Apple announced last night (Thursday) that it is making its iOS programming language Swift entirely open source, with immediate effect.
While Swift has always been free to use since its launch in 2014, the move to make Swift a genuinely open source language should ensure that it garners a much wider development audience.
Apple’s hope is that the worldwide developer community will contribute to the evolution of Swift as a programming language, making it better, faster and available on more computing platforms.
Being open source, any developer can now contribute new Swift features and optimisations. In less than two years, Swift has already become one of the fastest growing programming languages in history, offering developers the performance and efficiency of compiled languages (e.g. Objective-C) with the simplicity and interactivity of popular scripting languages (e.g. PHP).
Apple has also launched the Swift.org website with detailed information about Swift open source, including technical documentation, community resources and links to download the Swift source code.
“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.”
The Swift open source code is available via GitHub and includes support for all Apple software platforms – iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS – as well as for Linux. Components available include the Swift compiler, debugger, standard library, foundation libraries, package manager and REPL.
Swift is licensed under the popular Apache 2.0 open source license with a runtime library exception, enabling users to easily incorporate Swift into their own software and port the language to new platforms.
Swift was developed in-house at Apple as a powerful and intuitive programming language designed to create apps for modern devices, such as Apple’s iPhone, iPad and Watch. Intended to simplify the task of coding, it is expressly meant to be easier to learn and use than previous coding languages.
The world of coding is changing rapidly, as deployment for mobile devices and operating systems surpasses traditional desktop development. Swift has competition from the likes of Google’s new language, Go, and also Mozilla Research’s Rust.