Swift debuted at the WWDC 2014 Developer Conference and has since been known as the Apple-brand programming language. Created by Chris Lattner, who began working on the language in 2010, Swift has recently become open-sourced, meaning that developers can now apply the language outside the context of iOS development.
In addition to the source code to the compiler, Apple also revealed the beginnings of a native-Swift implementation of the Foundation library (the standard library for all OS X and iOS applications).
That’s not to say that Swift was not already popular. Soon after its release in 2014, Swift quickly became an essential part of any modern app developer’s toolkit and a solid first choice for coding academies and bootcamps to teach their programming students. Overall, Swift gained popularity as it was such a great introduction to modern programing concepts for its use as a general object-oriented language.
Lattner says that he took inspiration from Objective-C, Rust, Haskell, Ruby, Python, C#, CLU, among other languages to develop Swift. Although developers can use the language to create desktop apps as well as iOS programs, the open source version will allow them to apply their skill at this language on more platforms ranging from mobile devices to desktop and the cloud. Linux binaries as well as command line tools for running programs against files and folders are also included in this new version, as well as micro-controllers and small embedded computers.
As support for this change, Apple launched an official Swift blog for the project which will soon be filled with useful tutorials and threads. There are many different ways to contribute to Swift, such as reporting bugs and submitting pull requests.
The most exciting part of this process is that this open-sourced Swift will open up new opportunities for iOS development.
Why is this Exciting?
Apple has a long history of contributing to open source projects, most notably Webkit -- the underpinning of Safari and Apple’s web based technologies on iOS and Mac OS 10.
What is surprising about Swift is how much Apple decided to release on this language and how much they’ll continue to do so in the future. They’ll be using Github for pull requests, they’ll have public discussions of the language’s evolution, and they have a public forum for tracking issues. All of these are uncommon characteristics for Apple and this demonstrates how serious they are about having Swift be a next generation language.
This will be a good thing, for anyone familiar with Swift will know that the language has an insistence on type-safety, error-handling, and variable initialization -- all things that ensure the development of better software. As the Swift language continues to move forward, developers can expect great performance improvements thanks to the collaboration of developers in the community and Apple.
Swift could very well be in the running to be a replacement for C-based languages. Swift can function as both a high level and a low level language. On the high end, the foundation framework includes support for url loading, data and time, and simplified file access. System administrators can use Swift for many of the tasks that previously required them to piece together shell scripts. Swift’s speed is what gives it the quality of a good low-level language. Click here to see the Vimeo video that visualizes how Swift came to be and walks you through how the language became open-sourced.
At Lolay, we build with Swift everyday. We are excited to know that we will have a part in the evolution of Swift. Better performing languages will mean better work and more opportunity to scratch at the surface of what was previously not possible. Contact us online today if you would like to know more about our development process or for consultation. Don’t forget to subscribe to our email and happy holidays to you and your family!