From Development

Rust Vs. Go: differences and similarities

Go and Rust are two of the most popular and appreciated programming languages by the developer community. Both are very recent, although they already have a huge impact, supporting most major digital players.

They are two awesome, open-source, modern languages designed to build software and applications that make the most of hardware capacity, reducing the number of machines used and improving speed on the remaining ones. No manager ever will turn down performance AND savings, so the future seems bright for both.

“Which is better” is a tough question to answer because each one has a different approach and philosophy. This comparison might help decide which language to choose for your next project, and why.

Table of Contents

What is Go
What is Rust
Similarities - Why everybody loves Rust and Go
    ➤  Performance and speed
    ➤  Scalability
    ➤  Concurrency
    ➤  Tools
Differences
    ➤  Philosophy
    ➤  Security
    ➤  Installation
    ➤  Programming style and syntax
When to use them
    ➤  When to use Rust
    ➤  When to use Go
Takeaway

What is Go

Go - short for Golang - is an open-source programming language developed by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson at Google in 2007. It was designed to be the equivalent of C for the 20th century but easier to learn, write, read, and deploy. Since the release of the 1.0 version in 2012, Go quickly became a popular choice for high-performance server-side applications for its efficiency.

It is widely used to support cloud-based applications, from e-commerce platforms to weather APIs or as the base for container tools like Docker. Massive-scale products and services providers like Dropbox, Netflix, PayPal, Twitter, and Google use Go as the backbone of their systems.

Go is a statically typed, compiled programming language with a practical and concise syntax similar to C or C++. Amongst its features are loops, arrays, maps, control flow, which we also find in many other languages, so it doesn't look foreign to the initiated.

It supports concurrency through goroutines, functions that can occur simultaneously yet run independently of each other. Another strong point is memory safety: automatic memory allocation and automatic garbage collection are two of Go's main features that avoid memory leaks, increasing security and better portability across operating systems.

Go users are caringly called Gophers, the language's mascot and avatar.

What is Rust

Rust started out as a personal project by Graydon Hoare, a Mozilla employee, in 2006. Mozilla sponsored this endeavor, and Rust got its 1.0 version on May 15, 2015. Rust is a general-purpose, statically typed compiled programming language with a similar - yet friendlier - syntax to C and C++.

Designed for performance and safety in massive, high concurrency environments, Rust is used in large-scale systems by companies and organizations like Firefox, Dropbox, Google, and it's been chosen as the most loved programming language by developers since 2016. Consecutively.

Source: Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021

Rust prioritizes memory safety too but has no garbage collection, a major difference when compared to Go. Rust uses the borrow checker feature to make sure references do not outlive the data they are referring to, improving memory usage and access.

There is a wilder side to Rust. By default, it works in Safe writing mode, but it also allows for Unsafe writing code mode. Safe Rust enforces strict rules on the programmer to ensure the code works properly, while Unsafe Rust is more lenient to experimentation, but there is a risk the code might break.

Rust is managed by the Rust Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by some of the biggest stakeholders in the digital universe: Mozilla Foundation, Amazon Web Services, Google, Huawei, and Microsoft.

Ferris is the unofficial mascot for Rust. It's a friendly crab, in line with Rust developers' nickname, Rustaceans.

Ferris and Gopher

Similarities - Why everybody loves Rust and Go

The similarities between Go and Rust go beyond having cute mascots and lively communities. They are powerful software languages tailored for the modern large scale needs of today’s digital environment, providing security, scalability and productivity.

As general-purpose programming languages they are used to develop everything from web applications to network services, and their overall implementation predicts a strong longevity. Their communities are strong and committed, providing a huge number of third-party libraries and support. Both are considered as must-learn programming languages which anticipates a sound future for their evolution.

But they also share other strong points which make them the most appreciated programming languages today.

Performance and speed

The meaning of these characteristics is sometimes used interchangeably, and they're often mixed together into the same definition. But they imply different things.

As compiled languages, which is to say they translate directly to executable machine code, they can deploy programs as a single binary file, reducing the number of dependencies and libraries they rely upon. This makes them faster compared to interpreted languages like Ruby, Python, or Perl.

Execution speed is high for both languages. Rust has a better runtime speed (and it's getting faster) but is more complex than Go, which prefers simplicity over performance, although the difference is barely noticeable. And when working with thousands of files and commits in a large codebase, Go's build speed is unbeatable.

IBM reported "an extraordinary 1200-1500% increase" in speed using Rust, WebAssembly and Node.js together, while Go consistently is being reported as being responsible for cutting down the number of servers to almost a tenth of the original capacity, while decreasing "runtimes from 90-seconds to just 3-seconds".

Scalability

Their ability to handle multiple concurrent functions with optimal usage of CPU resources makes Rust and Go the perfect programming languages to develop large-scale applications, especially if they are meant to grow and become more complex.

Rust has a stronger inclination toward applications that favor speed, such as game development, web browser components, or real-time control systems. On the other hand, Go is designed for software development at scale, involving large codebases and large teams, handling enormous amounts of data in real-time.

Google backs Go since it fits its fast-paced, complex infrastructure and dynamic environment. Go allows for short iteration development stages and, since it has an accessible learning curve, doesn't suffer from developer turnover. It's a great solution for dynamic organizations where scale and speed define the development workflow.

Concurrency

Go was designed for concurrency or, simply put, to simultaneously handle multiple things. The innovation in Go was the introduction of goroutines. These functions are executed independently, running concurrently with other functions. Since they are lightweight and demand fewer resources, we can have an incredibly high number of these goroutines running without affecting performance, which is a better solution than creating new threads (the smallest set of instructions that a scheduler can manage independently).

