When and Why You Should Go with Go(lang) for Backend Development

Anastasia Osypenko
Market Researcher

Deciding on a tech stack for your project is no small feat. You need to consider all the nuances that might be at work with your particular business idea, and the pool of tech talent available. It's especially important regarding the backend: no matter how potentially helpful the project is or how visually appealing its design, no one will appreciate it without a robust backend.

Debates over which language is best for backend development are ongoing: Java, Python, Node.js, Rust, Go, and others all have dedicated followings. But you don't choose a tech stack in a vacuum — you need to consider which language suits your particular needs best. 

In this post, we explain when Golang programming is more powerful and when to use Go or switch to it.

What’s So Special About Go?

Go is a relatively new programming language that was designed by Google’s team and released to the public in 2009. The whole point of this new language was to battle some common development drawbacks while keeping the strongest elements from other languages. Go takes static typing from С/C++ and aims for code readability similar to that of Python and JS. 

Unlike its predecessor, C, and competitor languages, Go promises development simplification and faster software. The founders’ “one problem one solution” vision translates into an intuitive language and efficient, clean code.

At MadAppGang, we believe that Golang is a perfect backend choice for ambitious ideas: it can handle a lot of data and it simplifies web development processes, which is good for the project both in development and long after launch. 

The Advantages of Golang Over Others

Go is loved by the community for a number of reasons: it appears to be faster than most other languages, has powerful error-handling patterns, and can support concurrency. All these make the language perfect for large-scale projects. Let’s learn a bit more about Golang’s advantages.

Go is faster 

To be executed, code written by developers has to be translated into machine code that processors understand. For example, JavaScript uses a language-specific virtual machine while Python requires an interpreter. Go is different because it can translate its source code to machine code in its own compiler, which makes it faster than others.

Go handles concurrent programming

There are lots of situations when programs require concurrency, which means being able to handle several tasks at once. It’s not about simultaneous processing but about switching between tasks when it makes sense, for example, when one task is blocked and waiting for user input. 

Imagine dozens of users reaching for the same item on an e-commerce website at the same time — when each adds the item to their cart, the system has to update the remaining quantity, synchronizing stock levels with the information displayed to users. Powerful hosting and development concurrency help manage such situations.

Concurrent programming is one of Go’s strongest benefits. It has Goroutines, light-weight functions that can run independently at the same time, and uses a channel-based approach to concurrency. Thanks to the minimal memory requirements, Goroutines allow for great scalability and don’t overload the CPU, while channels allow them to interact with each other. You can handle hundreds of thousands of concurrent Goroutines without complicating the development process. 

Go comes with powerful error-handling

Golang has a very specific error syntax that includes errors as values in the code. It simplifies the bug identification process, which saves development time. This feature is unique to Golang and is often perceived as strange and redundant (it has also generated many memes), but in fact, it makes error handling more explicit and easy. 

Go attracts enthusiastic developers

On a global scale, Golang isn’t among the most-used programming languages. Java, JavaScript, C++, and Python offer a bigger pool of talent: according to a 2020 StackOverflow’s survey, only 9.4 per cent of the respondents knew Go, while JS led with a whopping 69.7 per cent. However, Go tops the most-loved and most-wanted lists, which shows that more developers are expressing interest in this language and those who already use it don’t want to switch to others. 

Even though Go doesn’t have an impressive market share currently, it’s picking up steam: a 2021 software engineers report by Hired reveals that Golang experiences the highest demand with 2.3 times more interview requests. As it’s a relatively new language, it’s more exciting for engineers to master it and then contribute to its development. 

Besides growing in number, the pool of Golang programmers may represent the most enthusiastic tech talents. Speaking of switching to Go, Tim Jenkins of SendGrid notes that Go developers are more likely to learn new things and push the envelope.

What Do Critics Have to Say About Go?

Like any programming language, Go has drawbacks. Here are the commonest complaints:

  • Not enough tools. Given Go’s age, it lacks multiple frameworks and SDKs for third-party interfaces. In comparison, older languages have a broader set of frameworks and libraries. Sometimes, the lack of supported tools translates into extra code and a longer development process. This can be an issue if your project has to be launched ASAP and requires a very specific standard functionality that Golang doesn’t yet have. But generally, this isn’t a problem as the number of frameworks, plugins, IDEs, and other helpful developer tools are expanding.
  • No generics support. Golang is very explicit and doesn’t have generics, which means developers can’t write functions without specifying all the data types right away. The lack of support for generic functions can limit code reusability. However, the language is evolving according to the community’s demands and in 2020, adding generics support was officially announced.

