There are a lot of programming languages out there. So what makes Rust so popular? Why do people choose it over languages like C, Java, or Python? We’ll explore some of the features that make Rust unique and examine the pros and cons of learning Rust.
By the end of this post, you should have a good idea of whether or not the Rust programming language is for you.
What Is Rust?
Graydon Hoare started working on Rust in 2006 as a hobby while he was an employee at Mozilla Research. Recognizing the potential of the project, the company assigned him a team of engineers, and they released the first build in 2010. Currently, the Rust Foundation is in charge of developing the language, and there are plenty of resources for future developers on the official website.
You can use Rust for various purposes, and based on its features, it is a multi-paradigm programming language. Therefore, Rust is capable of concurrent, functional, imperative, structured, and generic programming. It was designed with performance, concurrency, and type safety in mind.
Concurrency means that the Rust language can execute different parts of the code in no particular order without impairing the result. Owing to this feature, Rust can improve the speed of running programs on multi-core CPUs.
Type errors are less common with Rust since it’s a strongly and statically typed language. The notable feature of Rust is that it does not use null pointers, which most other languages rely on to indicate a lack of data.
The Rust coding language uses an ownership system for values that ensures memory safety. A unique owner is assigned to each value which can be moved between multiple owners.
That’s where Rust has similarities with C++ and its move semantics, with the addition of keeping track of values that were previously moved.
Why Is Rust So Popular Right Now?
Rust is popular as an alternative to C and C++. It’s a systems programming language that is fast, safe, and concurrent. Moreover, it’s open source and has a growing following. The Rust community welcomes newcomers, and there are plenty of resources on the project homepage.
The language was influenced by C++, Scheme, SML, Erlang, Cyclone, OCaml, and Haskell. Additionally, Rust has great tooling, which makes developing applications a breeze.
As a result, Rust is a truly safe language to use. It is also very fast. Rust compiles to native code and has low runtime overhead. This makes it well suited for performance-critical applications such as operating systems, embedded systems, games, and web browsers.
For seven years in a row, Rust has been the most popular programming language on Stack Overflow. And justifiably so! Its popularity can be attributed to its many benefits, including being an alternative to C++ with fewer memory errors.
Plans To Use Rust for the Development of the Linux Kernel
Linux creator Linus Torvalds plans to implement Rust in the Linux kernel in its upcoming releases for 2023. Within this project, Rust will be used in addition to C, making it part of this popular operating system’s core. The team previously tried to do the same with C++ but decided to give up on using it after a short period.
The idea of using Rust is to add new code that will be able to interface with the existing OS architecture rather than a complete rewrite.
A Bright Future for Rust Developers?
Other tech industry giants also plan to implement Rust in their future projects. Google is firmly behind the idea of using Rust with the Linux kernel and has already added support for the programming language to Android. Using Rust can reduce security flaws, and Microsoft is already implementing it in Windows to combat memory management bugs.
Facebook has also joined the Rust Foundation, which already has renowned members such as Google, Huawei, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Amazon Web Services.
Furthermore, Meta, Facebook's parent company, encourages anyone who wants to become a Rust developer to embark on the task. It started supporting its engineers to use Rust for backend services that require high performance.
If you are thinking of building your career with AWS, then having Rust in your arsenal can be valuable. The versatility of the language can be used for server-side architecture, among other potential applications.
We've mentioned some of Rust’s prominent features, but here's where it shines when compared with C++.
Rust elegantly solves many issues that developers have with concurrent programming and memory errors. In C++, use after free errors can occur when a program continues to use a pointer even after it's freed. Rust eliminates that issue by using a borrow checker, which is a part of the compiler that consistently checks if there are references to data that is no longer used.
This eliminates the need to use garbage collectors to free up system memory. Rust imposes a lifetime on each reference, making the programming language stand out.
Rust code can be written in two modes: Safe Rust and Unsafe Rust. The safer mode sets up restrictions on object ownership management, so you can be sure that you’ve written code that won’t break, unlike with C++.
Unsafe mode essentially unlocks more options for you, but you are required to take extra steps and ensure that the code is working properly and it’s safe.
Data Science Application
Rust coding can be advantageous when working with large and complex datasets. Rust has precise and efficient data manipulation, which can be especially important when working with high-dimensional data structures.
It focuses on safety and correctness, resulting in programs being less likely to contain bugs that could lead to incorrect results. Taken together, these properties make Rust an attractive option for data science and analysis.
Potential Downsides of Rust Programming
Remember that Rust is a relatively new programming language, unlike C and C++, which have been used since the 1970s and 1980s. As such, not many libraries are available for the language. However, because it is gaining popularity so rapidly, this is quickly changing.
Furthermore, it takes time to get used to all of Rust’s concepts and features. You also need to have a good understanding of object-oriented and systems programming before you can start using it effectively.