Choosing a programming language for a certain task can be tough. Certain languages are better-suited to some things than others. On the other hand, sometimes two languages may offer different approaches to getting things done but are equally appealing, just for different reasons.
If you look around the web, you’ll find a lot of reports from recent years of people switching from Python to Go. This may have you wondering how the two languages stack up against each other. They’re far from the same, but it’s easy to see why each is appealing.
Golang vs. Python: Introduction
Python is a high-level programming language created by Guido van Rossum and first released in 1991. The language is dynamically, but strongly, typed. This means you don’t need to declare that a variable is an integer. Python will ascertain that from the fact that you assign a number. If you try to concatenate a string to this number, you’ll get an error due to the strong typing.
Go was created at Google by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson and is a much newer language, making its public debut in 2012. Due to the less-than-easy searchability of the term “Go,” the language is often referred to as Golang. This is a statically typed language, so you need to declare the type of a variable before assigning to it.
Golang vs. Python: Language Features
Python is an easy-to-learn language and is often used to teach programming concepts to beginners. Part of the reason is the easy syntax, which is less reliant on symbols like semicolons than other languages. This can be a problem, too, as it can make it harder to catch syntactical errors.
Python ships with a large number of libraries that make it easy to handle basic language tasks. That said, for things like Web development, you’ll need to turn to third-party libraries like Django, unless you want to implement everything yourself.
Golang strives for simplicity, though this doesn’t necessarily make it easy for beginners. Instead, it aims to be simple in the same sense as Unix. Many of Go’s language features and tools do one thing well.
Go also ships with several libraries and may even win over Python in this regard, at least in some cases. For example, Go ships with many features for web programming built into its standard libraries, which makes sense given the language’s ties to Google.
Golang vs. Python: Performance
When comparing performance, it’s important to understand which version of Python you’re talking about. The standard version, sometimes known as CPython, is much slower than Go. That said, PyPy, an alternative implementation of Python, can be much faster. Thanks to its JIT (just in time compiler), speed can be comparable to Go.
That said, the static typing used by Golang will still make for a significant speed advantage in some cases. The languages focus on concurrency and will also give it an advantage in some cases. This is very situation-dependent, but in many cases where you’re looking for speed, you may want to opt for Go.
Golang vs. Python: Community
Because Python has been around for so long, you’ll find plenty of community support. Third-party libraries, tools, and extensions are everywhere. This includes things like SciPy for scientific computing as well as game engines and libraries like Pygame.
Go may be newer, but adoption of the language took off quickly. You may not find the sheer number of libraries, but many people are using Go, so if you run into a problem, chances are someone has already solved it.
Looking at Golang and Python, it’s tough to say that one is better than the other. If you’re looking to do some basic scripting that wouldn’t be easily handled with Bash, Python is a great option. That said, if you’re doing some Web-related work but don’t want a framework like Django, Go might be the better option. It all comes down to what your needs are.
One area where Golang wins hands-down is the toolset. Go comes with plenty of tools to help you write, debug, and format code. With Python, you might want an IDE to help with all that. If you’re not sure which to pick, take a look at our list of the best Python IDEs.