4 October 2021

Software Development

Go vs. Python - main differences overview

29 minutes reading

Go vs. Python - main differences overview

Python is one of the most popular programming languages. 52% of almost 32,000 voting developers claim that they used this language in the last year. What’s even more interesting, for 29% of respondents, Python was the primary language. Go, despite being less than half the age of Python, doesn’t lag  behind - it is in the top 5 programming languages that developers are planning to migrate to or adopt. 

In this article, you can find the following information:

  • Go and Python features and specifications 
  • The syntax of these programming languages
  • How Go and Python tackle exception handling
  • Dependency management in Go language and Python

What is Python? Definition, features and specification

To be specific, in this article we’re focusing on CPython (the original Python implementation). So, please bear in mind that (for the purposes of this article) we’re using CPython implementation as our basis for comparison.

Python is described as:

  • high-level - it enables the writing of programs that are independent (more or less) of any particular type of computer. It’s considered closer to human languages and with strong abstraction from the details,
  • interpreted - it isn’t directly converted into machine code. Instead, there is an interpreter changing the written code into language understood by the computer's processor, 
  • procedural - common tasks are placed in functions, and the other tasks are treated as iterations,
  • object-oriented - supports programming using a classes and objects paradigm,
  • having dynamic semantics - uses variables as dynamic objects. In Python, variables store references to underlying values or objects. Everything together means you can assign variables in a way that makes more sense to you than to the computer. 

Python combines dynamic typing (each variable is determined only during runtime) and dynamic binding -  the variable is bound to a type, instead of being specified by a declaration statement. Python has a lot of built-in data structures, and it is a general-purpose language, so it isn’t specialized for any specific problems. 

We could take the Python Language Reference as being the closest to the language specification. You can find there the description of the syntax and the often-used semantics. 

Is Golang interpreted or procedural like Python? Let’s check. 

Definition of Go. What are the features of this programming language? 

If we’re talking about Go language features, it is necessary to mention that this language is:

  • open source - its original source code is freely available and may be redistributed and modified according to user needs and preferences, 
  • procedural - procedures (functions) are connected to form a program,
  • compiled - the opposite approach to interpreted languages. In this case, code written in a compiled language is directly converted into machine code, which is executable by the processor,
  • statically typed - type checking is performed during compile time, 
  • concurrent - functions can run independently of each other,
  • with built-in support for concurrent processing.

Go has both the features of statically typed languages (high performance, type safety) and dynamically typed/interpreted languages (conciseness, expressiveness, better readability).

An example of Go’s shorthand variable declaration type safety and conciseness is presented in the table:

Variable declaration type safety and conciseness - Cpp, Golang, Python

Table 1. Variable declaration type safety and conciseness

In this scenario, we declare an integer variable and later we try to assign a boolean value to it. As we can see, Go and C++ prevent changing the variable’s type. However, Go’s variable declaration doesn’t require an explicit type statement - it is inferred from the assigned value type.

Here we mentioned C++ only as an example in our table. If you are curious how C + + is different from Go and Python, check out our blog post, where we covered the main aspects. 

To dig deeper into the Go programming language specification, you can click here, and get answers for every question which comes to mind. 

But how exactly are these programming languages different from each other during day-to-day use?

Professional Golang development services

What are the Go and Python languages used for?

Go and Python both have their advantages and disadvantages. There are no strict guidelines to follow, but each programming language has specific features that perform better in certain fields. Let’s see how Go vs Python uses languages for. 

Go could work ideally with on-demand services, cloud services, or media platforms. This programming language also provides a resource for coding network servers - especially web servers and microservices. Go might be the perfect fit for your project. 

On the other hand, Python is used in many diverse fields. This programming language provides a vast amount of machine learning and AI libraries and packages. Moreover, as an open source project, Python gives a lot of graphing libraries. It is also used in data analytics, web development and programming applications.

Libraries in Go and Python

Programming languages use libraries, which consist of prewritten code, configuration data, documentation, and help data. These libraries can also include subroutines, classes, values or type specifications. Using libraries facilitates coding process. 

Go and Python provide organized information about libraries, frameworks and software on their websites:

Is code coverage important?

This metric helps in monitoring the code's performance and quality by displaying how many lines of code successfully pass the test process.

The Go team upgraded the test coverage tool with the introduction of Go 1.2. They examined the current test coverage tools and removed any flaws, such as complicated implementation. Rob Pike, one of the Go language's developers, explained the entire Go cover story.

Python has a specific tool called coverage.py for assessing code coverage, but be aware that it only works with certain versions. You may also take into account pytest, a framework for creating simple and large functional tests for applications. Another framework devoted to unit testing is Unittest.

