These two coding languages duke it out - but who’s the winner?
In a world where the ability to write any code at all is a tremendous advantage, often the biggest problem coders face is knowing which language to start learning, rather than whether to learn one at all. There are different languages for just about every purpose you could think of. Of those popular coding languages, programmers often face an intense battle of Golang vs Python. (The official name is Go, but the website is Golang.org, so programmers typically refer to it as either interchangeably.)
On the surface, the two are remarkably dissimilar: Python was created 1991, an oldster in coding years, while Go was first published in 2012 by Google, making it a relative newcomer. Go is known for its speed, while Python is known to be a slower language. Python is versatile, while Go is stricter in syntax and formatting.
However, they’re both held up as answers to a lot of typical coding questions: which is the best language to learn as a beginner? Which language is best to gain a computer programming job? Which coding language is best? Each has its adherents who claim their language is the best no matter what.
The truth, like just about every article I write about how to learn computer science online, is that it’s complicated. The answer to whether you should learn Go vs Python depends on if you’re a beginner, what job you want, what your history with computer science is, and what your goal is.
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Let’s start with a brief historical definition of Golang vs Python
Python slithered onto the coding scene in 1991, written by Guido van Rossum who wanted a successor for a programming language I’ve never even heard of, called ABC programming. Its hallmarks are readability, versatility, and scalability. It’s a beast of a language with tremendous libraries, a fervent community of supporters (called pythonistas), and three versions that are patchily compatible.
This background is useful to keep in your head when you begin to think about Golang vs Python, and which language you want for what task (or which coding nickname you’d prefer to be called). Both have pros and cons, but depending on your end desire, there’s a sure answer for you between Golang vs Python.
Golang vs Python: Which coding language is best for beginners?
Python is pretty universally known to be best for absolute coding babies. To give you some context, I was able to follow instructions to run an Instagram activity automation bot written in Python with extremely little coding prowess. The bot was complex, but my successful implementation grew my cats’ Instagram account to nearly 16k followers by simulating my activity of likes on photos. (Instagram later cracked down on these sorts of remote engagement.) I found the errors easy to troubleshoot, the language easy to read, and the community incredibly supportive. In short, a good language for a complete novice like myself.
Python is written in a way that makes it ideal for literal beginner coders to pick up. People who are brand new to coding concepts will find Python an easier language to learn than Go. Go is possible for beginners to learn - I’ve written a whole post about why beginners should learn Go in 2021 - but a lot of the main features and benefits of Golang are better appreciated by veteran coders.
Python, meanwhile, is a winner for me in terms of which language is best for absolute coding beginners. To paraphrase myself from a previous article on which language is most popular in 2021, Python is good for beginners because it:
- Reads like English
- Is fast enough to build a functional prototype very quickly
- Is versatile enough for any project a beginner might want to try
In summary, when the question is “Golang vs Python: which is best for beginners?” for most people the answer will be Python.
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Golang vs Python: Which coding language is best for experienced coders?
I may have given the game away in the previous section, but my answer for this is Golang (assuming you’re not doing any AI/ML work). Go is typically better for people who already know how to code and want to add another programming language to their arsenal.
As I stated above, it was created based on existing problems Google engineers had. It was built to be better by comparison to many other languages. It is simple to write and read (albeit more verbose) and runs much faster than Python code. There’s also no confusion between different versions like Python. When I was using the bot for the cats’ Instagram account, the main issue I had was compatibility between versions.
Go has a cleaner syntax with a tighter set of libraries. It’s helpful for coders who want to become more productive with a less bloated syntax, as it all fits in your head - if you’re an experienced coder. Additionally, it is built to scale up to enormous projects, the likes of which Google was trepidatiously facing back in the noughties when they were developing this language.
If you’re an experienced coder, Golang is a great, easy, and useful language to pick up. You’ll be able to appreciate all the little improvements on other languages that a beginner might not appreciate, like the naming conventions. Go easily wins the battle of Golang vs Python for experienced coders.
Golang vs Python: Which language is best for a job in computer science?
Many people, like me, enjoy coding without actually looking for a computer science job. I’m happy as a hobbyist coder who derives the majority of her income from writing. But I’m in the minority.
Because learning to code is such a massive commitment, most people who learn to program are in it for the money - no shame in that, either. Especially when the costs of learning to code can be high, like when you’re looking at options like a computer science certificate or diploma, it makes sense to optimize your language learning for the best job prospects.
Because of their unique characteristics, this particular answer to Golang vs Python also depends on what job you want. If you’re getting an entry-level job, Python is best. Learning Python puts you in the position of getting a quick grasp on coding concepts, with the versatility to accomplish pretty much any task to might need to do in your new job.
Alternatively, if you’re ambitiously aiming for one of the highest-paying jobs, Go is the way to go.
