The two main operating system developers, Microsoft and Apple, have kept their source code under wraps, or close-sourced, hoping to keep competition at bay. However, there are a number of open source operating systems, namely Linux, that allow anyone to create programs and applications without attribution, opening the field to anyone who wishes to create apps and programs.
Although Windows and Macintosh OS X are widely used, Linux has a sizable amount of users, and even operates the majority of the world’s supercomputers. However, Apple has thrown the covers off the source code of its programming language, Swift, electing to go open source through the Apache License. This move puzzled many developers, namely because Apple has a reputation of protecting its source code. In addition, apps and programs designed specifically for Apple cannot be used on platforms that are not OS X or iOS (notable exceptions include iTunes and QuickTime).
Apple stated in a press release that Swift going open source will give Apple leverage on multiple platforms. “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, senior vice president of software engineering at Apple. “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.”
Chris Lattner, the creator of Swift, started working on the project in 2010. Apple then announced the availability of Swift in 2014 during a developer conference. “We are excited by this new chapter in the story of Swift. After Apple unveiled the Swift programming language, it quickly became one of the fastest growing languages in history. Swift makes it easy to write software that is incredibly fast and safe by design. Now that Swift is open source, you can help make the best general purpose programming language available everywhere,” the Swift team said.
The Swift team also mentioned that students can benefit from using Swift. “For students, learning Swift has been a great introduction to modern programming concepts and best practices. And because it is now open, their Swift skills will be able to be applied to an even broader range of platforms, from mobile devices to the desktop to the cloud.”
Swift, which draws inspiration from other programming languages such as Objective-C, Rust, Haskell, Ruby, Python, C# and CLU (among others) can be used to develop desktop and iOS apps. The open source version of Swift uses Linux binaries, and also includes a command line tool. The code can be compiled on any platform, allowing any programmer or software developer to use it for innovative new apps. “Everyone is welcome to contribute to Swift. Contributing doesn’t just mean submitting pull requests—there are many different ways for you to get involved, including answering questions on the mailing lists, reporting or triaging bugs and participating in the Swift evolution process.”