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Golang vs C++: Which is Best For Your Next Project

By Meghan Reichenbach on Jul 12, 2021

Last updated on Oct 1, 2022

Needing to be a math genius to learn to code is a thing of the past. High-level programming languages offer an alternative to low-level machine code, which makes coding more accessible than ever. Let’s dive into how Golang, a modern higher-level language, matches up to C++, a tried-and-true low-level language. We’ll cover the most important points like which language is more performant, which is easier to learn, which results in cleaner code, and which programming methodologies guide their respective designs.

Does it matter if I choose Go or C++?

With dozens of languages available, which ones are worth learning? Regardless of whether you plan to work as a professional developer, or casually dabble in code, one of the best things you can do is understand which programming languages are specialized for which tasks. That way, you know you’re learning a language thats good to accomplish your specific goals.

Now, you may have seen our breakdown of Golang vs. Python, but now it’s time to see how Golang matches up to C++. We’ll compare their design, performance, speed, and security, as well as discuss key differences between the two languages and how they’re used in the real world. By the end of this article you’ll know if you want to learn Golang or C++.

Golang vs C++: A Brief History

When it comes to history, C++ and Golang sit at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first edition of C++ was released in 1985, originally named C with Classes, bringing the first C language superset to the market. Development started in 1979 by Danish computer scientist Bjarne Stroustrup at Bell Laboratories, to create an easier version of C that uses classes or code templates.

Golang (or Go) 1.0, however, wasn’t on the market until 2012, after being developed by Robert Griesemer, Rob Pike, and Ken Thompson, who, ironically, were inspired by their mutual frustration with C++. In the end, they took the best of everything – the best of the Java, Python, and C languages – to create Go. Its C-inspired syntax also makes learning Golang for C++ programmers effortless.

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Go vs C++: Which Has a Better Design?

Let’s start by taking a straightforward view of the basic make-up of these languages.

GoC++
Higher-level languageLower-level language
ProceduralObject-oriented (mostly)
Used primarily in backend web developmentUsed primarily in game development and systems development
Is proud of a small and simple feature setContains every feature under the sun
Concurrency achieved through goroutinesConcurrency achieved via operating system threads
Aim for a tradeoff between speed and simplicityOptimized for speed and control

As we can see, there are quite a few differences between Go and C++, let’s dive into the details.

High-level, mid-level, or low-level language?

First, we have the “level” of language. It’s important to note that when talking about the “level” of a language, we typically are speaking relatively. For example, binary code, which is made up of just 1’s and 0’s is about as “low level” as it gets in the digital world. One step “higher” would be assembly code, and C++ lives one level above that. While Go and C++ both compile directly to binary code, it’s easy to make the case that Go is “higher-level” than C++ because it contains a runtime in each executable program that manages memory and performs basic administrative tasks “under the hood”.

“Levels” of programming languages from highest to lowest

  • Python
  • Go
  • C++
  • Assembly
  • Machine code (binary)

Golang is a higher-level language. This means it’s easy to read, understand, and learn because it’s a more simplified version of machine code. Alternatively, C++ is a lower-level language, which means it’s harder to understand and less simplified, but on the flip side, it gives more control to the developer over what’s happening under the hood.

Machine code is the language computers speak, and instead of us racking our brains to understand it, programming languages use abstractions to hide all the unnecessary noise. That way, when reading code we mostly see our natural language, making the syntax easier to understand.

As a higher-level language, Go has significantly more of these abstractions than our friend C++, which is lower on the “level” scale. Golang also has limitations and features embedded in its structure, so it’s easier to develop programs without issues.

C++ interacts more directly with the hardware of a computer system, whereas Golang is more generously abstracted away from the hardware which makes it easier to work with, but means you as a developer have less control over the physical interactions with the device.

The syntax of C++ tends to be much less user-friendly than that of higher level languages. That said, it’s an open book, and if you can think of it then you can create it with C++.

Type of approach

“Bottom-up approach” and “top-down approach” refer to how generalized or specific a language is.

Imagine you’re in a clear lake, looking down at the water. You can tell from the surface there are other things in the water, but you only get a surface-level view of what they could be.

However, if you break through the surface, you find rocks, shells, sand, fish – all of the specific objects that are in the lake.

Golang is like the surface. With a top-down approach, you only work with the abstract functions and programs you want, and you can avoid mingling with specific objects.

C++ is like the lakebed. With a bottom-up approach, you build each specific layer, code each rock, fish, and shell, until you get to the surface – you have full creative control, and full responsibility.

go vs c++ for performance, compile time, versatility, earning potential and which is most loved by programmers

Different language types: Go vs C++ and OOP vs procedural

Finally, we have object-oriented and procedural language types.

Object-oriented (or OOP) is when you manipulate the object, rather than the logic and functions around the object. Thanks to abstractions and encapsulations, C++ can directly manipulate the object it wants.

Now again, it doesn’t possess as many layers as high-level languages, but it has enough that you can directly control the action you’re trying to achieve. This isn’t an easy job though, as creating programs based on the interaction of objects is extremely complex.

It’s important to note that while C++ is an OOP language, it’s also a multi-paradigm language, so it can support procedural and functional programming. However, OOP, especially with modern C++, is its most common application.

