Why Rust is emerging as developers’ favourite programming language

While programming languages like JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and Python remain the most commonly used languages among developers, some interesting trends have emerged over the last few years.

Stack Overflow’s 2023 Annual Developer Survey found that, although Rust is in 14th place in the list of most commonly used languages, it ranks number one as the “most admired” language, with more than 80% of developers who have used it saying they want to use it again in the next year.

“Rust is a language that generates desire to use it once you get to know it,” the report states.

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Underlying this is data from the Popularity of Programming Language Index, which is created by analysing how often language tutorials are searched on Google. It found that Rust has grown the most in the last five years, at 2.1%.

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So what is it about Rust that has developers coming back for more?

New and different

A relatively new language, Rust was developed as a personal project by a programmer working at Mozilla in 2006. Graydon Hoare was inspired to create it following a frustrating experience with a lift at his apartment block in Vancouver, of all things.

A software crash meant he had to trek up 21 flights of stairs to get home. Hoare is reported as saying, “It’s ridiculous that we computer people couldn’t even make an elevator that works without crashing!”

Aware that these sorts of issues often come down to how a program uses memory, he was inspired to write small, fast code without memory bugs. He named it Rust, after a group of fungi that are highly specialised plant pathogens. They are, he says, “over-engineered for survival.”

Rust 1.0, was released in 2015, and it has grown in popularity ever since. While the backstory makes for interesting reading, why Rust is accelerating in popularity is equally compelling.

AI driving adoption

The dramatic rise of AI is partly responsible. GitHub’s Octoverse report notes that, “Generative AI is driving a significant and global spike in individual contributors to generative AI projects with 148% year-over-year growth — and a 248% year-over-year increase in the total number of generative AI projects.”

Rust is a good choice for AI applications because it prioritises performance and memory safety without compromising on speed. It doesn’t use a garbage collector, which makes it run faster. In fact, in 2020, Discord’s engineers rewrote one of their systems in Rust and found that it now runs 10 times more swiftly.

It’s also used for a host of diverse applications such as web development, network programming, system programming, game development, and data science backends.

Huge household names use the language. Dropbox employs it to sync files to users’ computers, Cloudflare uses it to process more than 20% of all internet traffic, and Meta has used it to redesign some software that manages internal source code.

If you want to become a “rustacean,” as its practitioners affectionately call themselves, you can learn the language for free via the Rust Foundation.

While tech has experienced its fair share of layoffs in the last two years, demand for software developers remains high, and those with the right skills will always demand top salaries. The highest-paying locations include Switzerland, Norway, and Denmark, where skilled developers can earn between €80,000 to €100,000 a year.

To explore even more inspiring career opportunities, visit the House of Talent Job Board

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