Rust Survey 2020
Written by Janet Swift   
Monday, 21 December 2020

Rust has a growing and enthusiastic community. However, the latest survey of Rust Developers shows it isn't widely used for work purposes. 


Rust achieved the status of being in the Top 20 of the TIOBE Index in June, but then fell out of it again and is currently in 21st position. Having started life in 2010 at Mozilla, it continued to be fostered there until August 2020 when developers working on the company's experimental Servo browser-rendering engine, which had pioneered the Rust language were one of the groups axed as part of extensive layoffs. Luckily Rust was ready to become independent and within weeks has announced its own foundation.

The 2020 Rust Developer survey was conducted in September and had a record 8,323 responses, more than twice the number of the 2019 Survey, whose results came out in May 2020. As on that occasion, it was available in 14 different languages and the percentage of those answering in English increased from 70% to 75%. Among other languages Chinese (6%) and Russian (5%) were again well represented.

A key finding for 2020 was that 83.0% of respondents said they used Rust (an all time high), a further 7% said they had used Rust in the past but no longer do. Looking into the reasons for stopping using Rust, the largest group (35%) said they just hadn’t learned it yet and almost as many (34%) said their company was not using Rust (34%). A third explanation, given by 19%, was that switching to Rust would “slow them down” compared to their current language of choice (19%).


In response to the question "Do you use Rust at work?" the majority answer was "No" (53%). Only 14% use Rust on a full-time basis with almost twice as many (26%) using it on a part time-basis.

 Another question asked about which languages developers would like Rust to interoperate with, C++ emerged as the most popular (22%) with C coming second (18%) and Python a close third (17%).


When asked how to improve adoption of Rust, 15.8% of respondents said they would use Rust more if it were:

“less intimidating, easier to learn, or less complicated”. 

The report notes that certain Rust topics are difficult to learn with 61.4% of respondents saying that the use of lifetimes is either tricky or very difficult. Compared to last year the Rust community does seem to be gaining expertise in the language with a clear peak of 7 on a 10-point scale from Beginner (1) to Expert (10)  but relatively few respondents are willing to claim full expertise:


Having prior knowledge of another language affects ability to understand Rust's concepts and feel confident using Rust. The report on the notes: 

It does seem that having C++ knowledge helps with 20.2% of respondents with at least some C++ experience noting lifetimes to be “very difficult” while 22.2% of those without C++ knowledge found the topic to be “very difficult”. Overall, systems programming knowledge (defined as at least some experience in C and C++), tends to make for more confident Rust users: those with systems programming experience rated themselves as 5.5 out of 10 on their Rust expertise, while those with experience in statically typed garbage collected languages like Java or C# rated themselves as 4.9 out of 10. Those with only experience in dynamically typed languages like Ruby or JavaScript rated themselves as 4.8 out of 10.


More Information

Rust Developer Survey Results


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