What is Golang? A Guide to the Go Programming Language

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Have you ever struggled with a complex programming language that just isn’t efficient enough to meet your needs?

If you have been using languages like Java or Python, you will understand the issues that can arise from verbosity and performance limitations. Many developers have encountered the same problems.

Golang, or the Go programming language as it is sometimes called, is an open source programming language co-created by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson that has a great balance between simplicity and performance.

Overview of Golang, mentioning its creators, public release in 2012, announcement in 2007 by Google, and strengths in simplicity and high performance.
Get an overview of Golang, including its history, creators, release dates, and strengths in simplicity and high performance.

A relatively new programming language, Go was announced by Google in 2007 and released publicly in 2012, quickly gaining traction for its efficiency and ease of use.

Let’s look at exactly what the Go or Golang programming language is used for and what makes it so great for both beginners and seasoned developers focusing on web development and microservices.

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What is Golang and How Does it Differ from Other Programming Languages?

Key Features and Characteristics of Golang

There are a couple of different noteworthy features of the Go language.

Key features of Golang including simplicity, high performance, concurrency, garbage collection, and robust standard library.
Discover the key features of Golang, including simplicity, high performance, concurrency, garbage collection, and a robust standard library.

First is its simplicity. Go has very straightforward syntax which makes it ideal for beginners and for avoiding bugs. It also has a very high performance as a statically typed and compiled language.

The concurrency model, based on goroutines and channels, is one of the most standout features. This lets developers write programs that can perform multiple tasks at the same time; this makes Go ideal for modern multi-core processors.

Go also includes a garbage collector. This manages memory allocation and deallocation automatically, preventing memory leaks and other issues.

Lastly, Go’s standard library is quite robust and provides a range of functionalities. This includes everything from web servers to cryptography, allowing you to build applications without needing to rely on external dependencies extensively.

Comparison of Golang with Python and Java

There are several things that distinguish Go from Python and Java. Let’s compare Go vs other programming languages.

Comparison of Go, Python, and Java in terms of syntax and readability, performance, concurrency, and ecosystem and libraries.
Compare Go with Python and Java in syntax, performance, concurrency, and ecosystem to understand their unique strengths.

When it comes to syntax and readability, Python is renowned. This makes it a great programming language for beginners. Go is simple compared to other languages but uses a more traditional syntax reminiscent of the C programming language.

This can be a bit more verbose, but it is still easy to learn and understandable. Java, on the other hand, is renowned for being very verbose and needs more boilerplate code.

Regarding performance, Go and Java are both compiled languages. This means that they have an edge over interpreted languages or dynamically typed languages like Python.

With Go’s lightweight goroutines and efficient memory management, performance—a lot can go right compared to Java’s thread-based model, which can result in poorer performance for concurrent applications.

Go’s built-in support for concurrency is more straightforward and far less error-prone than Java, with its thread-based concurrency, and Python, with its Global Interpreter Lock (GIL).

Lastly, when considering ecosystems and libraries, Python boasts an especially large selection in fields like data science and machine learning. Java also has a rich set of libraries and a mature ecosystem, particularly for enterprise applications.

Go’s ecosystem is still growing very rapidly.

There is also strong support for developers who use Go in web development, cloud services, and microservices. However, Go’s ecosystem and libraries may not yet match those of older, more established typed languages like Java and C.

Understanding Golang’s Syntax and Structure

Let’s look at Go’s syntax. Go was designed to be simple and efficient, which is reflected in its structure. Keep in mind that this will only be the basics.

Every Go program starts with a package declaration. The ‘main’ package is special as it defines an executable program. You can also use other packages, which will result in a library.

Go uses the ‘import’ keyword to include dependencies. This can be from a standard library or even from an external source.

Then there are functions. The ‘main’ function is used as an entry point. All functions are defined using the ‘func’ keyword.

Then, there are variables, which you can declare using the ‘var’ keyword. There is also a shorthand available, and ‘:=’ can be used within functions.

Go also supports standard control structures like ‘if,’ ‘for,’ and ‘switch,’ but if you are used to using ‘while’ to create a loop, you will need to get used to using ‘for’ instead.

Go also supports some aspects of functional programming, such as first-class functions, higher-order functions, and closures. These features allow developers to write more modular and concise code.

Concurrency, as mentioned above, is one of the main reasons why Go is used. This is done through Goroutines, which are lightweight threads managed by the Go runtime.

There is much more to Go than this, but by exploring the basics, you should get a pretty good idea of the syntax and structure of Go.

Should I Learn Go?

This open-source language is a great choice of programming language to add to your skill set, whether you are a beginner who wants to learn your first language or you are a seasoned developer.

Go is particularly suitable for you if you are working on scalable, high-performance applications. The versatile programming language is designed for exactly the environment you will encounter and can help you streamline your development processes.

Getting Started with Go or Golang: The Basics You Need to Know

Setting Up Your Environment for Go Development

Before you can run Go, you will need to understand the basic setup.

First, Download and install Go. You can find it on the official Go website. This should be fairly straightforward if you follow the installation instructions specific to your platform (Windows, macOS, or Linux.)

Once this is done, you can set up your workspace by creating a directory for your projects. Go uses the ‘GOPATH’ environment variable by default to find the location of your workspace.

In your workspace, you should create three subdirectories. One for source code, one for packaged objects, and one for compiled binaries. I recommend that you name these ‘src,’ ‘pkg,’ and ‘bin.’

