Apple Expects Open-Sourcing Swift Language to Boost Adoption

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2015-06-09 Print this article Print
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While some viewed Apple’s announcement as groundbreaking, others saw it as the natural order of things. “I don't understand why it's news that Apple is OSS-ing Swift,” said Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, in a tweet. “They would be crazy not to open source it. What took them so long?”

Apple has high hopes for the language. “We are excited about the opportunities an open source Swift creates for our industry,” Apple said in its blog post. “Baked-in safety features combined with excellent speed mean it has the chance to dramatically improve software versus using C-based languages. Swift is packed with modern features, it’s fun to write, and we believe it will get used in a lot of places.”

Could Swift become the Java of a new generation?

“I’d be excited if this worked the same way as when the community extends Java,” Perisic said. “The nice thing about when you open source something, whatever you did suddenly has a life of its own and you don’t control it anymore. The open source community is going to take into all of these incredible spaces. And it’s going to realize the full potential of what you created. You control that potential at the beginning within the space of your strategic vision. When you put that in the open source community that strategy is blown away. Because somebody may have a brilliant idea and suddenly Swift is a language that controls drones or something like that.”

Meanwhile, Swift is gaining traction among developers, as Objective-C, up to now the primary language for developing iOS apps, is losing steam.

According to the most recent TIOBE Index of the most popular programming languages, Objective-C is the fifth most popular language and falling dramatically, while Swift is the 14th most popular language and rising.

“Objective-C is really going into freefall,” the TIOBE Index said. “The last couple of months it is losing about 1 percent of market share per month. If this trend continues, Objective-C will leave the TIOBE index top 20 before the end of this year. The main cause of this is Apple's announcement last year to replace Objective-C by its new programming language Swift. The programming community embraced Swift because it fits the bill much better. Apart from this, there is also a trend to use C++ more frequently to program the lower layers of an iOS application.”

IDC's Hilwa said the outcome of open-sourcing Swift will be determined by the ecosystem.

"In the end how it is evolved and where it is driven by Apple or the ecosystem that forms around it will determine how far the language can go," he said. "Having it in open source begins the process of ecosystem building. One thing that has helped Java is that it has a strong system of governance which the ecosystem participates in. The other thing that has helped Java is the reach from micro devices to servers. We have to wait and see if Swift makes it into the server world. It is definitely early days for Swift."



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