The State of Rust 0.8

Another 3 months, another release. This is the first release that I’ve witnessed in its entirety! This is a summary of Rust: its compiler, libraries, documentation, and community. (What is Rust?)

Compiler

The compiler is faring well. It received a lot of attention in compile speed, although memory usage regressed significantly. It is now mostly fixed in master. Time compiling fn main() { } went from 172ms to 112ms on my box. When compiling programs of any significance, the gap is much larger. There’s also been some thought put into parallelizing rustc. Michael Woerister’s GSoC project was debuginfo, and it’s almost in a fully-working state. As of 0.8, it’s not completely baked — libstd can’t be compiled with it, and stepping through code isn’t perfect — but it’s a huge step forward, and he created an extensive testsuite, so it shouldn’t regress. The pretty printer hasn’t seen much improvement. Default methods, one of the major things Michael Sullivan worked on over the summer, are in a much better state. If there are any remaining bugs in them, I haven’t seen them.

Iterators

Iterators are hugely improved for 0.8. The for loop syntax now uses the Iterator trait. Additionally, most uses of vector iterators now compile to the exact same code that indexing or iteration would in C or C++, including the ability to be vectorized. Additionally, they now use default methods instead of extension implementations. A bunch of other extensions to Iterator were added, such as DoubleEndedIterator and RandomAccessIterator.

Documentation

The documentation is in a much better state than it was 3 months ago. The new rustdoc was started and finished. I started it, and Alex Crichton really polished and finished it the last two weeks before the release. The API documentation is now navigable, and one can actually see the relationship between various types. A bunch of work also went into the tutorials, yielding three new documents: error handling and conditions, iterators and containers, and rustpkg.

rustpkg

Rustpkg continues to advance. Tim put out the call for community involvement, and it’s getting significant traction in actual libraries. There are still a few kinks when using it for development, but when just fetching and building dependencies, it works very well. Servo is porting its whole mini-ecosystem over to rustpkg, uncovering bunches of problems and deficiencies in the process. If you’re interested in helping out with Rust, rustpkg is a major area. Tim is also super nice, and will happily help you get into the codebase.

Libraries

Rust is slowly accreting more and more useful libraries: mostly coming from the gamedev community, but sometimes other useful things as well. The new runtime has completely replaced the old, a significant step forward for Rust’s maturity. rust-http is making some really nice strides, as well as the opengl bindings. The standard libraries are becoming nicer to use. std::run, in particular, stands out to me as something that’s quite easy to use, and std::str saw a lot of work making it more correct.

The Future

This was a great release cycle, and I think the next one will be even better. Alex Crichton was hired as a full-time Rust developer, and he has been doing a lot of important work that just would have taken a while to happen otherwise. I’m very optimistic about this release, much more so than 0.7. I think we might be able to hit milestone 1 for 0.9 or 0.10, though that’s just speculation on my part.

Is Rust Ready?

No. Rust is approaching maturity, but it isn’t there yet. There are still backwards-incompatible changes being made to try and get to milestone 2. The major things that come to mind are closure reform and privacy overhaul (which is being worked on in master right now). Additionally, people in the gamedev community are starting to hit walls with the type system. Those probably won’t be fixed in the time leading up to 1.0, but this is also speculation.

Experimenting with Rust is becoming more viable as time goes on, but using it in production is a bad idea, especially if “low maintenance” is at all valuable.