Programming language Rust: 5 years on from v1.0, here's the good and the bad news

The Rust project details its successes and achievements over the past five years, but the language faces obstacles.

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The open-source project behind Rust has detailed the programming language's milestones over the past five years since releasing Rust version 1.0. 

Rust was created at Mozilla and the project boasts that today, "Apple, Amazon, Dropbox, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft [are] choosing to use Rust for its performance, reliability, and productivity in their projects."

"Rust is a general-purpose programming language empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software. Rust can be built to run anywhere in the stack, whether as the kernel for your operating system or your next web app," the project says in a blogpost detailing milestones since 2015.

Mozilla developers were using pre-1.0 Rust in 2014 to build its new Servo browser rendering engine for Firefox. A major goal was to eradicate memory-related security bugs in Firefox's Gecko rendering engine, many of which were due to C++'s "unsafe memory model". 

Then last year, Microsoft started experimenting with Rust to rewrite some Windows components that were written in C and C++ in the hope of reducing memory security bugs in Windows.      

Microsoft Azure developers recently revealed they chose Rust over Google's Go programming language to create Krustlet, a tool for cloud developers to test non-browser WebAssembly modules in Kubernetes, the popular Google-created container management system. 

An important milestone for Rust is Microsoft's release this month of a public preview of its Rust library for the Windows Runtime (WinRT) to make it easier for developers to write Windows and cross-platform apps and drivers in Rust.   

"Rust's Windows support is one of the biggest improvements these past five years," the Rust project said. 

"Now it's easier than ever to build top-quality native and cross-platform apps."

AWS has recently joined Mozilla and Microsoft Azure as a sponsor of Rust. The king-pin of cloud uses Rust for performance-sensitive components in Lambda, EC2, and S3. 

Additionally, Deno, the new server-side JavaScript runtime and potential successor to Node.js, is written in Rust and offers first-class support for TypeScript, Microsoft's extension for large-scale JavaScript projects.  

However, while Rust has become well liked by developers, the project's recent survey found developers had difficulties adopting the language and that many felt Rust came with a steep learning curve.

Google assessed using Rust for Fuchsia, the potential successor to Android, but decided not to support Rust for end-developers because none of them uses it and because in general it's not a widely used language. 

This situation was borne out in Stack Overflow's 2019 survey of 90,000 developers, where 83% said Rust was their "most-loved" language, while only 3% of respondents said they use it. But this low base could help explain Rust's rapid growth on GitHub, where Rust was the second fastest growing language behind frontrunner Dart

The Rust project also detailed some statistics to show how much Rust has grown thanks to its community of contributors: 

  • Rust has been voted 'Most Loved Programming Language' every year in the past four Stack Overflow developer surveys since it went 1.0.
  • This year alone, the project has served over 2.25 petabytes of different versions of the compiler, tooling, and documentation.
  • In the same period, the project has served over 170TB of crates to roughly 1.8 billion requests on crates.io, doubling the monthly traffic compared with last year.

More on programming language Rust

  • Programming language Rust's adoption problem: Developers reveal why more aren't using it  
  • Google programming language scorecard: How C, C++, Dart, Rust, Go rate for Fuchsia
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  • Microsoft: We're creating a new Rust-like programming language for secure coding
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  • Microsoft opens up Rust-inspired Project Verona programming language on GitHub
  • Brave defies Google's moves to cripple ad-blocking with new 69x faster Rust engine
  • How to install Rust on Linux TechRepublic