Rust and Go are two huge successes in the realm of modern programming language development. The two languages compete in terms of backend web development… and it’s a fierce competition. For example, the popular communication app Discord just started swapping out Go services for Rust to boost performance.
Both languages are new, have growing communities, and are fast and efficient. When it comes to microservice architectures, frameworks, and apps, Rust and Go are household names.
Having said that, there are a few key differences as well:
Performance metrics generally put Rust squarely ahead of Go, but not by a lot. The Rust compiler and language design allow developers to easily take advantage of optimizations that achieve speeds comparable to the likes of C. On the other hand, Go trades a small amount of speed for simplicity and elegant syntax.
Both languages claim the title of “memory-safe” but take different approaches to achieve it. Rust catches memory errors at compile-time while Go uses a garbage collector at runtime.
Rust makes use of compile-time ownership strategy through zero-cost abstractions. If a Rust program is not memory safe, it will fail to compile. To anyone who frequently deals with memory errors in C languages, this is recognized as an amazing feature. Instead of clever compiler optimizations, the Go compiler adds a small runtime to the completed executable that manages the allocation and release of memory.
While both approaches have their pros and cons, generally speaking Rust’s compiler optimizations result in more performant programs. Alternatively, Go’s application code is cleaner because memory management is fully handled by the runtime.
Concurrency is a necessity in backend applications. Some languages run in single-threaded environments which means they use some clever tricks to simulate concurrency without achieving true parallelism. Both Rust and Go have elegant solutions to build fully parallel applications, but Go takes the cake again in terms of simplicity, with the go keyword being the only syntax necessary to spin up a new thread:
As usual, there is no outright winner, the results are more nuanced than that.
Rust wins at:
- Memory usage
- Fine-tuning and control over final executable
Go wins at:
- Simple syntax
- Developer speed