Apple Hopes to Grow Swift's Footprint Through Open Source

Apple today made its Swift programming language open source. The open source code is available via GitHub and supports all of Apple's software platforms as well as Linux. Apple hopes community contributions will improve Swift and push it to other computing platforms.

Apple first debuted Swift in June 2014 at its Worldwide Developer Conference. The idea behind Swift is to offer an alternative to Objective-C that's easier for novices to grasp and use. It's been hugely popular and Apple claims Swift is the fastest growing programming language in history.

"By making Swift open source, the entire developer community can contribute to the programming language and help bring it to even more platforms," said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering. "Swift's power and ease of use will inspire a new generation to get into coding, and with today's announcement they'll be able to take their ideas anywhere, from mobile devices to the cloud."

In addition to making Swift open source, Apple launched Swift.org, a web site dedicated to Swift and the open source community. This is where developers will find technical documentation and links. The site will maintain a bug reporting and tracking system, mailing lists, community guidelines, tutorials, contributing instructions, and of course developer and API design guidelines.

Apple is offering an extensive set of tools in the download, which includes the Swift compiler, debugger, standard library, foundation libraries, package manager, and REPL. It's all being licensed via Apache 2.0. Developers can use Swift to code for iOS, OS X, watchOS, and tVOS, covering the breadth of Apple's various operating systems and their related hardware.

Interestingly, the Swift Package Manager is a brand new project that will be developed in the open from the start. Apple wants the open source community to be involved in defining the Package Manager and how it can help Swift.

The core libraries included with Swift should give developers plenty of building blocks to get started with iOS and OS X in particular, and even Linux and the cloud. Apple says the foundations here will let developers create more complex apps in a shorter timeframe.

GitHub is happy to be involved. "With the open source release of Swift on GitHub, Apple is bringing their modern programming language to the world’s largest development community," said Brandon Keepers, head of open source, GitHub. "Swift is already in the top 20 most popular programming languages on GitHub, and we can't wait to see what the GitHub community builds with it." GitHub said it "warmly welcomes" Swift to its developer community.

Developers looking to get started should visit Swift.org. All the binaries and downloads are there, and Apple says documentation should help get developers up and running in no time.

 

Eric Zeman I am a journalist who covers the mobile telecommunications industry. I freelance for ProgrammableWeb and other online properties.

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