Apple Swift Programming Language Is Now Open Source - InformationWeek

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12/4/2015
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Apple Swift Programming Language Is Now Open Source

Swift is the programming language for Apple software going forward. And with its release under the open source Apache 2.0 license, it becomes a potential vehicle for crafting applications that run on Android, Linux, Windows, and other operating systems.

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Fulfilling a promise that thrilled Apple developers earlier this year, Apple on Thursday released the Swift programming language under the open source Apache 2.0 license.

Swift is a modern systems programming language that's friendlier to inexperienced programmers than Objective-C, Apple's previous language of choice. It's more readable than Objective-C and it supports a variety of features that lead to better quality code, including strong typing, safe memory management, and implicit namespaces (to prevent name collisions). It is, as Apple has indicated, the programming language for Apple software going forward. And now it has become a potential vehicle for crafting applications that run on Android, Linux, Windows, and other operating systems.

Apple's Swift team released versions of Swift that run on OS X and Linux systems. Those with the appropriate technical skills are free to create versions that run on other platforms.

[ Learn more about Swift. Read Apple's Swift Programming Language: 10 Fascinating Facts.]

At the time Apple announced its intent to open source Swift, there was concern that the license would be insufficiently permissive. But the developer community appears to be pleased with Apple's choice and with the inclusion of a Runtime Library Exception, which allows the compilation of libraries under different licenses.

Apple's Swift team marked the occasion by noting in a blog post that now everyone can help contribute to the improvement of Swift and can make it relevant for a broader range of platforms and applications.

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

(Image: Thomas Claburn)

Al Hilwa, program director for software development research at IDC, said in an email that Swift's release as open source software is a big deal.

"The context here is the battle for mobile programming languages and mobile runtimes," said Hilwa. "Over time, the industry benefits from consolidation around a few strongly adopted languages because it allows better labor mobility across companies and projects. Android got a lot of traction early on leveraging Java. We have seen Microsoft open source its C# stack to broaden the appeal and Apple is essentially on the same trajectory. In the long run, developers will have multiple language options for developing cross-platform native apps so they can better leverage their skills."

Swift presently consists of four distinct projects:

  • The Swift compiler and standard library;
  • The Package Manager;
  • The Core Libraries; and
  • The REPL and Debugger (LLDB).

In a post on Hacker News, Patrick Walton, staff research engineer at Mozilla, welcomed the inclusion of a Package Manager to facilitate the building and sharing of code. "It's really great to see Apple investing in package management for Swift," he wrote. "Handling dependencies and versioning well is so important for a language to get right out of the gate."

Swift has already been accepted by Microsoft, which in February touted RemObjects Software's Silver, a compiler that allows Swift code to be run against .NET, Java, Android, and Cocoa APIs. Google may be less enthusiastic because support for Swift could limit adoption of its Go programming language, though each has its strengths. Regardless, now that Swift belongs to everyone, its future looks bright.

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Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
12/21/2015 | 9:41:44 AM
Closing the gap
Great move to make this Open Source. Perhaps it will close the gap of programs running on apple devices since they've made it easier to program in and made it so it could work across platforms. Making it both free and easy to work in is only a good thing for Apple.
FrenchCaroline
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FrenchCaroline,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/8/2015 | 5:51:59 AM
Re: Developers
I think it too, open source is something really powerfull : They've a lot of free workforce !
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2015 | 12:59:55 AM
Re: Developers
@danielcawrey, I see it as very smart move by Apple...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2015 | 12:58:53 AM
Re: Developers
@Li Tan, yes you are right... as people love freebies... and open source fullfil this....
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/5/2015 | 12:12:03 AM
Re: Developers
Definitely Apple is doing the right thing. To gain popularity in developer community, you need to have something open source and easy to use. Making everything as a closed loop is not going to work.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
12/4/2015 | 11:40:21 AM
Developers
I see this as a move by Apple to keep developers happy. While Apple's operating systems will always remain proprietary to keep the product high quality, it's smart for Apple to appease developers from a language perspective to make Swift open. It's going to make it more popular, that's for sure. 
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