Rust and Go are new programming languages. Each solves problems inherent in previous programming languages such as C and C++.
And if you’re not sure which one fits your project – check out this comparison article, in which we’ll look deeper into Rust vs. Go.
By the end of the comparison, you’ll have a clear picture of what Rust and Go offer. We’ll cover their key features, pros & cons, similarities, and differences and discuss the right pick based on your requirements.
On top of all these, we’ll also argue that most teams might be able use both to power their applications, and reap benefits over sticking to just one programming language.
So, why the wait? Let’s begin.
What is Rust?
Rust is a high-level, multi-paradigm, memory-safe programming language to solve some of the problems encountered with C++. As it’s inspired by C++, it’s also statically typed and has a similar syntax to C++.
Unlike other modern programming languages, Rust focuses heavily on high-performance and secure applications. So, if you want to create a safe, yet fast app, choosing Rust is the right move.
Rust’s core design philosophy encapsulates many new ideas. These include its ownership and borrowing model, forcing developers to write bug-free code. So, you can write bug-free code as the compiler tells the programmer to fix all the issues beforehand.
Who uses Rust?
Even though Rust is a new programming language (first developed in 2006 by Graydon Horare), it has seen much success.
The first big founding block of Rust is its Rust Foundation. Many big companies, including Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Dropbox, are part of the foundation. All of these companies are using Rust in their production systems.
Rust is also popular among developers, ranking as the number-one loved language for 7 consecutive years. A few of the exciting use cases for Rust are:
- Figma’s use of Rust to improve front-end experience, and
- Coursera’s use of Rust to power web-based assignment solutions.
- Dropbox also uses Rust to improve its file synchronization engine.
Rust key features
Rust excels as a fast-performance and memory-safe programming language. It does it with the help of multiple features, including zero-cost abstraction, memory, and thread safety.
It comes with an excellent compiler that offers insights into error messages. You also get pattern matching, move semantics, and type interface.
Two key features are zero-cost abstraction and memory safety.
- Zero-cost abstraction means that Rust can offer low-level memory access while using high-level programming concepts.
- With no overhead, Rustaceans can create complex applications without worrying about performance penalties.
But, the most fascinating Rust feature is its ownership model that drives memory safe development environment. It enforces a strict rule on how memory can be allocated and accessed through borrowing models, which results in memory-safe programs.
It also offers thread safety, ensuring concurrency programs don’t run into race conditions.
What is Go?
Go (Golang or Go language) is an open-source statically typed programming language that models itself on C. In 2007, Google sought answers to improve productivity, especially around networked machines, large codebases, and multi-core.
Google kept it under its control at first, but open-sourced it after two years, in 2009. Two of the best minds, including Ken Thompson, Robert Gresemer, and Rob Pike, created the Go language.
Golang's robust standard library makes it easy to learn and build upon. It offers simplicity like Python and also something called goroutines which make it an excellent programming language for building concurrency-powered apps and services.
Golang is also a great choice for building web apps. Apart from that, it is also great for large projects and multi-core processors.
In short, Go solves multiple problems, including slow build time, uncontrolled dependencies, difficulty writing automatic tools, and cross-language development.
Who uses Go?
Many companies use Go. These include Google, Netflix, Riot Games, Uber, Twitter, Salesforce, and Paypal.
For instance, Uber uses Golang for their geofencing service. This service handles the user’s location and Uber’s service availability. Their team quickly shifted to Go as it is easy to learn and gives their geofence service a new life with 99.99% uptime and reliability.
Dropbox, a leading cloud storage company, utilizes Go to scale its systems in the most efficient way. They also shifted to Go from Python for more critical backends, improving concurrency.
Lastly, we have Riot Games — a leading video game developer company that uses Go in most of their products, including their entire backend microservice architecture.
Go key features
Golang excels as a programming language due to its unique take on many programming concepts. Some of its key features include:
Concurrency model: Go excels in concurrency. It offers a concurrency model that lets developers create concurrent operations to operate flawlessly.
