Zig / Rust — why do we have a new kid

Volodymyr Pavlyshyn
3 min readJan 8, 2024

In twit size:

  • cross compiling / wasm
  • full interop with C nut no nulls
  • compile time
  • simple

Zig and Rust are both modern programming languages that have gained attention for their focus on safety and performance, but they have different philosophies and design goals. Given your background in software development and interest in languages like JavaScript and Rust, you’ll appreciate the nuanced differences between Zig and Rust. Let’s explore these differences in detail:

Language Philosophy and Goals

Rust:
— Rust is designed with the goal of providing memory safety without sacrificing performance. It achieves this through its ownership model, which manages memory and concurrency at compile time.
— Rust aims to be a practical language for writing large-scale systems and applications, with a focus on zero-cost abstractions, safety, and concurrency.

Zig:
— Zig, on the other hand, is designed to be simple and straightforward. Its primary goal is to replace C, offering similar levels of control and performance without some of C’s pitfalls.
— Zig emphasizes simplicity, readability, and the ability to directly translate C code. It avoids hidden control flow and hidden memory allocations.

Memory Safety and Management

- Rust:
— Rust’s borrow checker ensures memory safety by enforcing strict rules at compile time. This can lead to a steeper learning curve but results in fewer runtime errors related to memory.
— Rust uses RAII (Resource Acquisition Is Initialization) for resource management, which automatically handles resource cleanup.

Zig
— Zig does not have a borrow checker like Rust. Instead, it provides more manual control over memory and leaves more responsibility to the programmer to ensure safety.
— Zig uses manual memory management, which can be more error-prone but offers more control to the programmer.

Error Handling

Rust
— Rust uses `Result` and `Option` types for error handling, encouraging the handling of errors explicitly.
— Rust’s approach to error handling is more akin to functional programming languages, where errors are values that must be dealt with explicitly.

Zig
— Zig uses error return traces and optional error handling. It allows functions to return errors as part of their type signature.
— Zig’s error handling is more flexible and less verbose, but it can be less explicit than Rust’s approach.

Concurrency Model

Rust:
— Rust has a sophisticated concurrency model, leveraging its ownership and type system to prevent data races at compile time.
— Rust’s `async/await` syntax and powerful libraries like Tokio make it suitable for writing concurrent applications.

Zig
— Zig takes a simpler approach to concurrency, similar to C. It provides low-level primitives like threads and locks, leaving more responsibility to the programmer.
— Zig’s concurrency model is less abstracted than Rust’s, offering more control but requiring more careful management of concurrency issues.

Use Cases and Community

Rust
— Rust is widely used in web development, systems programming, embedded systems, and more. It has a large and growing community, with extensive libraries and tools.
— Companies like Mozilla, Dropbox, and Cloudflare use Rust for various applications, highlighting its versatility and reliability.

Zig
— Zig is often chosen for projects where C would traditionally be used, such as embedded systems, operating systems, and high-performance applications.
— Zig’s community is smaller but growing, with a focus on simplicity and directness in programming.

Conclusion

Both Zig and Rust offer unique advantages depending on the project requirements. Rust provides a more robust system for ensuring memory safety and concurrency, making it suitable for large-scale and complex applications. Zig, with its simplicity and direct approach, is excellent for projects where fine control and straightforwardness are paramount.

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Volodymyr Pavlyshyn

I believe in SSI, web5 web3 and democratized open data.I make all magic happens! dream & make ideas real, read poetry, write code, cook, do mate, and love.