When and Why Use Go in Software Development
Deciding on a tech stack for your project is no small feat. You need to consider all the nuances at work with your particular business idea, and the pool of tech talent available. It's especially important when it comes to the backend: no matter how potentially helpful the product 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 why a Go backend might be an excellent choice for your project.
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 simplified development 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 backends are the perfect choice for ambitious ideas: they can handle a lot of data and the language simplifies web development processes, which is good for the project both in development and long after launch. Go is the perfect choice for complex projects such as Evergen.
Example of Go-based app, Evergen.
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
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.
Illustration of Go concurrency. Source: Medium
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 is the language of the cloud
Technologies built with Go — such as Terraform, Docker, and Kubernetes — are among the most popular tools that help teams manage and scale architectures in the cloud. This is no surprise as microservices and cloud computing are two great uses of Go. It is lightweight, compatible with a variety of architectures and operating systems, and it compiles quickly. As an example, Kubernetes has over five million lines of application code and is compiled in a couple of minutes. A similar process written in another language would take ten minutes to several hours.
Go attracts enthusiastic developers
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?
As with any programming language, some people are sceptical about using Go for backends or other purposes. Nothing in this world is perfect, and Golang too has drawbacks. In 2021, though, the commonest complaints about this language are unfounded. Let’s see why:
Complaint #1: Lack of tools
It’s true that Go used to lack frameworks and SDKs, especially in comparison with older languages. For example, there are no equals to Python as its community offers a broad set of frameworks and libraries. However, Golang offers plenty of libraries, add-ons, and other tools in 2021. And as the Golang community continues to mature, this gap is closing rapidly.
The most popular Go frameworks. Source: Medium
Today, there is a Golang library, SDK, add-on, or framework for almost any purpose. Here are just a few examples:
- Go Micro, a framework for microservice development that provides the core requirements for distributed systems.
- Gin, a set of functionalities (routing, rendering, middleware support, and more) that makes building web applications easier and faster.
- Authboss, a Go library that makes implementing authentication and authorisation in web systems easier.
- Fuzzy, a Go library to enable fast fuzzy matching of an input string to a list of target strings.
- Ginkgo, a testing package that allows expressive behaviour-driven development tests.
- Cobra, a tool to create well-structured applications command line interface (CLI) applications.
Complaint #2: No generics support
Golang is very explicit and doesn’t have generics, which means developers can’t write functions without specifying 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 recently, generics support was officially announced.
How does Go compare to other languages?
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.
In the Python vs Golang battle, Python wins 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 Node.js
Despite being different technologies, Node.js and Golang are both excellent tools to build reliable and efficient backends. Node.js is often ranked at the top of the development charts, yet Go is not behind. Each technology offers high performance, scalability, and error handling. However, Node.js lacks concurrency. Go is also unrivalled when it comes to server-side development and intensive data processing.
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 set against Rust, Go 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. In addition, lots of helpful libraries, frameworks, and add-ons to ease the work of Golang programmers have appeared recently.
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.
Runtime and memory benchmarking. Source: Stackshare
Here we go: Golang use cases
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.
For instance, recruitment network Built In's API services are all written in Go. Go has been hailed as an excellent language for backend solutions, and not only for its speed and readability. Built In points out that Golang tools — its inbuilt source formatting tool and testing framework, a great linter, lots of tools to perform static analysis, and more — are also very helpful.
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. Here are a few examples:
Uber's engineering operations have traditionally relied on Node.Js and Python, but Go is now the language of choice for new products. One example of a Golang-based Uber service is Geobase, the highest queries per second (QPS) service that matches riders and drivers.
Architecture of Geobase, a Go-based service for Uber. Source: Uber
Previously, SendGrid's backend was written in Python/Twisted, but now the company has switched to Golang. The main goal was to cope with the challenging task of sending over 500 million messages per day, and provide scalable application programming interfaces (APIs).
Usage of SendGrid API keys built with Go. Source: Medium
DropBox's switch from Python to Go resulted in performance improvements, improved stability, and faster execution speed. By using open-source Golang libraries, the company improved its caching, standard error interface, and connection management.
And the list doesn’t end there. Hundreds of startups chose Golang to build backends, microservices, and more. For instance, Google uses Go for efficient cloud infrastructure, Netflix rewrote its Rend service in Go, and Dailymotion adopted it to build Asteroid, an application for managing its Wireguard server.
Why use Golang for web and mobile app development?
From the very beginning, the Go language was designed to alleviate the work of programmers by providing benefits such as concurrency, built-in testing tools, and ease of learning. Also, most cloud providers offer SDKs for Go-based apps. 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.