January 27, 2015 Google Go or Node.js for web development? Which is better?
As little as twelve months ago is seemed a fait accompli that the modern web would be dominated by Backbone.js (maybe using Marionette), with Grunt as a task runner, Require.js and Handlebars-based templating. Yet six months later, these technologies had all apparently been replaced, if the blogosphere was anything to go by – now, it was all about Angular, Gulp and Browserify. And then suddenly this stack seems questionable too.
No one language is perfect or else everyone would be using it and I’d be writing about my favorite cat videos or pudding recipes instead. However, there are things that make Node.js a joy to develop with including modules, npm (a dream compared to Bundler and dependency hell with Ruby), the event loop, a vibrant developer community and the fact that I can bootstrap a new Express app in a matter of minutes if not seconds.
But in contrast, there are a number of usability issues that make me want to chew glass sometimes instead of use Node.js. I frequently have issues with profiling, debugging, error handling, testing and the general asynchronous nature of Node.js itself. TJ Holowaychuk, arguably the most prolific Node.js developer, said goodbye to Node.js and hello to Go last summer for a number of these same reasons.
However, these issue aren’t new and some of the core committers of Node.js are dedicated to solving them. Last December a number of the core committers to Node.js finally became fed up with Joyent’s pace of innovation and release schedule and decided to create a fork of Node.js called io.js. Hopefully everyone involved can get together, site around the campfire, resolve differences and hug it out.
We ❤ Node.js
Why I Fancy Go
Go is no holy grail. However, for our customers that build and run distributed apps in the cloud, it might be a pretty good fit. TJ outlines some compelling points:
I’m not saying Go is the absolute best language out there and that you must use it, but it’s very mature and robust for its age (roughly the same age as Node), refactoring with types is pleasant and simple, the tooling Go provides for profiling and debugging is great, and the community has very strong conventions regarding documentation, formatting, benchmarking, and API design.
Go feels “scripty” and is very easy to grok with roughly 40 pages of docs. Plus, there’s something that gives me a warm, happy feeling inside when I compile my code into a binary. Maybe it harkens back to my days writing Java where everything was statically typed and I could be fairly confident that things would just “work” and not have to worry about runtime typos.
Apparently we are not the only ones that are interested in Go as the RedMonk Programming Language Rankings for January shows a steady rise in Go’s popularity, moving from #21 to #17 displacing Visual Basic, Clojure and Groovy since the last ranking in June.
Adrian Cockcroft of Battery Ventures (and Netflix of course) stated at DockerCon last month:
“In the role I have now working in a VC firm… about 3/4 of the new stuff that we see is written in Go. It’s really started to take over as the language that new things are written in. ”
One last thing… Go may be poised for meteoric rise as version 1.4 recently added support for Android development. If Go becomes fully supported, you may see a huge increase in adoption similar to what happened to Swift’s popularity when it was unveiled. I suspect mobile developers would much rather develop Android apps with Go than with Java. But, then again, what do I know.
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