Google Unleashes Go: A Brand New Systems Programming Language

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 11, 2009

Not content to dominate search and online advertising, two operating systems, and cross-platform browser, Google is now getting into the programming language business as well. Yesterday Google announced Go a brand-new systems programming language. Why does Google need Go? According to the FAQ on the site, Google saw a gap in the existing systems programming languages, and the company decided it was "worth trying again with a new language" that has taken ideas from other systems programming languages as well as scripting languages like Python and JavaScript.

If its pedigree is any indication, Go is in good shape. The initial design for Go was scoped out by Rob Pike, Ken Thompson, and Robert Griesemer. You might remember some of those names from such projects as Unix, C, and Plan 9.

Go is still in development, and still an experiment. The company admits that it's not yet using Go for "large-scale production use," but it is being tested. The site hosting, for instance, is running Go. But you probably won't see Go being used for any major Google projects in the next few months.

One interesting thing about Go -- it is available only for Mac OS X and Linux at the moment, which may give some insight into what Google's engineers like to work on for their own development environments. The language has compilers for x86_64, x86, and ARM processors, which also gives a clue as to where Google plans to be using the language.

Go is distributed under a BSD-style license and Google has already made available plenty of resources for developers interested in giving it a try.

And developers are interested. The #go-nuts channel on IRC has more than 330 users in it just one day following the announcement.

If you want to learn more about Go, check out the site, especially the Tech Talk video.

It will be interesting to see how Go is received, and used, in the long term. Google obviously has the weight to develop Go on its own, but the only way it will be truly successful is if the company can convince developers outside the search giant's walls to use the language as well.

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News,,, IBM developerWorks, and many others.