Rust: an introduction to the cutting-edge programming language

Even though a wide variety of programming languages already exist – from C++ to Pascal, to Java – more are being developed all the time. These are supposed to be either simpler, securer or faster. The programming language Rust pursues all three objectives equally and has been very successful at it. According to a survey of users of the developer platform Stack Overflow, Rust was the most popular programming language in 2019.

What is Rust?

The Rust programming language was developed by Mozilla in 2010. The language was first pursued as a hobby project by an individual developer and then used to develop a browser engine for Firefox. The project has since become open-source and is being pursued up by an active community; however, the project still receives financial support from Mozilla.

Falling somewhere between lower-level C languages and high-abstraction languages such as Java, Rust is actually a programming language used for system programming. This type of language allows operating systems or applications – those that are closely interleaved with Windows, Linux, or macOS – to be implemented. At the same time, however, Rust is utilized at a much smaller level in the programming of web applications.

Rust language: special features

The biggest advantage of Rust in comparison with other programming languages lies in its security. This is achieved partially through error management. Should an error occur during compilation that cannot be fixed, the appropriately-named “panic!” macro is launched. This shuts down the program and provides an error notification so that no damage can arise.

Rust’s memory management is secure as well. The advantage is that Rust achieves memory safety without a garbage collector. In many programming languages, memory has been a popular point of attack for hackers. When the memory fills up, this can lead to errors in the system, and as a result, a weakness that can be exploited. A “garbage collector” ensures that unnecessary items disappear from memory. This, however, slows the speed of the code when it is run. The Rust compiler makes the “garbage collector” obsolete. Instead, it checks during compilation if there could be an error in the memory.

The strong security features, however, do not exactly come at the cost of performance. Rust is a language for system programming, like C/C++, and also provides the same speed when it is run. On the one hand that has to do with the eschewal of a “garbage collector.” Fast runtime is also ensured by “zero cost abstraction”, which means that you can have the comfort of programming in a language with high levels of abstraction without dealing with declines in performance.

This makes Rust a mix of high-level and low-level programming languages. Like C/C++, Rust is close to the hardware, which ensures high speed, while being just as easy to program as high-level languages.

Both beginners and experienced programmers can get to grips with Rust quickly. In the way it is used, the language is close to established alternatives. A big advantage, however, lies in the amount of effort that went into the design of the error notifications. Where other programming languages only display errors cryptically, Rust provides practical and helpful instructions for how one can fix them.

Tip

Rust is one of the programming languages that is strongly supported by WebAssembly. As a result, Rust is also used to develop fast applications for the web.

Rust programming: syntax basics (with example)

At a first glance, Rust’s syntax is very similar to that of C or C++, which are also system programming languages. The same basic features such as functions, loops, queries, constants, and variables are present here. Although the exact placement of brackets differs somewhat from that in some older languages, their use is similar. Rust, of course, does have some of its own features:

  • New functions are defined by the “fn” command.
  • The language works alongside macros that are characterized by an exclamation point at the end of the term.
  • Variables can be defined with “let”; so that the data can be changed, however, this must be explicitly authorized with “mut”.
  • Rust also has a special ownership feature.

In Rust syntax, ownership is the relationship of a variable to its value. The exception lies in the fact that a specific value can only belong to one variable. If the value is changed, the variable is no longer usable:

fn main() {
    let hello = String::from("Hello, world!");
    let hello1 = hello;
    println!("{}", hello);
}

This code won’t work, because the content of “hello” was transferred to “hello1” so it can’t be called up again in the macro. Instead, the new variable needs to be used in the last command, which then leads to the correct output.

fn main() {
    let hello = String::from("Hello, world!");
    let hello1 = hello;
    println!("{}", hello1);
}
Summary

As well as being simple to use, Rust offers more security and higher performance. Though it is true that the programming language isn’t groundbreaking innovative, it builds upon known and loved languages like C/C++ while offering interesting new features. It’s not hard to make the switch if you’re already familiar with other languages.


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