Rust survey 2020: Community thinks big name corporate sponsors might get adoption rolling

Rust survey

While last year’s Rust survey arrived a tad on the late side, 2020’s results are already in and it seems as if devs not only noticed some improvements but were keen to get a word in. 

A whopping 8,323 developers decided to take part in the 2020 survey, which might be down to individuals looking at their virtual communities for stability and at least some sort of interaction this year. Turnout like this is indeed a record for Rust, which only managed to get 3,997 peeps to provide some insight into their usage for the 2019 edition.

The information the Rust team shares on its blog is a bit sparse compared to earlier surveys, but it seems good enough to get a grasp on adoption and revisit some of the pain points that keep users from jumping on the Rust train. Compile times, something which came up quite a bit when users were asked about challenges in the 2019 survey, seems to have progressed a lot, since apparently half of the respondents noticed positive changes in that regard.

Users also saw momentum in library support, with 65.9 percent “saying they had seen at least some improvement”. 

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While these things will surely help enthusiasts to spread the word, we’ll have to wait a while longer before it becomes an industry staple, since 53.3 percent of respondents said they don’t use Rust at work, and only 13.8 percent program in it full time. Rust code bases seem to be growing, however, with 44 percent of respondents saying that the sum of their Rust projects at work would amount to 10,000 lines or more. In 2019 only 34 percent made such claims.

Asked about ways to improve the adoption of Rust, many came back saying better documentation and training resources would help, which is something that the last survey also found. IDE integration, which came up a lot in 2019, seems to have become less of an issue in the last couple of months, with “nearly 3/4 of all respondents” noting advances. Developers using the Rust plugin for IntelliJ IDEA and rust-analyzer especially felt their tools had improved “a lot”, as 40 and 47 per cent respectively stated.

Those mentioning better interoperability as a potential point of improvement largely looked to use it with C++ (21.7%), followed by C (17.6%), Python (16.9%), JavaScript (11.2%), and Go (10.3%). To make good on the fact that some highly awaited features are still not quite there yet, 28% of respondents decided to go with nightly versions instead of available stable or beta releases to have them available anyway. 

In their writeup of the survey results, the Rust team noted that the improvement of compile times “is likely to be the source of significant effort in 2021”, so there’s still a bit more to come in that area. Users should be patient, though, since the compiler team announced a change in leadership this week: co-lead Niko Matsakis has stepped down, while long-time contributor Wesley Wiser is taking over that role.

Change seems to be an overarching topic these days, as the Rust team is still busy working on their plans for a Rust Foundation. In the last couple of weeks they have been especially busy trying to keep developers up to date by hosting public Q&As and a couple of video streams on the topic. The idea to have some sort of independent supporting body has been brewing for a while already, but became tangible only in August, when the team announced its initial foundation plans. 

Back then Mozilla’s restructuring had just spurred concerns amongst Rustaceans, so the idea of a new entity to fulfil the project’s legal and financial needs without depending on Mozilla’s assistance could calm the waves a bit. It also helped to clarify the language’s status again, since it still feels closely associated with Mozilla, even though it has been independently governed for almost half of its 10 year lifespan.

Results from the Q&A sessions informed the now available foundation FAQ draft, so if you’re interested in details about the future organisation’s scope, location, governance structure, or the relationship between foundation and language, this might be your best bet right now. 

Come January, the foundation team plans to announce its initial sponsors, which some survey respondents surely will appreciate, as they feel that “having large corporate sponsors in the Rust community” might help them convince their employers of Rust.

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