Google's Go is promising, but still in diapers

Experts say the new programming language will require a long-term commitment from Google to succeed

Google's Go could improve on existing programming languages by simplifying development without sacrificing application performance, but it will likely take years for Go to attain an established position that will allow it to have a noticeable impact.

Consequently, it will be crucial for Google to commit to Go for the long term, working hard at championing and strengthening it. Otherwise, the open-source Go won't fulfill its stated potential of offering the development speed of dynamic languages like Python with the robustness of compiled languages like C++.

"I'd love to see a compiled, fast language like this take off in the Web development world. Developers have been trying to speed up development time with languages and frameworks for the past four to five years -- Ruby on Rails, Django, CodeIgniter -- but have been sacrificing application performance in that pursuit," said Michael Wales, senior developer with General Dynamics Information Technology.

"Google's goal is to develop a language that is not only efficient for the developer, in terms of developing an application, but is also efficient for the computer, in processing time/memory usage, and the business processes of that application [like] security, concurrency," Wales added in an e-mail interview.

Still, Go is very much at a baby stage right now, and Google and the open-source community that gathers around the project have their work cut out for them.

"It may be five years to a decade before Go reaches a critical mass to be a durable fixture in the computing tower of Babel, to even reach, say, 10 percent of new project starts across the board," said Al Hilwa, an IDC analyst.

Gartner analyst Ray Valdes shares a similar view. Valdes forecasts that it will take at least five years for Go to take solid hold and build a stable community of developers using it.

"The main inhibiting factors are that it's totally new, it requires learning a new language and set of tools and framework, and there's very little existing code that developers can leverage to build solutions," Valdes said in a phone interview. "So it'll take some time to have an impact outside of Google."

That timetable is a turn-off for Alan Peters, principal and founder of Singlebound Creative, a digital marketing agency, and founder and CEO of Tap Riot, a mobile applications startup.

"I'll keep an eye on it because my profession requires that I understand these things. But, frankly, no: It presents too much risk for either of my businesses," he said when asked if he plans to invest his companies' time and effort on Go right now.

"Google has a very academic corporate culture that values research and experimentation. Computer Science academia likes to invent programming languages," Peters added via e-mail. "At Singlebound and Tap Riot, we're really application-focused. And the applied world just has a different way it likes to solve problems: quickly."

Wales worries that Google may not make the disciplined, deliberate commitment that Go will require in order to succeed. "Sure, they are interested in it right now, but they are probably the most scattered group of developers to ever turn a profit, jumping from project to project without getting anything to that 'perfect' point -- with the exception of Google Maps and Google Reader," Wales said. "I mean, hell, how long have we been waiting for a decent contacts manager in Gmail?"

If Google fails to give Go the necessary attention, it will be a real pity, because the new programming language holds great potential.

"They've been able to come up with a cleaner, simpler syntax that preserves most of the power of the older languages that are more complicated and they've been able to do that in a way that makes the processing time very fast," Valdes said.

"It seems they've been able to combine the productivity of a dynamic language with the performance of a compiled, more static language," he added.

Wales finds Go's syntax friendly, with a clean feel to it like Python's and Ruby on Rails', while also familiar to the syntax of C-based languages. He also likes that, as a compiled language, Go's applications run extremely fast.

Wales also has praise for Go's tools, calling them "excellent." "The compiler is fast, there is a formatter that ensures all files of an application are consistently formatted, which is great for teams releasing code to the public," Wales said.

So, what are the keys for Go to carve out a place as an established programming language?

For starters, the syntax that he likes so much could be further refined, Wales said. "The syntax is more verbose than what normal Python and Ruby developers are used to, a fault that is not easily overlooked as this is one of the main selling points for these two languages," Wales said.

Another weak point is what Wales considers Go's watered-down, object-oriented design, which he considers "a major downfall." "[Object oriented programming] is a proven concept that makes the management and maintenance of large applications significantly easier," he said.

Google could give Go a major boost by building "serious applications" with it and demonstrating how much simpler and convenient it is to build them with Go as opposed to other languages, Hilwa said in an e-mail interview.

Wales also recommends putting a stronger focus on tutorials and on reaching out to novice developers. "The current documentation and examples they've provided can only be understood by seasoned developers," he said.

Google also needs to court developers so that they build Go libraries. "Not only is this great for learning, by reviewing other's code, but it makes the language more powerful," Wales said. "History has shown that third-party support is where most languages win the battle."

Peters recommends rewarding interested developers with a lot of tender loving care. "Google is a powerful brand that holds emotional appeal to a certain class of geek. Involve that geek," Peters said. "Give that geek some interactive access with real Ph.D.s at Google and early access to experiments. Let them participate in the creation and improvement. Then you've got something better than a developer: a brand champion."

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags software developmentGoogle Go

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?