The parallelism is achieved by goroutine, an independent Golang function that provides lightweight threads to concurrency.
In addition, Go also offers channels that offer bidirectional communication between goroutines. These channels can include unbuffered and buffered channels, which require present and future values for successful operations.
Lastly, it also uses WaitGroups to make the program wait to finish thread execution.
Standard library: Go has an excellent standard library with access to plenty of pre-written code for easy access and use. This allows developers to implement different features and build apps faster and more efficiently.
However, how is this different from standard libraries of other programming languages, such as Rust or Python? In this case, you can expect libraries that generally need third-party solutions.
Simple to use: Go is simple to use. It offers a simplistic language specification, enabling the team to use Go with less of a learning curve.
For example, simple rules such as making the function name UPPERCASE works wonders to improve readability while keeping everyone using the same formats for better readability.
Static typing: Go is a statically typed programming language. It means you need to tell the compiler the variable type before it starts compilation. This helps with catching errors and ensures better code readability.
Code package management: Golang offers Go Modules, a built-in package management system. As you grow, you may also add external packages. The Go package manager deals with package dependency by managing installation, updates, and removal.
Rust Pros and Cons
Just like any other programming language, Rust has its pros and cons. Let’s list them below.
Rust offers excellent performance out of the box while matching C++ performance, thanks to zero-cost abstraction. With it, developers can directly access hardware while having access to high-level paradigms.
Additionally, Rust offers LLVM optimization, HashMap APIs, and much more.
Rust requires low memory to function as it offers excellent memory control. It also doesn’t require Garbage Collector.
Rust’s compiler spits out easy-to-understand error messages.
A solid toolchain eases development workflow, powered by Cargo package manager and others.
The language supports cross-platform development.
- Rust is relatively new, which means its documentation and libraries haven’t matured yet. This can lead to developers having to adjust their Rust application to new features frequently.
- Rust’s unique approach to ensuring memory safety is not easy to implement. If you’re new to Rust, you must learn and practice how it works. This makes coding Rust apps time-consuming and unsuitable for rapid application development (RAD).
- Rust’s compiler does provide a detailed error message with explanations. But, it fails to create a stack trace which is required for effective debugging. To bypass the cons, developers can use tools such as error-chain.
- Rust’s approach of weeding out every single error means slow compile time.
Go Pros and Cons
Lets look into Golang's pros and cons:
Pros of Go
- Golang is simple to understand and use. Its simplistic approach makes it great for teams and big projects.
- Offers rich standard libraries with functionalities and features that developers would usually need third-party libraries for.
- A garbage collector for easy memory management.
- Go programming language has Google’s name attached to it
- Go comes with smart documentation
Cons of Go
- Due to its “easy-to-use” philosophy, Go can facilitate sloppy coding practices – which might end up causing performance issues down the line
- The automated garbage collector can lead to memory safety issues.
- Go is a relatively new language which means it is yet to mature in terms of tooling and some other features.
- No GUI library.
Rust vs Go Comparision
Rust and Go are relatively new programming languages that solve problems with old programming languages such as C and C++. Both are open-source and offers developers the tools to meet modern development requirement.
Below, we’ll go through their similarities and then differences. Let’s get started.
Rust vs Go Similarities
In some regards, Rust and Go are quite similar. Here's what they have in common:
Both Rust and Go are open source. If we look at history, Rust was launched with an open-source tag. It welcomes new developers and contributors to build the community.
However, the same is not true for Go.
When Go was first created in 2007, it was not open source. Google waited 2 years before making it open source in 2009.
Their open-source nature means better development experience. This way, developers can include their packages in the project and let Rust and Go’s package management handle them by automatically fetching and building the packages.
Performance-wise, Rust and Go are high-performing programming languages. They enable you to write efficient code using hardware resources directly.
Concurrency lets developers run tasks in parallel for more efficiency and scalability. Rust and Go offer concurrency models that let developers effectively build apps and solutions utilizing multi-core processors.
Teams need to look into tools that help them collaborate for a long time. In this case, both Rust and Go excel.
