Zig Roadmap 2024 [video]

This page summarizes the projects mentioned and recommended in the original post on news.ycombinator.com

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  • zig

    General-purpose programming language and toolchain for maintaining robust, optimal, and reusable software.

  • Hi, core team member here (I'm quoted in a parent comment!). The problem with LLVM is not that optimization is slow - it's perfectly acceptable for release builds to take arbitrarily long for optimal binaries. The problem is how long it takes to emit debug builds.

    Take building the Zig compiler itself in Debug mode. This process takes about 30 seconds running through the Zig pipeline (semantic analysis and generating LLVM IR), and then 90 seconds just spent waiting for LLVM to emit the binary. OTOH, when using our self-hosted x86_64 backend (which is now capable of building the compiler, although is incomplete enough that it's not necessarily integrated into our development cycle quite yet), that 30 seconds is essentially the full build (there are a couple of extra seconds on the end flushing the ELF file).

    I can tell you from first-hand experience that when fixing bugs, a huge amount of time is wasted just waiting for the compiler to build - lots of bugs can be solved with relative ease, but we need to test our fixes! Rebuilds are also made more common by the fact that LLVM has an unfortunate habit of butchering the debug information for some values even in debug builds, so we often have to rebuild with debug prints added to understand a problem. Making rebuilds 75% faster by just ditching LLVM would make a huge difference. Introducing incremental compilation (which we're actively working on) would make these rebuilds under a second, which would improve workflows a crazy amount. This would hugely increase our development velocity wrt both bugfixes and proposal implementation.

    It's also important to note that we have quite a few compiler bugs which are [caused by upstream LLVM bugs](https://github.com/ziglang/zig/issues?q=is%3Aissue+is%3Aopen...). LLVM often ships with regressions which we report before releases come out and they simply don't fix. In the long term, eliminating the use of LLVM as our main code generation backend will mean that all bugs encountered are our own, and thus can be solved more easily.

  • zig-wasm-string-and-struct

    Example of passing string between WASM host language and struct references to host

  • Yes, another valid case is passing heap-allocated pointers between WASM guest and host. I have an example here if anyone is interested: https://github.com/fatihpense/zig-wasm-string-and-struct

    As a newbie in low-level programming, being able to return "heap-allocated pointer" instead of "stack-allocated pointer to a struct in heap" was a challenge at first :) But I love how everything is explicit in Zig.

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  • Comparatively

    > Incremental rebuilds cause a lot of compilation problems, bugs, and errors. Incremental rebuilds are also slow due to the amount of in between files generated between builds. Jai will contain no incremental rebuild steps. All will be compiled in one fresh compilation. This means that the compiler will need to run fast with high performance. The eventual goal is to compile a 1 million lines of code in 1 second, but as of right now, the compiler can only do 250,000 lines in 1 second.


  • Cuik

    A Modern C11 compiler (STILL EARLY)

  • > but they surely can't hope to compete with LLVM in terms of opimisation, can they?

    This has been discussed more than once on Zig's discord server. Quoting Andrew and Matthew Lugg's discussion in #compiler-devel about pull 17892:

    > mlugg: Shout-out to the people on Twitter and HN who are probably still saying "why would you try to compete with LLVM, LLVM is perfect and can do no wrong"

    > andrewrk: worse, they're saying "LLVM is not great but it's the best mankind can achieve"

    I think it's very appealing to have a project that focuses on fast build times and wants to seriously compete against LLVM in terms of the optimization pass pipeline, specially when you don't have a beefy computer. With that said, for the time being there are no optimizations made by Zig's own x86 backend (it neither does pass all behavior tests like it was pointed out in the talk, but it can build the Zig compiler itself and some other projects).

    Cuik[1] is a project that was mentioned in the Q&A section which illustrates how a compiler can be fast and make optimised builds at the same time.

    [1] https://github.com/RealNeGate/Cuik

NOTE: The number of mentions on this list indicates mentions on common posts plus user suggested alternatives. Hence, a higher number means a more popular project.

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