Why Rust and not Go

23 minute read Published: 2019-09-16

This is a rebuttal to Why Go and not Rust?.

HUGE DISCLAIMER

Before jumping into the discussion, let me put this first: I do write code in Rust (not professionally), I've not written something in Go yet but I keep reading about the language and its ecosystem. I also follow the Rust as a language and its ecosystem.

Second, another thing you must know about me: I've been a developer professionally for about 30 years (its no hyperbole here: I did start professionally writing code when I was 12 and didn't leave the field yet). I've written code that run in about 15 different languages, so I have strong opinions about coding after suffering with those languages.

Third, I do believe languages do not exist in a vacuum: Besides the language, you have libraries and frameworks; besides the languages and the frameworks, there is dependency control; besides dependency control, there is a community.

Fourth, if that's not really clear so far, all this is a matter of opinion -- even the original post is, although it doesn't say so.

Fifth, yes, I did take things out of order, mostly 'cause I thought some points are scattered around the original text that are complementary.

That being said...

The Nitpicking

(Those are points that just brushed me in the wrong way, but they are not major points and you can really skip this if you don't want to read a bunch of complains.)

Go is fast, but Rust is faster.

C is even faster. So what?

Go has an efficient garbage collector, but Rust has static memory management.

And so does C and C++. So what?

Go has interfaces, but Rust has traits and other zero-cost abstractions

Well, Go doesn't have interfaces per-se. Their interface is akin to Python "if it has an open(), read() and fseek(), then it's a File-like object", as far as I know. Python even changed that from the "it looks like a file-like" to using the double-dunder functions to fit the interface ("if it has a __len__() method, it is an object with a size").

Go has great support for HTTP and related protocols and it doesn't take long to write a satisfactory web service.

More satisfactory than Flask, in which you can create a service (a very dumb one, in that) with only 5 lines of code? Does it? Or is it a personal opinion?

Honestly, I haven't seen -- even with Rust -- something as dead simple as Flask, so there we have it. If you need performance, one could use Sanic, which is a uvloop powered server with a syntax that is pretty close to Flask.

So, when you say "great support" and "satisfactory" is that a fact or an opinion?

Obviously it is an opinion, as much as me saying Flask/Sanic can beat anything Go has, and neither of those are valid for anything. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

(But if I'm nitpicking, I can throw whatever language I want here.)

The creators of Go like to call it a “boring” language.

Weirdly enough, I heard the same thing about Rust. So which one is the "boriest" of them all?

This kind of call is akin to the PyPy devs saying that "PyPy is 300% faster than CPython -- for tests written specifically to prove that PyPy is 300% faster than CPython". The same thing can be said here: Go/Rust devs call their language boring 'cause they want to prove their language is boring. Neither is true -- and, weirdly enough, both are true.

One could even claim that Python is more boring that Go. 1 And Rust, by the way.

do more with less” has proven to be very successful.

Wait, are you really quoting Dennis Ritchie, in which he was defending C? C has less than Go or Rust, so maybe we should jump back to C? Is that what you mean?

In truth, none of these things alone is particularly impressive, but they do describe the mindset that Go wants to impose. Many don’t like it but, in my opinion, it’s a killer feature for some types of development, like enterprise software.

If we point that Rust does exactly what you're saying and better ("enforce" vs "you need to run something, otherwise nothing changes", which I will discuss later in this post2), then Rust kills Go in enterprise software, right?

Enterprise software always has a big scope.

Yes, and that's why we break this scope -- and some domains and everything else -- into smaller parts that connect to each other. Those are called "microservices" and one thing is that you can write them in whatever, but the scope is always a small one (for different scales of "small") but it won't be something ginourmous like a monolith, in which all the scopes exist in the same place.

(I'll make this point again later, but it is weird how the author says one can spin a Go app really fast, but then comes with the sort of points like this that make sense only for monoliths, and I'm not sure which is the real point being pointed in these cases.)

To unravel complex domains you need a well-structured process.

(And then he jumps into discussing about domains and expects and stakeholders) You know what you're talking about? A DSL. You want a DSL to is close to the experts about their domain, you want a DSL so stakeholders can understand what's going on above the code.

