a set of classes that allows you to build almost any kind of web-based solution (no matter what the complexity) in a very simple manner, on top of the abstracted HTTP layer it implements from Rack. When you code in Sinatra you’re bound only by HTTP and your Ruby knowledge. Sinatra doesn’t force anything on you, which can lead to awesome or evil code, in equal measures.
Sinatra apps are typically written in a single file. It starts up and shuts down nearly instantaneously. It doesn’t use much memory and it serves requests very quickly. But, it also offers nearly every major feature you expect from a full web framework: RESTful resources, templating (ERB, Haml/Sass, and Builder), mime types, file streaming, etags, development/production mode, exception rendering. It’s fully testable with your choice of test or spec framework. It’s multithreaded by default, though you can pass an option to wrap actions in a mutex. You can add in a database by requiring ActiveRecord or DataMapper. And it uses Rack, running on Mongrel by default.
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