For example, both handle code formatting with proper tooling — Gofmt for Golang and rustfmt for Rust. Both automatically format the source code so that team members are always on the same page.
Lastly, we have code readability. Go sports excellent readability similar to Python, and Rust is just slightly behind. This improves code review time – and developers can add new features without spending too much time understanding the code.
Both Rust and Go programming languages have excellent security out of the box. For instance, any application you create using Rust or Go is completely secure from attacks such as buffer overflows, malware and brute force attacks.
This way, developers don’t have to worry about common security issues and can focus on making their applications more robust and feature-rich.
Additionally, their team works hard to address any core programming language loopholes. Finally, they offer a proper submission methodology, where their team of experts patches the security loophole as soon as possible.
However, Go and Rust each have unique ways of managing security. We’ll cover this more in detail in the “Security” section under Rust vs. Go differences.
Developers can create portable applications using Rust or Go. Both follow the “write once, compile anywhere” philosophy. Rust, for example, can work across different operating systems using LLVM compiler infrastructure.
In addition, the infrastructure is capable of running across different hardware architectures. Furthermore, Rust’s standard library offers cross-platform abstractions, making it truly portable.
Go’s portability is enhanced by self-contained runtime, not having to rely on third-party/external libraries to run the program. Just like Rust, Go offers cross-platform abstractions.
Rust vs Go Differences
In this section, we’ll look closely at Rust vs. Go differences. If you’re in a hurry, check out the Rust vs Go comparison table.
|Open-source||Open-source from the start||Golang is also open source, but Google kept it closed for the first two years|
|Popularity||Rust is still growing. As of now, it's behind Golang in popularity||Go is more popular than Rust|
|Learning Curve||Rust is hard to learn. That’s because it’s statically typed and requires learning completely new, complex concepts, making it not ideal for beginners. However, once learned, it can lead to better productivity.||Golang thrives on its easy to use approach. It makes it ideal for big projects and teams.|
|Performance||Rust offers excellent performance and beats Go in almost every aspect.||Golang is also good at performance, but is not quite as fast as Rust.|
|Concurrency||Rust’s support for concurrency is not yet fully developed. However, it can be used to write concurrent apps and solutions.||Go uses goroutines to implement concurrency. It is an effective model and performs great when working with multi-core processors.|
|Memory management and safety||Rust uses no garbage collector and requires developers to follow a rigorous development path.||Go uses garbage collector and thus carries some overhead.|
|Updates||Rust is frequently updated and may require developers to adapt to the changes, making project development and maintenance time-consuming||Golang is a mature programming language and is rarely updated.|
Undoubtedly, Go is more popular than Rust because Golang was released earlier. This means Go had more time to build a community, related frameworks, libraries, and documentation. It’s backed by the power of Google’s name and its open source status.
If we look at numbers, Go beats Rust by just around 1.8% (11.15% vs. 9.32% in favor of Go) in the most popular technologies. However, Rust has stayed at the top of the most loved programming language for the past 7 years.
According to the TIOBE Index for April 2023, Go is in the 10th position, whereas Rust is in the 19th. The index is a pointer for getting an idea of what’s happening in the world of programming languages from the usage perspective, and they can use it to make strategic decisions.
As Go values simplicity and a conventional approach, there’s an easy learning curve with the language. This makes it great for teams to pick up Golang quickly and start working on large codebases without feeling bogged down.
Its standard library enriches the Go ecosystem. You can pick the libraries you need and jump into your project.
Rust, on the other hand, has a steep learning curve. It's because it follows a different philosophy than Go.
Rust aims to give programmers the tools to create secure and bug-free code. To achieve this, Rust introduces many new concepts and models, including the ownership and borrowing model that requires programmers to think about stack and heap.
All of these need a lot of time to learn and perfect before programmers become confident to use Rust at the production level. However, once known, Rust can become easier to implement, resulting in a high-performance, secure, and bug-free application.
Performance is one of the most significant talking points between Rust and Go difference. Considering that both Rust and Golang offer high performance, it is essential to know which one is faster and by how much.
