With over 250 different programming languages currently being used by developers around the world it can be difficult to know which discipline will be the most sought-after in two, five or even ten years’ time. For our broader perspective on the best programming languages, check out The Top 10 Programming Languages of All Time.
Relative newcomer, “Go”, also referred to as “Go Language” or “Golang” because of its domain name, is one of the fastest growing programming languages in the software industry. Its speed, simplicity, and reliability in complex architecture make it the perfect choice for all kinds of developers. Stack Overflow states, “You can easily replace your scripting languages with Go and your compiled languages will definitely get a run for their money when stacked against Go solutions.” With these kinds of benefits, it’s definitely worth investigating.
WE ARE GO FOR LAUNCH
Developed in 2007 by tech giant, Google, Golang was first released to the public in 2012 as an alternative to C++ and Java for cross-platform app developers. It’s experienced a massive surge in popularity with programmers around the world. It’s a robust, easy-to-learn and fast language trusted by tech heavyweights Dropbox, Docker, Facebook, Netflix, Uber and Twitter. We believe there are 5 major reasons for Go’s future success.
1. EASY LEARNING CURVE
For many new coders, Golang programming is their first exposure to a statically typed programming language; encouraged by the fact that the language fundamentals of Go can be learned in a single evening. Naturally, that wouldn’t make you a pro just yet – you’ll need to understand the standard library, best coding practices and more specific, niche areas, but the basics can be learned quickly.
In fact, many instructors claim that they can teach students who have never programmed before in their lives to confidently code a simple HTTP server, or a command-line app within two hours.
For programmers coming from other coding languages, Go is probably closest related to C but has the added perks of garbage collection, structural typing, and CSP-style concurrency, which we will cover later.
Developed by Google, Golang sets an industry standard for documentation. With clear, easy-to-understand language, the fundamentals are well defined for those trying to learn Golang. The Go Programming Language Blog also provides an invaluable resource for coders who want to advance their understanding.
2. SIMPLICTY & SPEED
Golang is a minimalist programming language. For the most part, that’s a good thing. The core language consists of a few simple, orthogonal features that can be combined in a relatively small number of ways. This makes it easier to learn the language, and to read and write programs.
There’s no generics, no templates and no separate runtime libraries. Golang can produce a single executable code that can be copied without breaking dependencies.
Golang provides some exciting speed benefits too. As Go is compiled to machine code, it will naturally outperform languages that are interpreted or have virtual runtimes. Not only is the resulting executable compiled really fast, but the binary ends up being surprisingly small.
This makes Golang really fast – to learn, write, compile and to execute.
We already spoke about how seriously Go takes its code documentation. But it’s taken a step further when it comes to creating your own documentation from code. GoDoc is a static code analyzing tool that creates beautiful documentation pages straight out of your code without the use of any extra languages, like JavaDoc, PHPDoc, or JSDoc to annotate constructions. Just English.
It uses as much information as it can get from your code to outline, structure, and format the documentation. And it’s loaded with advanced features including cross-references, code samples, and direct links to your version control system repository.
3. PACKAGE SYSTEMS
For those yet to learn Golang, packages may be familiar to you if you have a background in Java or you’ve struggled to find a reliable package manager in C/C++ in the past.
For everyone else, in basic terms, a package is just a directory inside your program to store source files, dependencies or even other packages. These packages offer clear code separation and allow efficient management of dependencies.
The package mechanism is perhaps the single most well-designed feature of the language, and certainly one of the most overlooked benefits of leaning Golang.
4. MULTITHREADING AND CONCURRENCY
Legacy programming languages face an increasingly difficult resourcing issue as hardware continues to become more sophisticated over time. Traditionally, manufacturers just add more cores to the system to ensure better performance. For every core added, the system needs to maintain more database connections through microservices, manage growing numbers of queues and maintain caches.
The hardware of today requires a programming language that can support concurrency, and that has future scalability for the multi-core systems of the future.
