Will Rust Replace C++?

5 min read

This question has been asked several times, showing that developers like yourself want to know whether Rust will replace the good old, painfully difficult to program, C++. Let’s find out, shall we?

Going with the trends

Rust programming

If I compare both Rust vs C++ on Google Trends, this is what I get. C++ beats Rust to death. Each one of C++’s troughs are like daggers piercing through Rust, pinning it down to the floor! C++ seems to have it’s own ups and downs, but it’s maintaining a pretty steady trend, over the past 5 years.

Now if I knock C++ out of the way, this is what I get,

Rust programming

That’s a pretty interesting trend there! I’d guess it’s about a 25 degree slope there. Never once has Rust seen a major dip in it’s gradual rise to fame. But what’s making it grow that well?

What Developers Love and Why

Okay, if you’re in a mood for funsies, try this out at your workplace: Assemble your team members in a room and then tell them there’s a huge project coming up. Tell them that the requirements state that it’s to be developed in Rust. You might find 78.9% of them beaming! Give it a few moments, then say you’re sorry and that you actually meant C++. Watch those smiles go right out the window! 😉

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You might wonder why I used the very odd percentage, 78.9%. Well, that’s just the percentage of developers who love Rust, as per the 2018 StackOverflow survey. Now this isn’t something that happened overnight, as Rust topped the charts even in 2017, with 73.1% respondents loving the language.

You want me to talk about C++ too? Okay, if you insist, where is it? Ahhhhh… there it is!!! C++ coming up at 4th place…. from the bottom!

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So why this great love for Rust and this not so great love for C++?

C++ is a great language, you get awesome performance, you can build super fast applications with its rich function library. You can build a wide variety of applications from GUI apps to 3D graphics, games, desktop apps, as well as hard core computer vision applications.

On the other hand, Rust is pretty fast too. It can be used just about anywhere C++ can be used. It has a superb community and most of all, it’s memory safe! Rust’s concurrency capabilities have often been hailed as being superior to C++, and developers all around are eager to get their hands on Rust for this feature! Wondering how I know? I have access to a dashboard that puts a smile on my face, everytime I check the sales of Hands-On Concurrency with Rust! 😉 You should get the book too, you know. Coming back to our discussion, Rust’s build and dependency injection tool, Cargo, is a breeze to work with.

Why Rust is a winner

When compared with C++, the main advantage of using Rust is safety. C++ doesn’t protect its own abstractions, and so, doesn’t allow programmers to protect theirs either. Rust on the other hand, does both. If you make a mistake in C++, your program will technically have no meaning, which can result in arbitrary behavior. Unlike C++, Rust protects you from such dangers, so you can instead concentrate on solving problems.

If you’re already a C++ programmer, Rust will allow you to be more effective, while allowing those with little to no low level programming experience, to create things they might not have been capable of doing before. Mozilla was very wise in creating Rust, and the reason behind it was that they wanted web developers to have a practical and efficient language at hand, should they need to write low level code. Kudos to Mozilla!

Now back to the question – Will Rust replace C++?

Should C++ really worry about Rust replacing it someday? Honestly speaking, I think it has a pretty good shot at replacing C++. Rust is much better in several aspects, like memory safety, concurrency and it lets you think more carefully about memory usage and pointers. Rust will make you a better and more efficient programmer.

The transition is already happening in various fields. In game development, for example, AAA game studio, At Dawn Studios is switching entirely to Rust, after close to 3 decades of using C++. That’s a pretty huge step, considering there might be a lot of considerations and workarounds to figure out. But if you look at the conversations on Twitter, the Rust team is delighted at this move and is willing to offer any kind of support if need be. Don’t you just want to give the Rust team a massive bear hug?

IoT is another booming field, where Rust is finding rapid adoption. Hardware makers like Tessel provide support for Rust already. In terms of security, Microsoft created an open source repo on github, for an IoT Edge Security Daemon, written entirely in Rust.

Rust seems to be doing pretty well in the GUI department too, with tools like Piston. In fact, you might also find Rust being used along with popular GUI framework, Qt.

All this shows that Rust is seriously growing in adoption. While I say it might eventually be the next C++, it’s probably going to take years for that to happen. This is mainly because entire ecosystems are built on C++ and they will continue to be. Today there are many dead programming languages whose applications still live on and breed newer generations of developers. (I’m looking at you, COBOL!)

In this world of Polyglotism, if that’s even a word, the bigger question we should be asking is how much will we benefit if both C++ and Rust are implemented together. There is definitely a strong case for C++ developers to learn Rust. The question then really is: Do you want to be a programmer working in mature industries and projects or do you want to be a code developer working at the cutting edge of technological progress?

I’ll flip the original question and pose it to you:

Will you replace C++ with Rust?

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Aaron Lazar
I'm a technology enthusiast who designs and creates learning content for IT professionals, in my role as a Category Manager at Packt. I also blog about what's trending in technology and IT. I'm a foodie, an adventure freak, a beard grower and a doggie lover.

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