To ensure that you have set your directory up correctly and that there have been no errors in the installation process, you should run a simple program like printing ‘Hello, World!’

Then, I recommend installing an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) or editor with Go support. This is not necessary, but it can help you to be more productive and make the process smoother. Great options are Visual Studio Code, GoLand, and Sublime Text.

Introduction to Concurrent Programming in Golang

One of the biggest reasons why developers use Go is its concurrent programming.

This concurrency through goroutines and channels allows you to perform multiple tasks at the same time, which is very important for keeping your applications efficient and responsive.

Goroutines are lightweight threads. They are easy to create and have a very low overhead.

To start a goroutine, you need to use the ‘go’ keywords and then a function call.

A channel provides a way for goroutines to communicate with each other so that they can synchronize their execution, send, and receive values.

To create a channel, you need to use the ‘make’ function and the ‘<-‘ operator.

Exploring the Standard Library of Golang

Go’s standard library is quite extensive and can be used for a variety of tasks. But some packages will be more useful to you than others.

The ‘fmt’ package is used for formatted I/O operations, like printing to the console and reading input.

Another one that you will use a lot is the ‘net/http’ package, which provides HTTP client and server implementations. This makes it easy to build web apps and APIs.

The ‘os’ package will give platform-independent interfaces to your operating system functionality. This includes things like file and process management.

the ‘encoding/json’ package is quite self-explanatory. As the package name suggests, it is used to encode and decode JSON data.

Depending on exactly how you are using Go to create your web services, you will also encounter many more.

Using Golang for Web Development and Microservices

Building Web Applications and APIs with Golang

Go offers its standard library, as mentioned above, as well as numerous frameworks that can help you build web applications and APIs with ease.

We’ve already covered the ‘net/http’ package, which provides essential HTTP client and server implementations.

To build RESTful APIs and more complex applications, you will probably need to use frameworks like Gin or Echo, which give you additional functionality.

Gin, in particular, offers features like routing, middleware, and more, making it a popular choice with many Go developers.

Implementing Microservices Architecture with Golang

Microservices architecture involves breaking down a large app into much smaller but still independent services. These will then communicate with one another.

To create microservices with Go, you can develop each as a separate application, handling a specific piece of functionality. These separate applications then communicate with one another through HTTP or gRPC.

APIs or gRPC are a good option for inter-service communication. gRPC is a highly efficient framework developed by Google. Microservices written in Go benefit from its lightweight concurrency model and efficient execution.

Integrating Golang into Cloud-based Services

Go is supported by all of the major cloud providers. This means that you can easily deploy your apps and scale them later.

You can integrate Go with a cloud-based service in multiple different ways.

The first is to use Docker to containerize your application. I highly recommend doing this, as it allows for consistent deployment and easy scalability.

The second way is to use Kubernetes. This will provide an orchestration laying for deploying your containerized applications and then managing them.

You could also leverage cloud-specific services. These include AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Pub/Sub, and Azure Cosmos DB. These all have different functionalities like serverless computing, messaging, and scalability, respectively.

Advanced Concepts and Applications in Golang

Utilizing Golang for Data Science and System Programming

Go is one of the many languages that can be used for data science. Although it is not the most popular, it offers several different advantages.

Go code used for things like data processing provides incredible speed and concurrency that allows you to process large datasets efficiently. The ‘gonum’ library provides functionalities for linear algebra, data manipulation, and more.

Also, Go is built in such a way that it is ideal for system programming tasks like building operating system components, network tools, and performance-critical applications.

Deploying Golang Applications on Docker and Kubernetes

We’ve already touched on containerization and orchestration using Docker and Kubernetes.

Containerization and orchestration are essential for modern application deployment. Go applications are well-suited for these environments due to their compact binaries and minimal dependencies.

To get started with Docker, you need to create a Dockerfile that specifies the environment and dependencies your Go application requires.

Once you have your Dockerfile, you can build and run your Docker image, making it easy to deploy your application anywhere Docker is supported.

Deploying Go applications on Kubernetes involves creating a deployment configuration that specifies the desired state of your application, including the number of replicas, container images, and other settings.

Kubernetes manages these deployments, ensuring high availability and scalability.

Both of these may have a slight learning curve right at the start, but once you grasp the concepts and use them to containerize your Go code, you will be glad that you have done it.

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Exploring the Role of Golang in Concurrent Programming

We have already covered the basics of using Go in concurrent programming. As a reminder, you can do this by using goroutines and channels.

Goroutines are easy to create using the command line with the ‘go’ keyword. While channels are created using the ‘make’ function.

You should also know how to use the ‘select’ statement. This will allow you to wait on multiple channel operations and handle concurrent tasks more easily.

Developers will often share tutorials on how to use these, and much more, on platforms like Twitch. You can even find live coding sessions that you can participate in to help you master other aspects of concurrent programming.

Final thoughts

Now that we’ve covered the basics of the Go programming language, you should be able to get started writing your first lines of code.

Golang offers a wide array of features and is a powerful tool for web development, microservices, system programming, or deploying applications in the cloud. 

Its simplicity and the extensive Go community make it a great place to start if you are learning how to program for the first time.

But its efficiency also makes it an invaluable tool for software developers with some experience who are building highly scalable apps. With its growing popularity, you will find a use for the language in many situations.

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With over 10 years of experience in software outsourcing, Alex has assisted in building high-performance teams before co-founding Trio with his partner Daniel. Today he enjoys helping people hire the best software developers from Latin America and writing great content on how to do that!
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