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Swift Steals The Show at WWDC

by Basil Shikin on Jun 10, 2015

Of all the things Apple announced at their annual WWDC this week, to me, the most important by far was the news around Swift 2.0.

Swift, Apple’s programming language that launched seemingly from out of nowhere last year and has seen unprecedented growth, has had some incremental enhancements and tweaks (for instance, support for try/catch, or availability checking). But the biggest change is due later this year: Apple will be open sourcing Swift. It got me thinking about Swift’s present and future.

What is so promising about Swift?

Although the language is not as mature as Objective C, Swift feels a lot more modern, clean and concise. All of Apple’s new frameworks are Objective C-based, and behind the scenes Swift depends on all that Objective C code. The cleaner and more accessible Swift is, the more opportunities open up for people learning to code. This is not to say that Swift is dumbing it down, but simply taking away some of the more painful roadblocks for those new to coding.

Why Swift is Best for Indies

I think all iOS developers, big and small, should familiarize themselves with Swift. But in its current state, Swift is really best suited for indie dev shops. Indie devs are able to take full advantage of Swift, while companies that have sizable existing Objective C code bases need Swift to be more mature before fully employing it.

Indie devs are more open to experimentation and embracing new features because they are more nimble and generally don’t have to worry about legacy code in incumbent products.

But it is important to remember that Swift is a young language and a moving target. This can be exciting for some, but many developers may want to wait until migrating all of their project to the new technology until it’s more stable and full-featured.

Opening it up

The move to open source Swift is a great idea from Apple because more people will be able to learn and play with Swift. If the language turns out to be powerful and successful, it can even go beyond mobile apps. Also, Apple has a good track record when it comes to open sourcing. WebKit turned out to power not only Safari, but also Opera and Chrome. The open source announcement got the biggest crowd reaction at the keynote, and I can see why.

Getting started with Swift  

Even if you don’t intend to make something for production with Swift, I encourage any iOS developer to learn how to use it—Swift is clearly a platform that is important to Apple, so get in on the ground floor. And soon, after the open source community has been able to contribute to it, Swift may find itself on platforms beyond iOS. There are many, many places to get started learning how to use Swift, and active forums to discuss its development and your experiences with it.

For users of AppLovin’s SDK, not much will change if you want to use Swift. We already expose some convenience headers to make Swift integration simpler.

It will be interesting to see how Swift evolves, especially as an open source language. Its future looks incredibly promising.

 

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Basil Shikin is AppLovin’s VP of Engineering.

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