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Fuchsia Programming Language Policy

Scope

This document describes which programming languages the Fuchsia project uses and supports for production software on the target device, both within the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree and for end-developers building for Fuchsia outside the Fuchsia Source Platform Tree. The policy does not apply to (a) developer tooling, either on target or host devices, or (b) software on the target device that is not executed in normal, end-user operation of the device. For example, this policy does not apply to zxdb (a debugger) because zxdb is a developer tool; the policy does apply to pkgfs because pkgfs (a file system) executes in the normal, end-user operation of the device.

Definitions

The Fuchsia Platform Source Tree is the source code hosted on fuchsia.googlesource.com. The Fuchsia Platform Source Tree can absorb larger changes to the Fuchsia system and its underlying technologies than end-developers because changes that impact only the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree can be executed without coordination with other groups of people.

End-developers are people who write software for Fuchsia outside of the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree. Changes that impact end-developers require more coordination and take longer to execute than changes that impact only the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree.

Supported for end-developers means that the Fuchsia IDK contains tools and libraries that help people use the language to develop software for Fuchsia, including a language-specific backend (and supporting libraries) for FIDL. Support also implies some level of documentation, including tutorials and examples, as well as investment from developer relations.

Strong support for asynchronous programming means asynchronous programs can be written using straight-line code (e.g., using async/await in languages like Rust and Dart).

Strong encapsulation is a term of art in object-oriented programming languages. It means that the language allows class designers to enforce visibility rules (e.g. private in C++ or Java) for the fields of a class and objects of that class.

Languages

C

Analysis

  • Pro: C is a widely used language. The language has properties that are well-understood, have been stable over a long period of time, and have been used to build similar systems in the past. The language has a mature toolchain and associated developer tools.
  • Pro: C has a stable ABI, which lets the Fuchsia IDK contain prebuilt binaries that end-developers can re-use.
  • Pro: Many languages can interoperate with C using a foreign function interface. Supporting C makes it easier for end-developers to integrate these languages with Fuchsia.
  • Pro: Our current end-developers already use the language.
  • Con: Support for asynchronous programming is weak.
  • Con: Programs written in the language often have security bugs arising from the languageā€™s lack of memory safety.
  • Con: Programs written in the language often contain resource leaks because the language does not provide a facility for automatically releasing resources.
  • Con: Type safety is weak compared to C++. Simply recompiling some of our C code as C++ often results in compiler errors that surface latent bugs in the code.

Decision

  • C is supported for end-developers. (See the list of supported versions of C.)
  • Within the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree, new uses of C are discouraged. Ask the relevant OWNERS for guidance about whether to use C for new code.
  • C is approved for use in the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree:
    • for low-level systems programming, including within the kernel, and
    • for defining ABI-stable interfaces to shared libraries and other system components.

C++

Analysis

  • Pro: Many of our current end-developers use C++ extensively.
  • Pro: The Fuchsia Platform Source Tree uses C++ extensively.
  • Pro: C++ is a widely used language. The language has properties that are well-understood, have been stable over a long period of time, and have been used to build similar systems in the past. The language has a mature toolchain and associated developer tools.
  • Con: Support for asynchronous programming is weak.
  • Con: Programs written in the language often have security bugs arising from the language's lack of memory safety.

Decision

Dart

Analysis

  • Pro: Our current end-developers already use the language.
  • Pro: The majority of Fuchsia's user interface is built using Flutter, which uses Dart.
  • Pro: Asynchronous programs can be written using straight-line code.
  • Pro: People using the language are highly productive.
  • Pro: The Fuchsia project has the opportunity to influence the evolution of the language.
  • Pro: The language provides memory safety guarantees, which reduces the risk of software developed in the language having security bugs.
  • Con: The language uses garbage collection to manage memory, which is more resource intensive than other techniques for managing memory.
  • Con: The language has a substantial runtime environment.
  • Con: The toolchain forces a trade-off between binary size, performance, and startup latency that is worse than the tradeoff provided by toolchains for other languages.

Decision

  • Dart is supported for end-developers targeting non-drivers.
  • Dart is approved for use in the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree for user interfaces and for programs that do not run indefinitely.

Rust

Analysis

  • Pro: The Fuchsia Platform Source Tree has had positive implementation experience using Rust.
  • Pro: The language provides memory safety guarantees, which reduces the risk of software developed in the language having security bugs.
  • Pro: Asynchronous programs can be written using straight-line code.
  • Pro: The Fuchsia project has the opportunity to influence the evolution of the language.
  • Con: Rust is not a widely used language. The properties of the language are not yet well-understood, having selected an unusual language design point (e.g., borrow checker) and having existed only for a relatively short period of time.
  • Con: None of our current end-developers use Rust.

Decision

  • Rust is not supported for end-developers.
  • Rust is approved for use throughout the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree, with the following exceptions:
    • kernel. The Zircon kernel is built using a restricted set of technologies that have established industry track records of being used in production operating systems.

Go

Analysis

  • Pro: Go is a widely used language within Google.
  • Pro: gVisor has implemented a network stack using the language and that network stack has been integrated with Fuchsia.
  • Pro: People using the language are highly productive.
  • Pro: The Fuchsia project has the opportunity to influence the evolution of the language.
  • Pro: The language provides memory safety guarantees, which reduces the risk of software developed in the language having security bugs.
  • Pro: The language has an extensive ecosystem of libraries that are likely to be useful on Fuchsia.
  • Con: The language uses garbage collection to manage memory, which is more resource intensive than other techniques for managing memory.
  • Con: The language has a substantial runtime environment.
  • Con: The Fuchsia Platform Source Tree has had negative implementation experience using Go. The system components the Fuchsia project has built in Go have used more memory and kernel resources than their counterparts (or replacements) the Fuchsia project has built using C++ or Rust.
  • Con: The toolchain produces large binaries.

Decision

  • Go is not approved, with the following exceptions:
    • netstack. Migrating netstack to another language would require a significant investment. In the fullness of time, we should migrate netstack to an approved language.
  • All other uses of Go in the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree for production software on the target device must be migrated to an approved language.

Python

Analysis

  • Pro: The language is widely used.
  • Pro: The language is used in the build systems of many open-source dependencies of Fuchsia.
  • Pro: People using the language are highly productive.
  • Pro: The language has a robust ecosystem of contributors and libraries that are likely to be useful on Fuchsia.
  • Pro: The language provides memory safety guarantees, which reduces the risk of software developed in the language having security bugs.
  • Con: The language uses garbage collection to manage memory, which is more resource intensive than other techniques for managing memory.
  • Con: The language has a substantial runtime environment.
  • Con: The language is not performance-competitive with C++, Rust, or Dart.
  • Con: Programming errors are often detected during execution rather than statically.
  • Con: The language lacks strong encapsulation.

Decision

  • Python is not supported for end-developers.
  • Python 3 is approved for use in the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree for the following purposes:
    • Build
    • Host tools
  • Python 2.7 is deprecated and existing uses in the Fuchsia Platform Source Tree must be migrated to an approved language.