Both Go and Python allow you to test the code, although the Go tool appears a little more flexible.

What are the differences between Go language and Python? 

Go and Python cannot be simply compared to each other based on their features alone, such as whether they are high-level programming languages, etc. However, there are crucial aspects of both programming languages which we can compare: readability, speed, error management, libraries, concurrency and community. Taken together, these will create a more precise description of Go vs Python.

Readability levels in Go and Python 

Readability indicates whether a specific programming language is easy to understand, read and learn. Usually, if the language has a higher readability level that means it will be easier to debug and you'll be able to write an application faster. 

What does syntax look like in Python and Go? 

The syntax is the foundation if we’re talking about readability. Syntax is all about using specific words in a predefined order to create commands understandable by the computer. Are there any differences in these programming languages’ syntax? Let’s check. 

Syntax is one of the aspects that influences readability level. Let’s look at how static and dynamic typing can change the readability for better or worse.  

In Python, as a dynamic language, not every function is documented. That sometimes forces you to dig deeper into implementation, or alas, you will have to guess what input parameters are expected. Go, as a statically typed language, hands everything to you in regard to input type. Python syntax is quite dense, but uses a lot of English words. That makes it more understandable and easier. One of the Python principles says: “There should be one — and preferably only one — obvious way to do it.” With this mantra in mind, the newly-created syntax is possibly the easiest and most consistent. Nevertheless, you have to keep track - Python syntax changes with each new version of the language. 

One of the Go programming language’s strengths is its minimal syntax - it has stayed almost the same, without any great changes in recent years. Thanks to that you have a guarantee that applications written in the older Go language version will still work. That means developers haven’t had to learn new paradigms or syntax. What’s more, there is only one standard code format. 

Everything from the above indicates Go’s strength, until you want to write code that isn’t strictly based on the syntax. The Go programming language doesn’t leave you a choice - you have to be loyal to gofmt. Python gives you a helping hand - PEP 8. PEP 8 is a guide full of conventions to extend and enrich the standard Python library and is considered a formatting standard for Python projects. 

Is Python faster than Go? 

To properly compare the speed of these languages, a few tasks were chosen to show how fast Go and Python can resolve them. 

  • Mandelbrot - Python 3: 163.32 secs vs. Go: 3.73 secs. 
  • Fannkuch-redux - Python 3: 352.29 secs vs. Go: 8.31 secs. 
  • K-nucleotide - Python 3: 46.28 secs vs. Go: 7.46 secs. 
  • n-body - Python 3: 567.56 secs vs. Go: 6.38 secs. 
  • Reverse-complement - Python 3: 7.20 secs vs. Go: 1.35 secs. 
  • Binary-trees - Python 3: 48.03 secs vs. Go: 12.23 secs. 
  • Pidigits - Python 3: 1.28 secs vs. Go: 1.00 secs. 
  • Regex-deux -  Python 3: 1.36 secs vs. Go: 3.85 secs. 

As you can see, only in one case was Python faster than Go. What, as in the n-body case, makes Go 89 times faster than Python? This isn’t an isolated example - in Fannkuch-redux, Go is almost 43 times faster. The main reason why the difference is so glaring is the fact that Go is a compiled language in contrast to the interpreted Python. The Go programming language also has one more advantage: Goroutines. These lightweight threads need less RAM and are managed by Go runtime. In comparison to traditional threads (as in Python) Goroutines utilize less resources. What’s more, multithreading in Python couldn’t be taken literally - Python programs are single-threaded with the possibility to add concurrent routines. 

But speed isn’t the only important aspect when creating an application. Exception handling can be a critical factor when choosing the programming language that is best-suited to your needs. 

Error handling in Go and Python - a comparison 

To be specific, we’re thinking about exceptions. An exception is anything anomalous which demands special/different processing. They are not caused by errors in syntax. Handling exceptions guarantees that the program flow isn’t interrupted when an error occurs. 

How do the Python and Go programming languages deal with exceptions? 

Exception handling in Python 

In Python, you can handle exceptions with three statements: 

  • try 
  • except
  • finally 

Statements between try and except all together create a try clause. 

There are a few possible scenarios when you execute a try clause: 

  1. There is no exception - after executing the try statement, the except statement is passed over, and the try statement is finished. 
  2. There is an exception - if the exception matches the one named in the except statement - this clause is executed, the rest of the try statement is skipped. 
  3. There is an exception, but it doesn’t match the exception mentioned in the except statement - this is an unhandled exception, and execution is stopped. 

The finally statement is executed in any