One of Apple's biggest success stories takes a huge leap forward

WWDC 2015 Swift Craig FederighiMatt WeinbergerApple’s Craig Federighi talks about Swift apps on stage at WWDC 2015.

Swift, the programming language that Apple released almost exactly a year ago to high acclaim and shockingly fast uptake by developers, is taking a huge leap forward today with the introduction of a new version — and the tremendous step of releasing Swift as open source.

“We’re stepping on the gas this year with Swift 2,” said Apple’s Craig Federighi on stage at today’s WWDC keynote.

Swift 2.0 adds a bunch of features that developers have been asking for, to ensure that apps written in Swift are faster and can do more.

But more importantly for the long-term prospects for Apple’s Swift is the news that it’s going to be released as open source.

“Open source” refers to the idea that any developer, anywhere in the world, can contribute new features and updates to a software project — totally for free. Google’s Android mobile operating system, for example, is open source, which is how smartphone manufacturers can release devices with versions of Android that are slightly different from each other.

“We think Swift is the next big programming language,” Federighi says. “We think Swift should be everywhere and used by everyone.”

For Swift, getting released as open source mainly means two things:

  1. Since developers can contribute improvements to Swift, the language will get a lot better a lot faster.
  2. It’s an important signal to developers that Swift is more about helping developers write better code than it is about Apple pushing an agenda.

Basically, it takes a large portion of the control over Swift out of the hands of Apple and puts it in the hands of developers, with the intention of accelerating its development. It’s an important milestone for any new technology — and the fact that it came out of the famously-secretive Apple makes it even more noteworthy.

“It will be out there by the end of the year,” Federighi says.

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