You want Racket. I've seen things close to this in Rust using macros (which is witchcraft to me) but I'll refrain from saying "Rust has it, and better".

The Freaking Cargo Cult

Go was created at Google to solve Google problems

This is something that we, developers, who love and hate any language need to discuss. And it comes in this other point:

As I already mentioned, Go was created to solve Google problems, and Google problems are definitely enterprise-scale problems.

You know who has Google problems? GOOGLE! You know who else has Google problems? NO ONE!

No one is a huge search engine that lives capturing peoples data to provide relevant ads (and, sometimes, search results, and shopping lists and whatever).

It's the same bullshit people claiming "Netflix has 600+ microservices using Spring, so we should use Spring for our microservices", 'cause you won't have 600+ microservices, and most probably none of them are related to providing video streaming.

It's the same bullshit people claiming "Amazon deploys a microservice every 11 seconds, so we must use microservices too!" 'cause, again, you're not a huge cloud provider with two or three different versions of the same solution.

This "Cargo Cult": The idea that if we do the same thing someone else did and it worked, it will work for us too. Enterprises everywhere run Java, for huge scales -- AWS is the first that comes to mind -- but you're not claiming Java can solve "enterprise-scale" problems, are you? The point that you're trying to make here is "worked for Google, will work for you", which is plain wrong.

And it doesn't even involve Go or Rust. You're trying to make a point by saying "They use" and that's not a point. At all.

The Plain Wrong

Go is also strict about things that other languages are usually more lax about.

Guess you never saw the borrow checker. Or the fact that Rust doesn't allow passing an u32 (unsigned int of 32 bits) as a parameter that requires an u64, even if the later is larger than the former. There is no implicit conversion in Rust and a Rust dev must explicit convert from one type to the other. That's very strict in my opinion, even if you believe this is just an annoyance.

You can't have strictness with flexibility. The are opposite points: Either the language is flexible (allowing you to use an u32 in a u64 parameter and doing the conversion to you, for example) or it's very strict (like Rust does).

Also, since you're talking about "strictness", let me ask you this: Have the Go core devs fixed this?

result, err := some_function()
return result

What is there to fix? No, it's not the "it should complain that err is never used" (I could replace err with _ and the error would still be there). It is the freaking error treatment! You can't call a language strict if, in 2019, it let this kind of stuff slip by. We learnt, in those last years, that the "not-happy" path happens more often than the happy path. And ignoring such errors is the major cause of headaches we get, and that's why we have those stupid "restart job at midnight" cronjobs or watchdogs that keep checking if the process is running and start it again if it crashes.

I can also bring the borrow checker back into this: You see, we don't talk about processor speed anymore these days, we talk about cores. The future (and the present) are multi-thread. I won't deny that launching a concurrent, multi-threaded service in Go is a lot simpler than Rust, but Go doesn't have any validation about the memory usage; it won't prevent you from doing something like sending a structure over a channel and changing that structure in the same thread. So, while Go makes it easier, Rust makes sure you're not shooting yourself in the foot in the long run -- which would require the cronjobs or watchdogs.

Go doesn’t want unused variables or imports

Neither does Rust -- it throws a large, explicative warning right in the middle of your screen -- , so what's the point of this here?

files belonging to different packages in the same directory

Hey, do you know that, in Rust, directories are packages, and so you can't put files of different packages in the different directories? In this case, Rust seem more strict than Go, doesn't it?

Go also doesn’t want any “fingerprints” in the code, so it enforces a single, universal style via go fmt.

It doesn't enforce if you have to run this. Rust also have a rustfmt, if that's your point but, besides that, the Rust compiler will complain about things that are not following the coding style. Try to name a variable in camelCase and see what the rust compiler will say.

Besides rustfmt, Python has Black (which I hate, but still); before Black, Python have flake8 and pylint, both which would "enforce" the Python style. So this is, again, a moot point.

The toolchain is very often lousy and/or dated.

You mean, projects don't have rustup, the way Rust has? Crazy!

