Apple Expects Open-Sourcing Swift Language to Boost Adoption

Apple is open-sourcing its Swift programming language in a move aimed at making the technology more attractive to app and systems developers.

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Apple announced plans to open source its Swift programming language, a move that is sure to enhance the usage of the already popular language.

At the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference 2015, Apple announced Swift 2.0, a new version of the language along with the plan to open source the technology later this year.

Swift is an intuitive programming language for iOS, OS X, and watchOS. Swift builds on the best of C and Objective-C, without the constraints of C compatibility, Apple said. The language adopts safe programming patterns and adds modern features to make programming easier and more flexible.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering said the company is "stepping on the gas this year with Swift 2. We think Swift is the next big programming language, the one we will all do application and systems programming on for 20 years to come. We think it should be everywhere and used by everyone,” he said.

In a post on the Apple Developer blog, Apple said Swift 2.0 has even better performance than before, a new error handling API, and first-class support for availability checking. And platform APIs feel even more natural in Swift with enhancements to the Apple SDKs, the post said.

"Swift is a well-designed language with a best-of-breed feel to it, gathering features from many languages that have become trendy," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC.

The open-sourcing of Swift is big for the Apple developer community, as developers will be able to delve into the code, redistribute it and modify or extend it. With more eyes --and hands -- on the code, there is a better chance that the language will become even better, many observers say.

“I think open-sourcing Swift would improve the language,” said Igor Perisic, vice president of engineering at LinkedIn, which has developed some apps using Swift. “The key thing is how do you control quality when you are open sourcing a language? Apple is really a full stack, all the way down to the hardware. You have hardware, OS and then languages on top of it. So they can leverage all of that. As they move forward, a lot of people will contribute to it because a lot of people are leveraging the Apple platforms and writing code for it. But how do you keep control of quality and how do you keep control of making sure that later versions of the OS will be fully compatible, etc.?”

Apple has yet to share details on how it plans to proceed with the open source move. However, here is what the company said in the blog post: "Swift source code will be released under an OSI-approved permissive license. Contributions from the community will be accepted — and encouraged. At launch we intend to contribute ports for OS X, iOS, and Linux. Source code will include the Swift compiler and standard library. We think it would be amazing for Swift to be on all your favorite platforms.”