How Does Go Compare to Other Languages?

Java, Python, and JavaScript frameworks have been dominating backend development for years, but new languages are close on their heels. Let’s reveal how Golang works similarly to other popular backend programming languages and what features make Go unique.

Golang vs Java

Both Java and Go originated from C which gives them a similar syntax: developers knowledgeable in Java can easily understand code written in Go or switch to Golang. 

Go is more old-fashioned than Java in that it’s an imperative language that builds functions out of statements, while Java leaves more to the developers, such as determining how a program’s data is created, stored, and changed. More importantly, Go was shown to be faster than Java in benchmark game experiments and other studies, for example, Toptal’s server-side I/O language ‘contest.’

Go vs Python

Unlike Go, Python is dynamically typed — it uses an interpreter to execute commands written in the code. The nature of Python makes it vulnerable to incorrect interpretation, it gives more freedom to interpret code and identify errors, while Go’s compiler checks all bugs in a unified manner. 

Python beats Golang when it comes to libraries and frameworks, which can be a great time and resource-saver, and may offer more elegant and readable code. But regards performance, Go is 40 times better than Python, which makes Go a go-to language for complex, high-traffic systems.

Golang also acts as a promising alternative to Python in AI. Thanks to Go’s code clarity and adaptability to complex calculations, it is becoming increasingly relevant when developing AI-powered applications. Moreover, the adoption of Golang for AI is rising thanks to the development of new Go libraries that serve different AI purposes. 

Go vs JS

Node.js, a JavaScript environment, is also commonly used in backend app development. Node.js has a wide community and is praised for its easy deployment, but Go performs better in terms of scalability. As we said earlier when discussing concurrency, multiple functions can be run simultaneously using Go, but Node.js offers no support for concurrency. 

Golang vs Rust

Go is often compared to Rust: both are growing in popularity and community members, praised for speed, and are often used in microservice architectures. Rust may beat Go in terms of performance metrics, but not significantly. On the other hand, Go offers a cleaner code and allows for simpler parallel programming. 

When compared to other languages, Go often lacks frameworks and other tools that can speed up the development process, but when set against Rust, Go actually offers a lot more capabilities in its standard library. For example, setting up an HTTP server requires Rust developers to do a lot of manual work, while Go developers can take advantage of the features automatically supported by the language.

Go vs Elixir

Even younger languages, like Elixir, are a somewhat popular backend choice. Just like Go, Elixir is good at concurrent programming, but Golang tends to be faster, has more mature libraries and a bigger community of developers.

Here We Go: When to Use Golang For Backend Development

Golang was envisioned and created to simplify software development, especially in complex, multi-tenant applications with a large codebase. Go’s creators saw that other languages struggled with scalability and designed a language to ease developers’ work and improve processing times. 

Engineers who share their experiences of switching to Go claim that it’s an excellent choice when it comes to codebase maintenance at scale and building functional microservices. All respondents appreciated Golang’s easy code review and deployment, as well as clear documentation.

Given its nature, Go is best suited to projects with growing user numbers and a large volume of requests. Accordingly, what Golang is used for mostly involves projects handling millions of users: Google uses Go for efficient cloud infrastructure, Netflix rewrote its Rend service in Go, and Uber adopted it to scale its geofence microservice. Apple, Facebook, BBC, Dropbox, and Soundcloud are just a few more examples of big companies that use Golang.

With that said, Golang is perfect for successful, late-stage startups or e-commerce websites with a lot of users. If your project is expanding its functionalities and increasing its traffic, consider migrating your backend to Go. On the other hand, if you want to build a minimal viable product (MVP) and validate your business idea, it’s probably not your best choice. In any case, evaluate Golang’s features before applying them to your particular idea.

If you’re not sure whether Golang suits your project, contact us and MadAppGang’s development experts will assess what language can best satisfy your business needs and help you figure out the ideal tech stack. 

If you are sure and you need skilled Go developers to build a new app, expand an existing one, or migrate a project, drop us a line and we’ll get back to you to discuss the development process. 

28 April 2021 backend development with Go