Apple's Swift Programming Language Sees Increased Adoption

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Developers have the hots for Swift, Apple's new programming language which can be used instead of Objective-C to write iPhone apps. The iPhone maker debuted Swift alongside iOS 8 back in June, and it is already nearing the top twenty programming languages. To say Swift has seen swift adoption would be an understatement. 

Apple created Swift to simplify the process of creating apps for iOS. It developed the programming language in secret. The idea is to replace Objective-C, which can be somewhat gnarly to use. Swift is much easier for first-time developers to grasp and reduces the overhead in apps written for the iPhone. Bottom line: it lowers the barrier to entry when it comes to writing for the iPhone. 

Swift has made incredible progress since its arrival. RedMonk, a research firm that ranks the popularity of programming languages, pegged Swift as the 68th most popular language at the beginning of the third quarter of 2014. RedMonk checked the rankings again at the beginning of this month and found Swift had surged upward to become the 22nd most-popular programming language. RedMonk calls such a leap atypical.

"The growth that Swift experienced is essentially unprecedented in the history of these rankings," said RedMonk in a blog post. "When we see dramatic growth from a language it typically has jumped somewhere between 5 and 10 spots, and the closer the language gets to the Top 20 or within it, the more difficult growth is to come by. And yet Swift has [made] a jump of 46 spots. From its position far down on the board, Swift now finds itself one spot behind Coffeescript and just ahead of Lua. Given this dramatic ascension, it seems reasonable to expect that the Q3 rankings this year will see Swift as a Top 20 language."

By way of comparison, consider Google's Go programming language, which debuted in 2009. Wired points out that Go just reached the Top 20 after more than five years in the market. This isn't (ahem) an Apple to apples comparison, but it still illustrates the point at hand: Swift's rise is eyebrow-raising. 

There is one major caveat here. According to Wired, RedMonk measured "only two dimensions to rank developer interest: the number of lines of code in the popular code hosting and collaboration site GitHub, and the number of questions being asked about a particular language on the question and answers site StackOverflow." RedMonk's rankings don't necessarily correlate to what companies are using and the number of jobs available for each language. 

Looking at RedMonk's Top 20, though, helps put Swift's adoption rate into perspective. They are as follows (in order): JavaScript, Java, PHP, Python, C#, C++, Ruby, CS5, C, Objective-C, Perl, Shell, R, Scala, Haskell, Matlab, Go, Visual Basic, Clojure, and Groovy.

It's worth pointing out that Objective-C is the 10th most popular language. It also happens to be the main launguage for writing iPhone apps. It speaks volumes to see Swift leap up so quickly with Objective-C already firmly rooted in the Top 10. 

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

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