In the past decade, the two new programming languages Rust and Go, developed and emerged primarily for enterprise development. Go was created at the world-renowned Google in 2009, followed by Rust, which was created at Mozilla in 2010.
Although both these programming languages might seem similar, as they offer crucial features such as memory safety, open-source development model, and more, they differ greatly from each other.
Go is primarily designed for building web APIs (Application Programming Interface) and small services which are easily scalable, specifically with the power of goroutines.
In comparison, Rust is primarily designed to process CPU-intensive operations, like executing algorithms and an enormous amount of data. Thus, projects that consume and require high performance generally use Rust over Go.
This article will discuss the basic differences between Rust and Go and when to use which out of these two emerging and crucial programming languages.
#1 Rust vs Go: Brief Comparison and Key Differences
Let us compare Rust and Go on the basis of performance, concurrency, speed, and more to get a good gist of these programming languages. But first, let us briefly see the comparison between these two in a tabular form:
|Key Workloads||Web applications, APIs, networking, DevOps, CLI apps, Cloud apps, data processing||IoT (Internet of Things, Cloud apps, security-sensitive apps, processing engines, system components|
|Software written in language||Docker, Kubernetes, Ethereum, Hugo, Caddy, Github CLI, Drone, Terraform, Syncthing||Ripgrep, Firefox, Habitat, Deno, alagritty|
The major key differences are:
Google introduced Go as an alternative to the language C++, which was easier to code and learn. Go provides and easily allows you to use goroutines, through which you can run functions as subprocesses by simply adding the go syntax. But despite these feasible features and multicore CPU support, Rust overpowers and outperforms Go.
Rust efficiently executes algorithms and resource-intensive operations. According to the benchmarks game, Rust was 30% faster when it comes to testing the algorithms; and at least 1000% faster in the case of binary tree calculations. For memory processing and handling, Rust uses zero-cost runtime abstractions.
Therefore, in cases or for certain projects where performance is an absolute necessity, Rust is preferred over Go.
Go supports concurrency and overpowers Rust in this factor. Go’s concurrency model enables developers to deploy workloads across several CPU cores, making Go an efficient language.
In situations where you are running a web server handling API requests, Go’s goroutines allows you to run each request as a subprocess. This process significantly maximizes the efficiency, as it offloads tasks to all the available CPU cores.
In contrast, to support concurrency, Rust only has a native await/sync syntax. Thus, while Rust guarantees memory safety, the developers prefer Go when it comes to concurrency.
#3 Memory Safety
Both Go and Rust prioritizes memory safety. But for performance reasons, Go has a possibility of data races. As seen in the last point, Rust’s main key takeaway and advantage is that it offers memory safety. To enable memory-safe concurrency, Rust takes type safety. Rust’s strict compiler checks every memory address you refer to and every variable you use. This feature informs you in case of any undefined behaviour and avoids any data race conditions at their best.
It ensures that a developer won’t run in data race condition or with a buffer overflow. Despite memory safety being an essential feature of Rust, it has its own disadvantages. While writing a code, one needs to be very attentive and aware of memory allocation. It is difficult always to have your memory safety guard up.
#4 Development Speed
In certain situations, development speed is more important than program speed or performance. Go’s simplicity and directness make it a language with a speedy development process. Go has a shorter compile-time and a faster runtime. Now, even though Go offers both speed and simplicity, it comes at the cost of missing many important features. To make the Go language easier, Google has omitted many features that are found in other programming languages from Go.
Rust, on the other hand, offers more features than Go. But Rust has a longer compile time, especially for those applications that have larger dependency trees.
Therefore, if a project’s priority is the development speed and a fast development cycle, Go is a far much better choice. However, if you are not much concerned about the development speed and care more about the execution speed and memory safety, Rust is your go-to option.
#5 Developer Experience
Because Go was designed by keeping simplicity and ease of use in mind, most developers often find it a “boring language” or "straightforward language". Go’s limited set of built-in features makes it easy to learn and adopt. It is an easier alternative to the language C++, compromising on features such as memory allocation and memory safety.
Rust, in contrast, offers high memory safety features, making the codes more complex and developers less productive. The ability to pass pointers and the concept of ownership makes Rust an undesirable and unattractive option for many.
#2 When should you use Rust?
When performance matters and is a top priority, Rust is an excellent choice for developers, especially while processing and dealing with large amounts of data. Rust also gives fine-grained control over how resources are shared between threads and how threads behave.
But the downside is due to the additional complexity of memory safety; Rust slows down the development speed, resulting in a much steeper learning curve. It is important to remember that this is not necessarily a disadvantage of Rust, as it also guarantees that developers won’t come across any memory safety bugs, as the compiler compiles and checks every single data pointer. This assurance is always beneficial and comes in handy with complex systems.
Therefore, you should choose and use Rust when:
- Performance is your top priority
- You prefer memory safety over simplicity
- You prefer fine-grained control over threads
- You prefer correctness at runtime
- You prefer hardware-level code
#3 When should you use Go?
Go is the best alternative to Node.js to create web APIs, and it works great for a wide range of use cases. Go provides goroutines and its concurrency model fits perfectly with server-side applications that are meant to handle multiple independent requests.
Go also provides built-in support for HTTP (HyperText Markup Language) web protocol. It allows developers to quickly and easily develop a small API and run it as a microservice. Thus, Go is a great fit for microservices architecture and easily serves the API developer’s needs.
Thus, if you prefer syntax simplicity to performance and value development speed, Go is your option to choose.
Therefore, you should choose and use Go when:
- You care more about code reliability and simplicity
- You want high-tier execution speed
- You prefer an easy syntax and straightforward code to write a code quickly
- You wish to go for a more flexible language that supports large web developments
Whether you should choose Rust or Go for your project solely and completely depends on that project’s needs and requirements. Rust and Go have some similarities, like both are open-source and designed to support parallel computing environments and microservices architecture. Both of these programming languages optimize the available CPU cores utilization through the process of concurrency.
Whether you decide to choose Rust or Go depends on what type of application you wish to build and what are its requirements. If you wish to create APIs and web applications, you must go for Go to leverage its built-in concurrency features, supporting the microservices architecture.
Rust also allows you and helps you with designing web APIs, but it wasn’t the primary use case behind creating this programming language. Firefox’s Rust mainly focuses on memory safety, which enhances its development time and code complexity, even for a really simple and easy web API. However, if your priority is to have more control over your code, Rust should be your option. Greater control over your code also allows developers to write memory-efficient, much optimized, precise, and high performing code.
Thus, when the question comes to which out of these two programming languages is better than the other, it simply depends on the question of security vs simplicity. While some prefer Go’s simplicity, others go for Rust’s safety and security. Both of Go’s and Rust’s designs differ greatly, which is why some developers use both of these together to get simplicity, flexibility, security, and performance, all at once.