Or even the backwards compatibility, like when Rust changed from the 2015 edition to 2018, but you could select which edition (compiler version, AST, and so on) your project would use?

The Go compiler is fast.

Ah crap, not that shit again.

The whole point is "compiler is fast, tests run faster". Well, what if I said the compiler would catch bugs before the tests? That would be even faster, 'cause then you can focus your tests on system behaviour, which is way more important than function behaviour or class/structure/module behaviour.

We are, once again, discussing Fast Test, Slow Test, aren't we? Let me write a test for every single function, every single class and oh, look how fast they run, 'cause the compiler is fast! Then we put the "integration tests" in the CI and everybody is happy.

Except you wrote tests twice when the only tests that matter are the ones that check the system behaviours.

With Go, it’s easier as a junior developer to be more productive

[Citation needed]. I know this is pretty close a nitpick and I can understand where this is going, but my guess is that, in the long run, when juniors understand why certain snippets don't compile, they can be more productive 'cause errors in their code will be caught way earlier in compilation (see point below about types and above about compiler strictness).

Also, feel free to call [Citation needed] about my point here too, 'cause we both know we are both pulling data out of our asses.

The Somewhat Right

There are a lot of junior developers

Yes, there are. Also, they are, sadly, not getting that many jobs, 'cause as this point, nobody is hiring juniors. We can go back to the point of "juniors being more productive" and say "Hey, junior dev, if you learn programming language X, you'd get a job, 'cause it's really an easy language" and I'd throw Python here and break your engine.

Sure, there may be that Go is simpler than Rust (and I'll outright say that Python is easier than Rust), but we can't say Go is easier than Rust.

If I can go into anecdote mode, I could say that I personally find Go code harder to understand than Rust, and no, it's not because I've wrote some Rust code an no code in Go; Go syntax simply does look weird to me, and one can say that is because the order of the languages I learnt. So, for me, it's harder to learn Go due its syntax than it is to learn Rust. 3 Does the same apply to junior devs? I'm not sure, but languages are not hard per-se, they may have some weird stuff, but if you describe the building blocks in order, then any language is easy to learn.

4 Also, let me point out that Rust have an "Ergonomics Working Group" (now simply called "Language Changes RFCs", which discuss ways to make the language easier to use and there is a whole "Compiler Errors Working Group" which discuss how to make the error messages in the compiler easier to understand. With all that, if you junior devs are having issues with the language, they are invited to go there and show the problems they are having with the language -- and the Rust community is really focused on that, and all they need is a Github account, instead of being part of the cabal that decides the changes. Do Go devs have an open, transparent discussion like that?

This pushes further down technological concerns such as efficiency, and even correctness. Don’t get me wrong, the business does care about correctness, but they have a different definition for it. When you’re thinking about algorithmic correctness, they are thinking about a reconciliation back-office for the operations team they keep in a country where labor is cheap.

Wait, so it is technological but it is not technological? I know, this should be in the nitpick section, but there is another important point here.

Thing is, business people do not care about reconciliation; they worry about deliveries and cheap labor and that is. Are they delivering? Are they cheap? Good, case closed. We don't care if there is a problem that will appear in 10 months or if they connection is slow between services; it works right now and we saved money right now, so the math is solid.

On the other hand, if we are talking about "technological efficiency", you've already said Rust is faster than Go, so it's more efficient (for the level of efficient I want to use to prove that Rust is better than Go -- and I'm being sarcastic here); if we are talking about "technological correctness", we can go down the rabbit hole of Rust types and that, although not close to Haskell types, it forces a good bunch of correctness in your processes. And nothing about Go types (and their correctness) is ever mentioned; wanna guess why?

Software projects quickly become huge and complex for all the wrong reasons.

I have to agree with this. Yes, software grows beyond maintainability and domains change.

On the other hand, we keep pushing microservices in those larger contexts, specially to avoid being stuck in certain domains, 'cause you can just rewrite services (yes, you can) or you break code into different services so they don't go being the maintainability barrier.

(This point is also annoying the heck out of me, with the comparison of Go being easy to spin something and then calling monolith problems. Either it is a language consistent to huge deployments, like Java, or it is a language with prospects towards simpler things, like Python. There are drawbacks in both and one can't push towards the to points without breaking everything.)