If you check the publicly available Rust versus Go benchmark, you’ll notice that Rust is faster than Go in most scenarios.
On top of that, Rust offers a robust model for developers who want to create fast applications that are also predictable. It gives developers complete control of hardware and reaches maximum performance with reliability.
Go also offers high performance but is created for faster development time, which ends up producing a speed deficit compared to Rust programming language.
Both Rust and Golang support concurrency. Go has complete concurrency support, whereas Rust’s concurrency is still under active development.
Go implements concurrency with its goroutines. Therefore, it is an excellent alternative to operating system threads as these goroutines threads. These threads can execute Go functions separately and map them to the OS threads. In addition, these threads can safely share data through Go channels.
This approach of complete control over lines gives Go developers full control over its execution and behavior.
So, if you’re building a scalable app that utilizes hardware’s multi-core capacity, then Go is a perfect choice. Golang also fits into high-scale applications. For example, you can use it to build and manage microservices.
Rust’s concurrency model is different as it takes advantage of its ownership and type systems. As the Rust compiler looks for memory issues, most concurrency problems are solved at compile-time. Rust names its approach fearless concurrency, where your code is free from subtle bugs and easy to refactor.
Rust uses message-passing concurrency, creating channels between threads to send and receive messages. It also has Shared-state concurrency, Sync, and Send traits for easy concurrency management.
Overall, you can implement concurrency in both Rust and Go. However, if you want
a straightforward approach with excellent concurrency support, Golang comes out ahead.
Memory Management and Safety
Golang uses a garbage collector to manage memory. This means it takes time for the data to get released. It is optimized but does come with some overhead. However, Go’s garbage collector runs periodically.
Rust, on the other hand, doesn’t use any garbage collector. Its approach is rigorous, and it requires the developer to take control of memory management. It would help if you did proper compiler checks to avoid data race conditions, making it very challenging, at least initially.
Rust is a new programming language that gets a lot of updates. These can be security or feature updates. Rust’s release cycle is set to 6 weeks, but that doesn’t guarantee new features, as some features can take years to develop before being released.
On average, you can expect anywhere between 10-15 updates per year. This is great for the future of Rust language but can become a headache for developers trying to keep up. It means constantly looking to adjust their application code and the need to learn new things.
Go, on the other hand, aims to offer a stable experience. It is now almost 15 years old and requires less frequent updates. Go receives two updates on average every year, which is way fewer compared to Rust.
Which one should you learn?
You should choose Rust if:
- you want to create a high-performance application that don’t run into race conditions
- you’re writing an operating system or hardware-level code
- you’re working on memory-safe feature
- you want to create a codebase that is easily maintainable
- you want to have complete control over concurrency threads
- you’re looking to build zero-cost abstraction solutions
You should choose Go if:
- your team wants to pick up a programming language that is easy to learn and work with, individually or as a team.
- you want to take advantage of multi-core modern processors
- you’re building scalable solutions
- you’re building a solution for simplicity and readability
- you want easy syntax
- you want a flexible web development programming language
When to use?
These are the use cases or scenarios for Rust or Go:
- Programming microcontrollers
- Systems programming
- Building server-side applications, microservices, or network programming
- Creating Web APIs
- Web development
- Databases development
Rust vs. Go — a fight of modern programming languages where you’re the only winner. As a programmer, team, manager, or developer, your job is to pick a programming language that fits your requirements. That’s why it doesn’t matter if Rust is better than Go or Go is better than Rust.
If you’ve been following along, you’ll have noticed that Rust and Golang have common grounds, be it performance, memory safety, concurrency, and their open source nature. However, there are differences in how each programming language achieves its goals.
Undoubtedly, picking Rust can be a challenging decision. But nothing can beat Rust if you’re creating a high-performance app where memory safety is crucial, with complete control over threads and hardware interaction.
Similarly, Go lends itself for use in big teams – with similar features to Rust, while offering simplicity, ease of learning, and an excellent standard library.
So, which one are you picking for your project? Comment below and let us know.