Mozilla backed Rust programming language stable version 1.o released, offers a fascinating mix of native code performance and safe programming
Most of the new programming languages that come and go remain nothing more than niche innovation or academic toys. Mozilla, who is responsible for the funding of the development of Rust, may be one of the exceptions. Today, the new language reached the 1.0 milestone reaching the point at which its feature set has become stable. Developers can now start using it without worrying too much about their code getting broken by a major change.
Rust is an effort to offer the control and performance of a language like C or C++, while making it much difficult to write the kind of security-compromising bugs that are ample in those languages. The language’s handling of memory and memory management is the key to this.
Many developer mistakes and the security issues they cause are protected by these techniques; however, they can come at a price. Garbage collection has a tendency to increase memory usage and can bring some discrepancies in program performance. While using old C or C++ libraries often issues are introduced mostly needed because many of the existing code use these languages. Hence, special attention has to be given when mixing and matching.
Rust uses a very different method. It takes native code for high performance and performs bounds checks to provide some of its safety. However, it doesn’t rely on garbage collection to guard against misuse of memory. It uses a concept of compiler-tracked memory ownership and object lifetimes instead. Objects allotted in memory can only have one owner although ownership can be “borrowed” to let objects be moved to functions. Rust makes sure that the owners of objects have lifespan that are at least as long as the objects themselves.
These decisions make sure that many of the typical C errors such as – freeing memory while other code is trying to use that memory – can’t happen in Rust. The language also includes in-built concurrency features, powerful macros and support for generics.
These features should allow Rust to be competitive in terms of memory usage and performance with C and C++, without the same exposure to security errors. Similar features were offered by other languages too; however, they have been nothing more than academic novelties. The backing by Mozilla is what makes Rust different from others. Mozilla is establishing an experimental, parallel browser engine in Rust called Servo, along with other elements such as a Rust-based URL parser for the network stack.
While the Rust URL parser may not find its way into Firefox any time soon, although a request to optionally include the same was recently opened. They meant that Rust, which is exclusive among niche languages, has a big and important software project that could one day use some amount of Rust code. Combined with a striking feature set, this is a language that may end up finding some real-world success.