Go is much easier to learn than Java or C#.

Says who? I mean, I don't want to bring the "That's, like, your opinion, man" card again, but I guess one could find a lot more resources about Java or C# than Go.

What about Rust? I give that the language is not that easy to pick, but every working group on the Rust community writes their own book, so one could bring those juniors devs into reading the books they will need to use and be done with that.

The Go community regards as anti-patterns many abstractions regularly employed by Java / C#

And I guess Java and C# regards Go abstraction as anti-patterns too, so what's the point? Any language that has different ways to express abstractions compared to other languages, and they will call the other language abstractions "anti-patterns".

Rust will call some Java patterns anti-patterns too and I have to, once again, ask "So what?" Does this makes Rust better than Java if it does? Does it make better than Go if it calls the same Java abstractions "anti-patterns", but has better performance than Go and is more strict than Go?

Go is faster than Java

For a very small margin.

But I have to pull the "moving goalpost" card in the blog post here: "Go is simple so that all of this can hold true when confronting the average Go program with the average Java / C# program." So now we are comparing the "average" Go vs the "average" Java/C# (which, surprisingly, are nothing like the "average" Rust program). Except whatever is an "average" Go/Java/C# program is never defined, so we can keep pulling data from our asses and keep saying that the benchmark game isn't valid 'cause the examples are not "average".

And whatever I can point as "average", you will point that is not "average", right? That's what a "moving goalpost" means.

Oh, you mean, "on all the things, Go is faster". As in "it compiles faster", which we know means nothing, if it doesn't bring the strictness and correctness factors into it (let me write a very fast compiler in Bash that produces code that never runs, but it is fast!); as in "We can fix things faster", in which I can call that Rust is pretty close to Elm, in which "if it compiles, it will run without runtime exceptions", so in actuality, there are less bugs (personal observation, it actually does!).

As "average" as in what, actually? As in "whatever point I want to make about Go being better than Java/C#", for absolutely no reason?

5

Dropping All Euphemisms

There one point that, if you take the birds-eye view of both posts, is truly being discussed here: TTSIW (Time To See It Working).

I'll give it that TTSIW for Go is smaller than Rust, and that seeing something "working" is a huge step in producing serotonin in your system.

Rust, with all its checkers and rules and strictness have a larger TTSIW, which may cause the release of glucocorticoid -- the stress hormone.

So, the whole point the original post tries to make is "Go gives me serotonin".

But after you are in the field for some time, when you have to go back to the office 'cause some service is not working, when you have to stop your leisure time to find out why something is breaking... That's a glucocorticoid release larger than fighting your compiler for 2 hours. In other words: Having to deal with stupid mistakes you left behind 'cause your compiler didn't warn you about them is more stressful than the ones it warned you about, 'cause it is right there, in front of you, when you're building the system.

I had a talk with an embedded developer about a month ago. His company was replacing Go applications with Rust, simply because the thing would run for awhile and then crash because there was some lock he should've used and the compiler never told him about it. Replacing with Rust was trading the long term glucocorticoid with a short term glucocorticoid and long term serotonin.

And that's what we are talking in those two articles: Do you want a short term pleasure and a long term stress or a short term stress and long term pleasure?

The Things We Don't Talk About

There is one important piece that is never discussed: Ecosystem.

And no, ecosystem is not simply the number of libraries and packages in the package manager; it is way beyond that: It's about its community and the way the management deals with it.

And we have to talk about go dep.

go dep, the Go dependency tool, is a replacement of the dependency tool created by the community, godep, after a whole year with said community asking for a decent dependency tool, specially compared to the vendor solution. So, without every inquiring the community, the Go core devs decided they know better, made a tool and gave a big "screw you" to the community.

Not only that, but just recently the same tool decided to call home by adding a proxy on the call of every package, including your private ones. Why? No real explanation. It simply does. It's not for CDN, 'cause it is just a proxy. It's not for CDN, 'cause other it would require coordination between the package repository and the CDN and none of this is included in this change. Simply, every single install of a package will be captured by Google. For. No. Good. Reason.

