Apple’s Swift Is Going Open Source

A year ago, Apple released the Swift programming language to the public. Not long after that, Microsoft open sourced the .NET Framework. And almost as if in rebuttal, Apple just announced that Swift too will be made open source. Plot twist after plot twist.
Here are two companies that sit at the top of the technology food chain, both known for their proprietary schemes and designs. To see them officially adopt theopen source philosophy, at least to some degree, feels extremely out of character for both, but it’s ultimately good news for all of us.
It’s nothing short of monumental, marking a huge milestone in the evolution of the programming industry. Even if you aren’t a programmer yourself, these developments will impact you. Want to know why and how? Keep reading.

What the Heck Is Swift?

Have you ever wanted to create an iOS or OS X app? You wouldn’t be the first, considering how widespread the Apple ecosystem is and how profitable those users can be when it comes to app purchases.
The one big problem, until recently, was that Apple apps had to be coded in Objective C, a not-so-modern programming language that lacks the relative user-friendliness of alternatives like Java, C#, and Python. Swift aims to address that, and more.
According to the official Swift 2.0 release, here’s what Apple means by “open source”:
  • 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.
So what’s the big deal here? The fact that Swift is now open source doesn’t mean anything on its own. It’s the implications that we care about, which is why our attention should be trained on bullet point number four — the compiler is now open source.

How This Benefits You and Me

Everything above is like a candy shop for programmers, but most of us aren’t programmers and these details may be flying over your head. We don’t care as much about making apps as we do about using the ones that are on the app store. So, do we have reason to celebrate?
We sure do.

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