As I explained in my write up of the most popular coding languages of 2021, Go is known for being a top-ticket language because:
- It’s built for big projects, usually run by companies with big paychecks
- It’s faster and easier to learn than Perl, which is the top-earning language
- It was written to reduce time debugging and reading code, a very valuable skill
It’s less of a generalized language but better for those companies like Uber, Twitch, Dropbox, and of course Google that are hiring Go developers.
Golang vs Python: Which language is best for machine learning?
Machine Learning is one of those terms that encompasses a vast, vast range of possibilities. For the purposes of this article looking at Golang vs Python, I’ll define “machine learning” as writing a model that can make decisions about external stimuli. For example, machine learning is what helps your gmail account decide who is sending you spam, and who is actually your long-lost aunt, sending you an important communication about a potential inheritance you don’t want to miss out on.
Python is certainly the most popular choice for coders who want to write a machine learning model.
Python leads the pack, with 57% of data scientists and machine learning developers using it and 33% prioritizing it for development.
Part of the reason Python is so popular for machine learning is that it’s the home of TensorFlow, which is a deep learning framework released in Python. Where Go is good for its simple, easy-to-implement libraries and frameworks, Python’s deep and rich history in complex, multitudinous frameworks is what makes it the best language for machine learning. TensorFlow is definitely chief among those libraries, but Keras and Scikit-learn are also notable libraries.
It’s worth noting that popularity isn’t the same as quality. While Go doesn’t even rank on the top 10 languages for machine learning in terms of popularity, Websensa admitted in their post on which language is best that “Go is faster, more scalable, and performant so that it is perfect for large-scale projects. And that makes it one of the best choices to work on machine learning infrastructure.” Perhaps in the future when debating between Golang vs Python, Go will be a machine learning coder’s go-to.
Golang versus Python: Which language is best for programmer productivity?
Productivity, at its basic definition, is getting a lot of meaningful work done efficiently. Because of the paradox of choice, humans (and hence human programmers) tend to be most efficient when working with a limited toolset.
Therefore, Go is the best language to become a more productive programmer. The syntax is so limited and the libraries much less bloated that it’s faster to get stuff done in fewer lines of code because there’s simply less code available to write.
Python definitely has the corner on the versatility market simply through the sheer number of libraries and the range of syntax. But versatility comes at a cost, and that cost is productivity.
It’s interesting to note that Python is sometimes recommended as the most productive language for beginners - it’s easy to get a quick program up and running in Python, and it’s possible to do almost anything in Python.
However, in this battle of “Golang vs Python: which is the most productive language?” I rank Go as the best simply because it’s intended to be more productive, easier to debug, is all formatted in a similar style, and above all, it’s simple to read. Never forget that coding is a collaborative act - the less time you have to spend to understand what someone else has coded, the easier it is to contribute productively.
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Golang vs Python: Which language is best for the future?
Like every other person on earth, I can’t see into the future. But I can make an educated guess. When it comes to weighing up Golang vs Python in terms of the most future-proof language, my guess is Go. That said, Python is still on a major growth track so it’s also a great choice, I don’t think either language will be falling too far out of favor in the near future.
Python definitely has longevity in its corner - it has been around for 30 years and has survived three crunchy and non compatible versions, it’s outlasted many other obsolete languages, it’s ranked on the top ten most popular languages since 2003, and it’s carried on beyond the retirement of its Benevolent Dictator for Life (AKA the founder, Guido) which happened in 2018. It’s gaining new users at a rapid rate and shows no signs of slowing - in 2019, Pythonistas outnumbered Java developers (who don’t even have a cool and fun nickname as far as I’m aware) for the first time.
But Python, like many other older languages, is a sort of unholy conglomerative beast, composed of many sprawling libraries, syntaxes, and frameworks jumbled together. Its multiple versions are clunky to combine and not often migratable from. Python 2, for instance, was scheduled to celebrate its end-of-life in 2015. That was postponed half a decade “out of concern that a large body of existing code could not easily be forward-ported to Python 3,” according to its Wikipedia article. That’s not future proof.
Meanwhile, if I look into my nonexistent crystal ball, and I ask myself if Google will still exist in a century, I simply can’t imagine it won’t be. And if Google is still around, then it makes sense that Go, or some version of it, will be too. Golang was created to solve Google’s problems not just for then, but all the problems it could anticipate for the future.
Its brand-name recognition and built-to-purpose characteristics mean that to me, it seems the most likely contender for the best language to know for the future when contending between Golang vs Python.
What’s the best language when deciding Golang vs Python?
If you’ve made it this far and you’re looking for a definitive answer, I’ll have to disappoint you: there isn’t one. It’s like asking whether it’s better to learn Spanish or Italian. Are you going to Italy or Spain next summer? There’s your answer.
Python and Go are both fantastic languages to learn. If you are trying to work out which, in a battle of Golang vs Python, is best for you? Well, first you need to work out where you’re going.