Apr 24, 2023 By Team YoungWonks *
What is Rust?
Rust is a programming language that was developed by Graydon Hoare at Mozilla Research. This programming language, being a multi-paradigm one, has its chief focus on performance and safety. Rust has a syntax which is very similar to C++, but it offers faster speed and more memory safety comparatively without garbage collection. Rust has a very efficient speed and capability of debugging code before testing. For example, it helps us develop programs that help us check for code errors at runtime. Rust is also well known for its safe concurrency capabilities.
Rust is a statically typed, multi-paradigm, high-level, general-purpose programming language. It has a very effective capability of memory management. For instance, it does not allow null or dangling pointers. Rust is thus very commonly used to build device drivers, embedded systems, games, and operating systems such as BlogOS, Redox, RustOS, Rux, and Tock. Over time, Rust has become a very well-known programming language. The chief and most important features of Rust are memory safety, memory management, speed, performance and polymorphism. Rust is an open source tool with 37.3K GitHub stars and 5.85K GitHub forks.
What is C++?
C++ is a high-level, general-purpose, compiled language that has been around since 1998. Before the initial standardization in 1998, C++ was developed by Bjarne Stroustrup at Bell Labs since 1979 as an extension of the C language. C++ has a very complex syntax because of which C++ code is used for programs that require high-speed and concurrency. Like C++ is an extension of C so it inherits many similarities but offers a bias toward embedded software and large systems.
It is known for its performance, robustness, and efficiency. C++ offers a lot of control over a system and its memory. C++ is the leading language for building operating systems like Microsoft Windows and for video game development, as several of the game development frameworks are in C++. Even though the file extension does not matter to the compiler, .cpp is the most commonly used file extension for C++ programs.
What is Rust used for?
Rust is a popular programming language used for building modern and secure applications. It provides developers with fast, reliable, and efficient solutions while being memory-safe and thread-safe. Rust can be used to build a wide range of software such as web browsers, operating systems, game engines, file systems, embedded devices, AI/ML projects and many more. Rust's focus on safety makes it perfect for creating applications with higher levels of reliability and security compared to other languages. Additionally, its performance optimization features make it one of the fastest languages out there.
What is C++ used for?
C++ is a general-purpose programming language used for a wide range of applications including video games, operating systems, web servers, software engineering and more. Unreal Engine, the most used framework for game development, is developed using C++.
Being an object-oriented language, C++ allows developers to create efficient code with greater control over memory management. C++ can be used to create highly optimized applications and improve the performance of existing ones since it compiles directly to native machine code. Additionally, its portability makes it suitable for development on multiple platforms.
Comparison between the two languages
In this section, we will first go through the similarities between these two programming languages and then we will cover the differences between them.
Similarities between Rust and C++
Here are some of the similarities between these two programming languages:
System programming languages
Both Rust and C++ are system programming languages which means that they can be used to write low level code like Operating System Kernels (Rust is considered an official language for Linux kernel development) and firmware for micro controllers. But compared to C programming language, both offer a lot of abstractions that would make it go to a high level as well. For Example: Backend development, mobile app development, game development and web applications.
No garbage collector
Neither of them uses a garbage collector to manage memory. This makes the code much more predictable, efficient and faster in many cases.
The Rust files end with the .rs extension and individual files can be compiled using the rustc command. However, as a developer, you are most likely to use the cargo package manager. Similar to Rust, C++ files also need to be compiled using the corresponding compiler in similar manner.
Differences between Rust and C++
The following are some of the differences between these two languages:
While working with C, we have observed that managing memory is difficult. Besides the cognitive overhead, we also run the risk of causing segmentation faults and undefined behaviors. This is a situation where multiple threaded processes access the same memory allocations, and there is no synchronization. This is why C++ has introduced the concept of Smart Pointers as a way to mitigate these memory related backlogs. However, despite all these improvements, the number of guarantees that C++ can offer is still very limited.
Rust has moved a step further to introduce the concept of Borrow Checkers. It is a component which is bundled within the compiler itself. It makes sure that a reference does not outlive the data they refer to. This prevents all the safety bugs including memory leaks. Rust allows for manual memory management; however, it is advisable to avoid it unless necessary.
Rich Type System
This makes it possible for Rust to prevent data races at compile time. It does so by introducing two special traits I.e., Send and Sink. These are used by a compiler to determine whether a multithreaded operation is safe or not.
- A type is Send if it is safe to send it to another thread.
- A type is Sync if it is safe to share between threads.
Send and Sync are fundamentals to Rust’s concurrency theory.
While sharing some memory between threads is possible in Rust. The compiler will stop you from building a program that does so unsafely. This prevents data races even before the program starts.
Unsafe side of Rust
So far, we have investigated the version of Rust which is safe. There is another version of Rust which is called Unsafe Rust. This another version of Rust basically gives us superpowers at the price of losing all the aforesaid safety guarantees. There are reasons for its requirement as well. Firstly, if we want to interact with the low-level aspects of the operating system or hardware. These operations are inherently unsafe. So, the safe Rust compiler, which tries to give us guarantees, is unable to do so. Thus, if we still want to execute them, we will have to explicitly tell the compiler to trust us and give up the safety guarantees and thereby enter the unsafe side of Rust.
