The future of Rust | InfoWorld

Despite its name, the Rust programming language has never looked so shiny and new. Way back in 2016, Stack Overflow’s annual survey of developers crowned Rust the “most loved” programming language. They voted their love again in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Presumably, when 2022 rolls around, that devotion to Rust will persist.

Not that the Rust community is resting on its laurels. No, if anything, Niko Matsakis, co-lead of the Rust programming language project; Shane Miller, chair of the Rust Foundation; and other key members of the Rust community are working hard to ensure Rust will remain beloved for years, even decades. One way they’re doing this is through the Rustacean Principles.

Although the Rustacean Principles could be dismissed as mottos to be casually discarded whenever fluffy ideals meet brutal reality, they actually function as robust guides to Rust’s long-term development.

Principled behavior for Rust

In building Rust, the Rust community has evolved the “Rustacean Principles” to balance sometimes competing development priorities. They are:

  • “Reliable: If it compiles, it works.”
  • “Performant: Idiomatic code runs efficiently.”
  • “Supportive: The language, tools, and community are here to help.”
  • “Productive: A little effort does a lot of work.”
  • “Transparent: You can predict and control low-level details.”
  • “Versatile: You can do anything with Rust.”

I said the principles are “mostly complementary” because, as Matsakis points out, “These properties are frequently in tension with one another.” What happens when making Rust reliable conflicts with making it perform well? When two principles conflict, he notes, “We tend to give the edge to those goals that come earlier in the list over those that come later.” Reliability, in other words, is more important than versatility. Even so, “while the ordering is important, it’s important to emphasize that for Rust to be successful we need to achieve all of these feelings at once.”

For those looking to the future of Rust (currently at Version 1.54, but evolving fast), the list and its order of principles offer a great guide for what to expect from the Rust community going forward. It’s perhaps worth looking at a specific example to see how this plays out in practice.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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