Not only the situation of the core Go devs going against the wishes of the community, there was even some whisper about forking Go into a community version, so it could run with a core group that would actually listen to the community.

And Go is just one year older than Rust. And nobody is saying "Let's fork Rust" -- even if you count without boats comments about a simpler version of Rust, in which he was talking about another language that would borrow some stuff from Rust, the same way Rust borrowed some stuff from OCaml and other ML languages.

Cargo is the Rust counterpart of go dep. Cargo was born in the Rust infancy and it is evolving along the Rust compiler. All discussions about it are done in the open with the community input. Rust itself goes through the same motions -- and that could be the reason async/await is almost a whole year in the cooking, with discussions about its syntax going through iterations over the issue list.

You Have To Have a Posture

You, the reader, may now be wondering why I brought the go dep discussion into this. You may believe that discussions in the open (and taking longer than they needed) is a big turn off for you 'cause it makes things move slower.

But let me ask you this: Which one of those models follow an open source development model? Let's take Mike Hoye, from Mozilla, definition of open source: "I think that openness as a practice – not just code you can fork but the transparency and accessibility of the development process."

With that, take a step back and re-read the last point again. Which one of those are really an open project? Is the Go development transparent and accessible?

In Closing

I have to call the original post completely baloney, mostly 'cause I want this post to end in a lighter mood. I mean, there is a huge confusion of saying "Go is better than Java/C#" while what we are talking about is "Go vs Rust". The whole "Let me take a huge turn here, saying Go is better than Java/C# only to, in the end, say that Go is for Java and Rust is for C++, but I'll never compare Java vs C++ to actually make a point about Go vs Rust with their comparative other languages".

And then, when we pick the points in which the author goes straight for the "Go vs Rust" discussion, all the points are wrong or seemed more about opinion than actual facts.

So what is actually the point? That Go is better than Java and Rust is better than C++ and, thus, Go is better than Rust? 'Cause I can totally buy in the first part, but the second is bullshit.

I won't say Go is a bad language, but Go is in no way a better language than Rust, specially if we consider the future, in which more cores will be available (considering the current trends) and more threaded applications will be more common. I'll say that Rust design decisions give an edge over Go, so Go should seriously go back to the basics of error control and memory protection if it wants to be a language for the future. But being bad managed probably means it would never happen.

And those points make Go a bad option for anyone writing something serious.

But what do I meant by "badly managed"? Well, as you can see, the core devs don't seem to listen the community on the big issues (one could bring the discussion about a Try operator, which would be a minor change, compared to the dependency control, which the community said no and the core devs agreed but, again, that's a minor thing compared to dependency control tool). The go dep was a complete "ignore whatever the community built, 'cause we know better" and the Google proxy was simple a PSA, not a "let's ask the community what they think about it before doing it so" are two signs that they don't care about what the community wants and that means they can pivot the language in a way that the community doesn't want and there would be nothing one could do.

"It's just one tool, not the whole thing!", you're screaming at me. But it is a tool the community seriously wanted (the Go Evangelist inside Microsoft came to her twitter account to loudly say "Go core, fix this or I will stop promoting go inside Microsoft, 'cause it's bad right now") and they were first ignored and then pushed aside.

That's not how open source projects should move about.

You may not care about this "open source" thingy, and that's ok. You may believe that the core team knows better how Go should move forward than the people actually writing code in Go, and that's ok. But if you're an open source proponent, evangelist or admirer, there is absolutely no reason to defend Go on any accounts.

Want to bash me? Agree with any of the points? Disagree? Come talk to me on Functional Cafe.


1

Added in 2019.09.17.

2

Update in 2019.09.17, pointing that the discussion about this will come later in the post.

3

Added in 2019.09.17, to point that senior devs discussing which language is easier or harder to teach to juniors is a moot point.

4

Added in 2019.09.17, pointing that even if senior devs discussing if a language is harder or easier for juniors to understand, Rust have an open door policy for this kind of stuff.

5

Added in 2019.09.17, when I realized what we were really talking about.