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Google Go celebrates third birthday

Elliot Bentley
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The young language has seen some ups and downs, but is still going strong three years on – at least inside Google.

Google’s own programming language, Go, turned three years old over the weekend. While the young language has seen some up and downs, it’s met mild success – at least within Google, who use it to serve Chrome downloads, scale YouTube’s MySQL and the occasional homepage doodle.

In early 2010, Go was awarded TIOBE’s ‘Programming Language Of The Year Award’ for capturing 1.25% of the market in just two months; but its progress has stalled, and it now sits below Groovy in TIOBE’s language index, outside of the top 50.

The team write that they consider Go’s biggest achievement to be the release of version 1. “People who write Go 1 programs can now be confident that their programs will continue to compile and run without change, in many environments, on a time scale of years,” they said. “As part of the Go 1 launch we spent months cleaning up the language and libraries to make it something that will age well.”

One of the biggest developments for the language has also been integration into Google App Engine in July 2011, placing it alongside Java and Python on Google’s own cloud offerings. While it’s expected for Google to cross-promote products in such a way, it does show some confidence in the future of the language.

However, being relatively young, Go also faced the issue of obscurity. Last month, a game funded through Kickstarter was left high and dry after its lead programmers – both working in Go – abandoned the project, leaving the remaining two staff struggling to find (and pay) replacements. However, the story appears to be ending happily, with around thirty programmers offering help to the newly open-sourced game.

Go is not the only language to emerge from Google HQ: there’s also Dart, a client-side language designed to take over from JavaScript. Dart has faced criticism since its initial release in October 2011, but may yet become more practical if native support is added to Chrome.

2013 should see the release of the next stable version of Go, 1.1, which will mostly consist of under-the-hood improvements. However, the team’s biggest challenge is expanding the Go crowd to beyond Google (and ex-Google) staff.

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