Secondly, while analyzing the code, the compiler is very conservative. From a guarantee’s point of view, it’s much more valid to block a valid program than to make an incorrect one pass the compilation steps. Thus, there are times when we might want to bypass these checks and in order to do so, we must enter the unsafe side of Rust. Unsafe Rust and C++ are very similar. The only difference is that the Rust developers try to avoid the unsafe side as much as possible unless interfacing with the low-level aspects of the operating system or if absolutely certain that an operation is correct. This reduces the surface for memory problems. While C++ developers do not get the option to do the same.
The C++ ecosystem is huge. It is much bigger than the Rust counterpart, provided that the former has been around for multiple decades. As a result, there are many more libraries in C++ and thus it might be possible that a suitable library is not available for a specific task while working with Rust. C++ is the most widely used language in competitive programming because of its predefined standard library called Standard template library (STL).
Macro System in Rust is much more powerful and safer. Rust shapes with two kinds of Macros i.e., Declarative and Procedural. The former type is similar to the C and C++ macros with the difference that macros are hygienic. This means that they cannot interfere with variables which are out of their scope and therefore do not cause any unwanted side effects. On the other hand, Procedural Macros are completely different. These are much more powerful and complex. They can be considered as compiler plugins that receive that receive the program’s syntax tree as input, manipulates it and returns it as an enriched syntax tree as output. This makes it possible to create annotation similar to Java that enrich the code at compile time.
Based on the benchmarks in the above section, we can conclude that both programming languages have their unique advantages and disadvantages. However, the chief takeaway of this comparison would be the following key points:
Rust is likely the future of System programming. We can already see it’s proof reflecting in the fact that many big companies like Microsoft, Google and Apple are gradually integrating Rust with their products; Mozilla also used Rust to build Stylo, the CSS engine in Firefox (replacing approximately 160,000 lines of C++ with 85,000 lines of Rust code).
C++ is not going away anytime soon because of the incredibly vast amount of legacy codebase built with it. However, at the same time we cannot forget the increasing number of companies choosing Rust for new products. In my opinion, in due course of time, most C++ jobs will be used in maintaining legacy software rather than creating new products. But for now, the talent pool for C++ programmers is a thousand times bigger than Rust.
Both have very large community support and they are very active. C++ has the C++ ISO Committee while Rust has the Rust Foundation. But C++, because it has been around for a much longer time comparatively, has many more forums, open-source projects, and StackOverflow contributors.
Frequently asked questions
This section answers some frequently asked questions related to Rust and C++ programming languages.
Why Rust is so popular? Is Rust losing popularity?
Rust is a programming language that has gained tremendous popularity in recent years due to its focus on safety, speed, semantics and productivity. Rust enables developers to write highly concurrent and reliable code while remaining simple and concise. It is also backed by an involved community of passionate developers who have contributed a number of tools including cargo crates, libraries, and API documentation.
No, Rust is not losing popularity. Rust has quickly gained traction in the programming world due to its powerful combination of safety and speed. Companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Apple are integrating Rust into their products which reflects the growing demand for Rust developers. Additionally, more and more projects are being built with Rust every day which further cements its position as a go-to language for many types of programming tasks. For more information on Rust, please read our blog:
Is C and C++ same? Is Rust like C or C++?
C and C++ are both programming languages that are widely used in software development. Although they share many similarities, they are not the same. C++ is essentially an extension of C with additional features, such as object-oriented programming and exception handling. C++ also includes a number of C++ libraries that make it easier to perform common tasks, such as input/output operations, string manipulation, and mathematical computations.
In contrast, Rust is a programming language that is designed for systems programming. Rust was developed as a safer and more efficient alternative to C and C++. Like C++, Rust includes features that support object-oriented programming and generic programming, but it also includes a number of features that make it safer and more reliable. For example, Rust uses a type system that prevents null pointer errors and other common memory-related bugs. Rust also includes a number of features that make it easier to write concurrent and parallel programs.
Is Rust hard to code?
Rust language may be initially challenging for some developers due to its strictness and unique syntax and the learning curve might not be very steep. However, its benefits, such as high performance, memory safety, and concurrency, make it a compelling language to learn and use. With Rust's community and excellent documentation, developers can quickly get up to speed with the language and start writing robust and efficient code.
Are Rust developers in demand?
Rust developers are highly sought after in the tech industry due to the advanced features, excellent memory management, and increasing popularity of Rust among major tech companies. For developers seeking a challenging and rewarding career, Rust is an excellent language to learn and master.
What is the compiler?
A compiler is a critical tool for developers, allowing them to transform their human-readable source code into machine-executable code that can be executed by computers. With its ability to optimize code for specific hardware, compilers are essential for delivering high-performance software applications. Examples of popular compilers include GCC, LLVM, Clang, and Microsoft Visual C++.
Why is Rust safer than C++?
Rust is safer than C++ because it prevents data races at compile time with its ownership system, making it easier to avoid the risk of memory safety issues. Rust also has a host of powerful features like type safety and generics that allow for easier development and maintenance compared to C++. In addition, Rust provides strong compilers which employ better optimization techniques than those used in C/C++, resulting in faster and more reliable code execution overall.
Is Rust going to replace C++?
While Rust is gaining popularity and may even be considered as an alternative to C++ for certain applications, it is unlikely that Rust will completely replace C++ in the near or distant future. Rather, both languages will continue to coexist and be used for different purposes depending on their respective strengths and weaknesses.
*Contributors: Written by Pronamee Hazarika; Edited by Rohit Budania; Lead image by Shivendra Singh