Golang, on the other hand, is a procedural language. For this, you simply write down the steps of the task in the order you want the computer to run them. It’s based on the concept of a series of computational steps. Golang is also a multi-paradigm language and supports functional programming.

Overall, in terms of design, Golang is better in the sense it’s more user-friendly, but if you’re looking for more control then C++ is a better choice.

Golang vs C++: Which is faster?

When it comes to asking “is Golang faster than C++” there are two ways you need to look at it: writing time and compile time.

Writing time is how fast and easily can you write the language.

Harkening back to our understanding of Golang as a high-level language, Go was purposefully built to make coding faster, easier, and scalable. As a high-level language, its syntax is much more readable and compact than C++.

Go also has a faster compile time. Codes must be compiled before they run, and after every change you make – a.k.a. you’ll be compiling a lot. So, this is necessary when considering coding speed.

Compile time is dependent on what you’re coding, however, C++ is famous for its slow compile time. Go’s compact style makes compiling quicker than C++’s long drawn-out form.

Overall, Golang beats C++ hands down when it comes to coding speed.

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Golang performance vs C++ performance

Both languages boast fantastic performance metrics.

Go’s efficient garbage collector, static types, and compilation make it incredibly fast, as well as its memory management and use of pointer over references. It constantly outdoes other interpretive and dynamic languages.

But, C++ is an undeniable beast at performance.

I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said C++ is a drawn-out, complex, and lengthy language, but this is where it all pays off. Because it’s a mid-level language and not heavily abstracted from machine code, the information and task you’re trying to communicate to the computer are understood more easily, resulting in stronger performance.

Features that make Go fun and easy to use, like the garbage collector, end up adding drag to the performance time, whereas C++’s minimalist and traditional structure makes it perfect for boosting performance.

Golang vs C++: Which has better security?

Programming languages are either built for power or safety, and if C++ offers better performance, then you can probably guess which language has the better security.

C++ is notorious for suffering from buffer overflows.

Buffers are memory storage containers that hold the information and data while it transfers between locations, and when you put too much information in it, you get a buffer overflow. This is when the information spills over and gets written on adjacent memory locations.

Now, this may not sound too bad, except this anomaly can cause the program to crash and create holes in even airtight systems.

Buffer overflows aren’t naturally a part of C++, but it’s an easy mistake for coders to make if they’re not careful. What gives Go the advantage here is its limitations in the code that prevent this from happening. It doesn’t give coders the option to buffer overflow.

For instance, with Go, you can’t use pointer arithmetic, meaning you can’t step through arrays using pointer values, you have to access them using an index. This forces you to use methods that include checks and bounds, that prevent overflows.

Advantages of Go vs C++ for experienced programmers

Go vs C++: Which is higher paid?

According to the 2020 Stack Overflow Survey, in the United States, Go developers earn $140,000 per year – making it the second-highest-paid language in the US, and third in the world.

In contrast, C++ developers earn $120,000, a whole $20K lower than Go developers, and good enough only for 13th place on the highest-paid languages list.

Conclusion: Go is better than C++ for earning higher salaries.

Which is more loved by programmers?

In the same survey, programmers ranked Golang 5th for the most loved programming language, whereas C++ sits at number 8 for the most dreaded.

I argue part of this is attributed to Go’s compact language and easy-going learning curve. Golang may be C-inspired, but it brings a level of readability that C++ can’t compete with.

However, C++ is a powerful language that’s perfect for experienced programmers who want to create everything. Its unlimited capability is one of the big reasons it’s still so popular today even after 40 years! It gives experienced coders the advantage of in-depth control over the program.

Conclusion: Programmers tend to prefer Golang over C++.

Is Go or C++ better for your coding project?

C++ is mostly used in system programming and graphic-heavy software, like video games and photo and movie editing, where access to every nook and cranny of a system and fast rendering and processing is an absolute necessity.

Oppositely, Go is a safe system that gives experienced programmers a user-friendly coding experience and less liability when it comes to large-scale projects.

Golang is heavily used for back-end web development and known for its robust ability to handle extensive network servers and systems. It’s a scalable, clean and straightforward language that was specifically built to solve the issues Google had when it came to working on their large network servers.

With such different strengths, the real advantage for experienced programmers is to learn both, as together they will give you a well-rounded skillset.

Conclusion: for infrastructure and large systems, Go wins. For creating games, applications and other powerful systems, consider C++.

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Golang vs C++: The final verdict

The final verdict is… it’s up to you!

Go and C++ are two amazing languages that operate at opposite ends of the programming spectrum. C++ is an old-timer that handles the small details, while Golang is contemporary and meant for the big picture.

C++ is perfect for traditionalists that like to get their hands dirty in code and work without bounds and have the skill to do so. It’s a strong and versatile language that gives direct access to a program’s core.

Golang is the modern web developer’s language. People from all kinds of backgrounds are making the shift to tech, and Go welcomes them with open arms. It’s easy to use and has a scalable nature that promises a fruitful career to anyone using it.

We’re big fans of Go at Boot.dev, so much so that we’ve created several courses to help you learn Go! No matter your skill level, our Learn Go course will get you the skills you need to work as a Go programmer.

Overall, to figure out which one is best, you need to figure which one are you. No matter the choice, Golang and C++ only continue to grow in popularity and will benefit you way into the future.

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