Counterpoint

Are you missing out by passing on Go?

Lucy Carey
GO2

In an interview with Business Insider, Iron.io CTO Travis Reeder revealed why he thinks Go could supplant Java. Here’s our two cents.

Although Google set the collective antennae of the developer community tingling when it announced the launch of its new programming language back in November 2009, it remains to be seen whether it will truly become as ubiquitous as the company that unleashed it on the open source scene.

The first big hitters to back Go were Iron.io, which offers a “messaging” cloud service for app developers which helps apps talk to each other, and in an interview published in Business Insider this week, Iron.io CTO and Co-founder Travis Reeder emphasised his belief that one day Go could supplant Java in popularity. With backing from fellow Wunderkinds Career Builder and The Motley Fool, it’s not lacking in early adoption. But will it ever really be big enough to take on the mighty Java? JAXenter examines the case.

First off, given the animosity between Oracle and Google, from a superficial business perspective, some may have interpreted Google’s decision to pioneer its own code as a slap in the face to Oracle. But it’s not as simple as petty one upmanship. For almost three decades, Java and C++ have dominated the sector. Over the past five years however, the growing need for concurrency and incorporation of big data means that they are no longer the optimal choices for programmers.

Whilst Reeder comes out in support of Java as a programming language, he sees it as increasingly anachronistic in these days of cloud computing. The fact that Go is a newcomer to the scene makes it a convincing candidate to pick up the torch from increasingly clunky older languages, and as Reeder says, it certainly is easier to easier to build and deploy high performance applications in virtual environments in Go.

That being said, Java’s long history (positively Jurassic, in web terms) means that it is absolutely everywhere. If we were going to compare the manpower invested in coding, compiling, and developing Java with that invested in Go, the Google pretender wouldn’t even register on the chart. A cursory glimpse at Stack Overflow aptly demonstrates this: Java has 468, 710 tags to Go’s 2,789, and that sort of imbalance isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

With all its forward thinking innovations, hypothetically, Go could one day become a contender for supremacy when it comes to cloud computing. But for it to really become the defacto choice for cloud base enterprise would entail the spawning of a spiralling subset of innovation around Go libraries, frameworks, platforms and services, and that could take a considerable amount of time.

Ultimately, Java as it stands is too big to really topple anytime soon. With so many legacy systems entrenched into Oracle’s code, including massive powerhouses such as financial institutions and military databases, it would take years for any type of sweeping change to really take affect – and in those intervening years, that would hypothetically be more than enough time for Oracle to come up with the goods to compete with their old adversary.


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