Apple’s Swift is Allegedly Open Source but Doubts Loom
Apple recently announced that it will open source its Swift language software. The term “open source” means that the potential for the software’s engineering and adaptation is made available to the public. Independent software developers can modify the software in a quest to improve and alter it for posterity’s sake.
Yet Apple’s announcement wasn’t all peaches and cream. Many are questioning whether independent developers will actually be able to implement the Swift language as open source. It is a complicated challenge that many suspect will have limited results. Some expect that Apple will not permit alternative approaches to the language but will only allow a limited implementation. Once the license choice is made available to industry experts, more will be known about whether Apple has really left the door fully open for re-implementation. Some anticipate that Apple will lean on copyrights and patents to limit possible innovation of the software.
Even more critical is whether the programming tool will provide complete software freedom. This issue is quite complex and necessitates the consideration of more than the tool chain, syntax and the prospect of independent implementation. Open source enthusiasts believe that the availability of open source SDK for the APIs and platforms that the masses use will be critical to Swift’s fate.
The masterminds at Apple designed Swift to heighten the safety for Apple’s walled garden. Ideally, it will make programming significantly easier than with Objective-C. Apple representatives have stated that the company will strive to contribute ports for a Linux based open source platform as well as iOS and OS X. Yet many think that apps created in Swift for OS X and iOS will not port to other systems with ease. Some believe that only its base, generic code will port to such systems. This type of open source Swift would be widely viewed as a disappointment.
So the question still looms: just how “open source” will Apple’s new Swift programming language really be? We likely will not know until we view the governance and licenses for the tool chain. While Apple seems to be saying all the right things, if Swift can’t be used to open source a variety of applications, many will be upset.