Go 1.17 brings language and compiler enhancements

Update to Google’s open source programming language introduces enhancements for writing safe pointer operations and a more performant method of passing function arguments.

Go 1.17 moves to beta, with language and compiler enhancements
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Go 1.17, the latest release of the open source, Google-developed programming language, is now available as a production release, with changes intended to simplify coding for safety.

Go 1.17 was published on August 16. Release notes cite three small enhancements to the language, including two intended to simplify writing code that conforms to unsafe.Pointer’s safety rules. The three enhancements include:

  • An expression s of type []T may now be converted to array pointer type *[N]T. If a is the result of such a conversion, then corresponding indices that are in range refer to the same underlying elements: &a[i] == &s[i] for 0 <= i < N. The conversion panics if len(s) is less than N.
  • unsafe.Add: unsafe.Add(ptr, len) adds len to ptr and returns the updated pointer unsafe.Pointer(uintptr(ptr) + uintptr(len)).
  • unsafe.Slice: For expression ptr of type *T, unsafe.Slice(ptr, len) returns a slice of type []T whose underlying array starts at ptr and whose length and capacity are len.

For the compiler, Go 1.17 implements a new way of passing function arguments and results using registers rather than the stack. This is enabled for Linux, MacOS, and Windows on the 64-bit x86 architecture. Benchmarking has shown a resulting performance improvement of about 5% and a typical reduction in binary size of about 2%. This change does not affect the functionality of safe Go code. Also with the compiler, functions containing closures can be inlined. One effect of this is that a function with a closure may produce a distinct closure code pointer function for each place that the function is inlined.

Pruned module graphs are introduced in this release. Module graphs of modules that specify Go 1.17 or higher in their go.mod file will include only the immediate dependencies of other Go 1.17 modules, not their full transitive dependencies.

Go 1.17 can be downloaded from golang.org. The previous release, Go 1.16, was made available in February, featuring library and runtime enhancements. The current stable releases include Go 1.16.5 and Go 1.15.13. A fuzzing capability for Go developers is planned for a future release of the language. Go 1.17 went into a beta release stage on June 10.

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