As a built-in feature, Go's concurrency handling is stronger than Rust’s, which is still developing this feature. Concurrency in Rust is not as easy to implement as in Go, which may detract some developers from recurring to it, but the safety payoff can speak louder.

Tools

Rust and Go include standard formatting tools: gofmt for Go and rustfmt for Rust. These tools take the hassle of writing code, rewriting it automatically using the canonical style.

Rust also includes Cargo, Rust's build system and package manager. Cargo downloads Rust package's dependencies, compiles and makes distributable packages, and uploads them to Rust community's package registry. But Cargo goes beyond those functions.

Cargo standardizes the commands needed to build a program or library. Since the same command can be used to build different artifacts, it is easy to say that if you know how to build one Cargo-based project, you know how to build them all.

Differences

Philosophy

Rust and Go's language construction and usage is a reflection of their inherent philosophies.

Rust is "closer to the metal", which means it bears a strong relationship with the architecture of the machine it's running on for added control and reliability. Go has a more abstract approach, "following the natural contours of the language and the problem rather than trying to bulldoze them", as described in the Tao of Go, the de facto philosophy of this programming language.

Both are extremely effective in their intent.

Security

The major concern for any developer is security, especially for complex, large-scale applications. Go and Rust address these concerns with a different approach.

Rust compiler is very strict when it comes to validating borrow checks and other rules, which may step up the difficulty level for programmers but with the added benefit of spotting bugs and potential vulnerabilities that would not be flagged in other languages.

Go relies on automatic memory management to handle possible vulnerabilities and bugs. The main mechanisms are automatic memory allocation and automatic garbage collection. Although different in approach, these two languages prioritize the safe access and management of memory to enforce security and performance, making them perfect for cloud computing.

Installation

Rust and Go can be easily deployed thanks to their built-in management tools. To install Rust, you have to use rustup, Rust's installation manager tool. Download Rustup and run the following in your terminal (if you're on a Mac).

curl --proto '=https' --tlsv1.2 -sSf https://sh.rustup.rs | sh

Then follow the on-screen instructions. The procedures may vary according to your OS.

Go comes as an executable that can run in all the major OSs. Download, install and run; it doesn't get any easier than that.

Programming style and syntax

Built as a reaction to the complexity of programming languages like C++, Go, and Rust are functional languages. Their goal is to solve problems the best way possible for each application, in the safest, fastest way possible.

Rust focuses on absolute control, doing more with the least amount of code, a lot similar to C++ and Haskell, but it has a steeper learning curve than most languages. This complexity is both an advantage and a disadvantage since it's why it's so powerful, achieving more with less. Due to its complex syntax and semantics, Rust takes more time to code, a trade-off for better security and performance.

Go's syntax and processes are simple, with a small language core. The simplicity and conciseness of Go are some of the reasons it's so popular within large teams of programmers, having an easier learning curve than Rust.

Here's the traditional "Hello World!" command, but with a loop to print it ten times, in both languages:

Go

for i := 0; i < 10; i++ { fmt.Println("Hello") }

Rust

for _ in 0..10 { println!("Hello"); }

Notice the “0..10” syntax in Rust to create a range iterator.

Go vs Rust: When to use them

The internet loves competition, and Rust and Go are often depicted as competitors. But that is not really the case. As we've seen before, they are used simultaneously by organizations for different ends. The differences between them are their strengths when working together, and developers everywhere appreciate their effort to modernize software development across the industry by making the most of the available hardware resources.

That said, some situations are better suited for one over the other.

When to use Rust

Rust is perfect to manage machine resources for better performance when processing vast quantities of data and other CPU-intensive operations.

It is designed to provide complete hardware control so Rust programs can make the most of the maximum theoretical performance of a machine. Rust is also an excellent choice to ensure memory safety in large complex systems, guaranteeing the detection of bugs, but developers must be ready to face some complexity themselves. The strict nature of the compiler may feel a bit overwhelming but prevents from including bugs and vulnerabilities in the final code. Developers who prefer better coding to faster coding will prefer Rust anytime.

If you check these items, then Rust is probably the way to go (no pun intended):

  • Algorithm execution
  • Speed execution is more important than other considerations
  • Cloud apps, IoT, security-sensitive apps, or system components are the core of the project
  • Improved memory safety
  • Room for complex coding
  • Expanded developing time

When to use Go

Go is perfect for developing server-side applications since its goroutines can handle large amounts of concurrent, independent requests. It can also run as a microservice along with an API. It aims for simplicity instead of performance, which doesn't mean it doesn't deliver fast, reliable results. You should go with Go if:

  • you are working with large amounts concurring of data
  • A large team is involved
  • Simplicity has priority over extra features
  • Fast iteration
  • You are working with APIs, Web Apps, Data processing, and Cloud apps
  • Flexibility and speed in coding are of the essence

Takeaway

Pitting Go vs. Rust is not fair since both languages have a lot to offer by themselves and complement each other. Gophers and Rustaceans live happily side by side, knowing their differences in philosophy are valuable and applicable to different circumstances.

It all comes down to the demands and goals of each project. Rust tends to complexity and safety, making it ideal for large infrastructure projects such as those related to the Internet-of-Things or security-sensitive applications.

Go prefers simplicity, with a flexible attitude allowing for mistakes and gaps that promotes the iterative process and faster development. And its performance is not that far off from Rust's benchmark.

Either way, Rust and Go are considered the most valuable programming languages to learn in the future. And they are just starting.

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