Is Open Source Swift a good thing ?

swift-progOn December 3 Apple has open sourced the Swift programming language on Swift.org. The language was first released (not Open Source yet) about the same time as iOS 8 and was created by Apple to make Mac and iOS app development an easier task. Swift is welcome as one more Open Source language and project but is too early to make a lot of noise about it. Here are my arguments:

  1. For now Swift has no client-side (as Angular for JavaScript) or server-side (as Rail for Ruby, Django for Python) application frameworks. Exceptions are the proprietary Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks for Apple platforms only.
  2. For now Swift can only offer a very young set of core libraries.
  3. We have enough modern Open Source languages: Python, Ruby, Perl, JavaScript, PHP, Java just to mention the most recent ones. A lot of energy is required to create an ecosystem around a language.
  4. It is difficult to unbound Swift from Apple platforms since a lot of Open Source extensions for Swift still use proprietary Apple class libraries as NSString etc.

We are still creating an ecosystem around JavaScript and Node (the new kid on the block). We’ll have to see how the community absorbs, supports and nurtures the Swift ecosystem.

Here is a comparison between Swift and JavaScript/Node. Node is runtime software that makes the JavaScript language independent from the browser and usable for server-side programming.

JavaScript/Node × Swift comparison
Swift JavaScript/Node
Client-side frameworks  None. Cocoa and Cocoa Touch for Apple platforms only  Angular, Ionic, Cordova, the Browser, JQuery
Server-side frameworks  None mature  Express, Sails
Platform support  Apple platforms, Ubuntu Linux Node: all Linux, Windows, Mac • pure JavaScript: wherever there is a browser

So for now I would recommend to just keep an eye on how Swift ecosystem is evolving and stick with what is already mature:

  • Python + Django
  • Ruby + Rails
  • Java + J2EE
  • PHP + Symfony
  • Drupal
  • Cordova + Ionic + Angular + JavaScript for cross platform mobile development
  • Express + Node + JavaScript as a new kid on the block

Meanwhile you can play with the Swift language online on IBM Bluemix.

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