While the majority of programming languages slow down during the processing of multiple threads, Golang’s concurrent execution means that programming, compiling and execution are all done substantially faster.
Go benefits from being developed during a time when multi-core systems were becoming increasingly popular and widely available across sophisticated hardware. Particular attention was therefore placed on supporting concurrency, developing ‘goroutines’ as opposed to threads – allowing the language to simultaneously process a massive number of tasks at a time in a model called CSP (Communicating Sequential Processes). Instead of locking variables to share memory, Golang allows you to communicate the value stored in your variable from one thread to another.
5. INBUILT TESTING AND PROFILING FRAMEWORK
To combat this pain-point, Golang comes with a built-in testing tool designed for simplicity and efficiency. It provides you the simplest API possible, and makes minimum assumptions. It can be utilized for different kinds of testing, profiling, even to provide executable code examples. It can also support advanced testing features like parallel testing, skip config and many more.
ARE THERE ANY DRAWBACKS?
No programming language is perfect, despite the fiercest debates from programming diehards. Despite its powerful features, Golang does receive a fair amount of criticism for limitations and architecture which can, in certain circumstances, cause some issues.
Let’s discuss a few of Golang’s disadvantages.
We know simplicity was touted as one of Golang’s positives, but unfortunately, this programming language suffers from a lack of versatility as a result. While other languages may be more difficult to learn, they offer complex abstractions that allows coders to achieve complex, unique and creative results with less.
2. NO VM SUPPORT
Google consciously steered Golang away from virtual machine-base development. While this provided benefits within ease of use, it has some significant drawbacks.
VMs offer more efficient code, and that means that Golang file sizes often dwarf those of competing programming languages. While Google has slowly been improving the efficiency of the language in the past few years, you can still expect more complex programs written with Go to quickly chew through your memory resources.
3. ERROR HANDLING COULD BE BETTER
In Go, all errors are values. Because of this, a fair number of functions end up returning an error. This can cause problems where the source of the error is lost which leads to missing useful error handling logic. Golang programmers need to write excessive error handling code to notify of specific fault conditions of errors are lost. When code is centered around simplicity and repeated code reduction, this can be a problem
4. ISSUES WITH iOS DEVELOPMENT
This “drawback” depends on who you speak to. But any quick check of iOS dev troubleshooting forums will show a slew of frustrated programmers who are struggling with queries about iOS application development using Golang. This will likely be less of a concern as Golang matures, but as it stands, a lot of cross-platform developers are switching to C# (on Xamarin) to roll out iOS and Android apps.
5. RUNTIME SAFETY CONCERNS
Compared to many programming languages, Golang is relatively safe but it doesn’t nearly deliver the level of safety that languages like Rust offer, for example. However, this vulnerability only exists during compilation and to a certain extent, runtime.
6. NO GUI LIBRARY
While Golang is a favourite for developers creating single-page apps, it unfortunately has no GUI library which means you’ll need to connect a library instead of using native solutions available in languages such as Python or Java.
7. IT’S A YOUNG LANGUAGE
Another feature that is both a blessing and a curse for this fast-emerging programming language is its age. At just 8 years old, Golang doesn’t have the maturity and user-experience that many other established languages have. Golang’s native library may be smartly designed and efficient, but it’s competing with languages like Java that come supported by a huge collection of built-in code and a thriving industry of new libraries created by an enthusiastic and engaged community. While Go may eventually catch up with its peers, it still has a long way to go in terms of library support.
We may have picked 7 “disadvantages” commonly reported by people learning or developing Golang, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they outweigh the pros of this powerful programming language.
The demand for Golang programming is growing as it becomes more widely-used in cross-platform, resource-hungry applications. As of Dec 15, 2020, based on recent job postings, the average annual pay for a Golang Developer in the United States was $128,736 a year. This rate has seen a slow but steady increase over the past 4 years, even despite global conditions.
There’s plenty of reasons to be excited about the future of this robust coding language, and even more reasons to learn Golang programming before the expected surge in demand.