Rust developers worry the programming language will get too complex

Two Rust developers discussing a software development project in an open plan office space.
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Rust developers are worried the programming language may become too complex and that its popularity in the tech industry doesn’t quite meet expectations, according to new research. 

The Rust Project surveyed 9,710 developers worldwide, with the US, Germany, China and the UK accounting for almost half of respondents. The vast majority - 93% - were Rust users and more than 80% of them use the coding language on at least a weekly basis.

The Rust Project’s survey findings showed growing support for Rust as a programming language choice.

A third (33%) said they used Rust for the majority of their programming at work, and 28% said they used it occasionally. In terms of why they used Rust, 86% said it was because of the ability to build ‘relatively correct and bug-free software’- up from 82% last year.

The second most popular reason was Rust’s particular performance characteristics – speed, memory and footprint – which 83% of developers specifically highlighted as a major draw.

Rust developers fawn over the language’s security advantages

Rust’s security and safety properties were important to 70%, while a similar proportion also said it was ‘enjoyable or fun’ to program in Rust.

Nearly four out of five respondents (79%) said the programming language helped their company achieve its goals – a jump from 71% last time around, while 77% of respondents said their organization is likely to use Rust again in the future.

However, 8% said that adopting Rust had slowed the team down. In terms of usage, Rust is popular for creating server backends, web and networking services, and cloud technologies.

Rust is a difficult programming language to learn

However, the survey did identify less positive feedback. Of the survey respondents who did not use Rust, 31% said it was because it was ‘too difficult’ to learn or that it would take too long. 

Of the former Rust users who participated in the 2023 survey, 24% cited difficulty as the primary reason for giving up - although this does mark a drop from 30% last year.

When asked ‘what are your biggest worries for the future of Rust?’ the majority (43%) were worried about Rust becoming too complex at 43% — up from 37% in 2022.

Meanwhile 42% of respondents were concerned about a low level of Rust usage in the tech industry and 32% of respondents in 2023 were worried about Rust developers and maintainers not being properly supported.

There was also a big drop in respondents who were not at all concerned about the future of Rust – down to 18% in 2023 from 30% in 2022.

When asked what features that Rust users want to be implemented or improved, 20% of respondents said that they wanted Rust to slow down the development of new features, which the report said “likely goes hand in hand with the previously mentioned worry that Rust becomes too complex”.

James Governor, co-founder developer-focused analyst firm RedMonk, said that frameworks can address increasing complexity in programming languages, and that with more complexity comes more utility.

When it comes to Rust, he told ITPro that usage is “steadily increasing”, pointing toward some notable wins at hyperscalers and cloud companies with regard to adoption.

Rust is particularly common in new infrastructure projects, Governor added.

“Rust is not crossing over yet as a general-purpose programming language, as Python did when it overtook Java, but it's seeing steady growth in adoption, which we expect to continue. It seems like a sustainable success story at this point.”

Rust is growing in popularity, but it still has some way to go

The research on Rust’s growing popularity as a programming language aligns closely with similar analysis from Stack Overflow’s 2023 developer survey. The study found that Rust was among the most admired languages, with more than 80% of developers who use it seeking to expand its use. 

But it’s not the most common, ranking only 14th on the list of most used and most lucrative coding languages.

Rust sits in 18th place on Tiobe’s ranking of the most popular programming languages.

The programming language is less than a decade old but has grown rapidly; the Linux kernel now supports Rust, for example, and Microsoft is also rewriting some of the Windows kernel in Rust, too.

Steve Ranger

Steve Ranger is an award-winning reporter and editor who writes about technology and business. Previously he was the editorial director at ZDNET and the editor of