Google's Go Language: No Way, Right?

Nov 16, 2009

Google is just not getting enough. After its own browser and a Linux-based operating system, it's now coming up with its own programming language. Behind its development lurk some of the legends in UNIX history.

Cynics might say that Not Invented Here (NIH) has meanwhile become one of Google's development strategies. A web browser? Sure, we'll program our own. Linux? No problem, but we'll develop Android (and Chrome OS), thank you.

Now Google has the gumption of developing its own programming language, named Go. Standing behind it is not just some programmer intern, but two heroes from the UNIX world, Rob Pike and Ken Thompson, who used to ply their trade at the legendary AT&T Bell Labs that spawned the original UNIX. Pike and Thompson were also behind Plan 9, a kind of UNIX successor whose many fans claim has a purer philosophy, such as is reflected in its maxim "Everything is a file." No coincidence that the logos of both projects are quite similar.

Pike and Thompson have been working together with Robert Griesemer since 2007 on the Go language and it has now arrived. The language syntax approaches that of old reliable C, or even more Limbo, the language of the Plan 9 commercial offshoot Inferno. However, Go provides a few other features especially adapted for parallel programming in multi-core and distributed systems. In this respect, it orients itself to the communicating sequential processes (CSP) developed by Tony Hoare that are elsewhere implemented in the Kamaelia Python framework. Otherwise Go provides few other modern language features such as real object orientation or explicit functional constructs, but includes a garbage collector. The language is designed to be more or less slim and effective in translation.

Whether or not Go will join the ranks of Google's official C++, Java and Python languages used for its own development is yet to be determined, according to the project FAQ. The Go website includes not only a tutorial, but slides for the three-day class that goes somewhat deeper into the language.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about Google's new invention, least of all Francis McCabe, developer of the Go! language, who bids Google to please find another name.

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  • Google Go

    @kn Investigate the language a bit before damning it; this article explains very little about it. I personally am not satisfied with any of the languages available today (including Go), and you shouldn't be either. Language development will continue for a long time to come, especially as they have to keep up with the changing ways in which we use computers.

    And NIH is a valid strategy for the likes of Google and Microsoft (C# anyone?). Given their vast resources it might often make sense for them to roll their own very large projects when there are perfectly reasonable alternatives already available, as it means they can retain overall control of the project and mould it around their precise requirements.
  • go

    when google created android there were lot of naysayer. In 1, 2 years they have already changed the market place.

    If people did not invent stuff, we would still be in stone age !!
  • Another C-like language

    Another C-like language in the 21st century? Are not already invented the high-level languages? ... and coming from Google is a big disappointment! Makes me want to puke!
  • NIH doesn't fit

    I just don't see the not invented here badge being appropriate. In every instance the things wanted most just weren't present.

    And to me it's a boon not curse the careful selection of features that have gone into Go. The article seemed to frown when it made those comments.
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