Now that the dust has settled over the first day of WWDC, news of Apple’s new Swift programming language has caused quite a stir, especially considering there were no rumors indicating the company was planning the move.
Designed to be the successor to Objective-C, the primary language programmers use to write software for OS X and iOS, the new language will supposedly make coders’ lives easier by making the process of developing software faster and less-painful.
Apple’s senior vice president of software Craig Federighi showed off some graphs that backed up the company’s assertions, although time will will tell if Apple’s statistics are too good to be true.
Speaking my language
Some developers consider this great news because working with Objective-C was a pain:
Number one most attractive feature about the new Swift Language? It's not Objective-C.—
Scott Hanselman (@shanselman) June 02, 2014
For others, Swift doesn’t really seem all that unique, as this disinterested HackerNews commenter wrote: “It looks like a hodgepodge of ideas from ES6, Ruby, Go, and maybe Rust, with a bit of backend work done to let it work on their existing infrastructure.”
For Brian Enochson, senior software developer at HBO, Apple’s new language is a big deal because the company has finally nominated a replacement for the 20-year-old Objective C language.
“It brings modern language constructs like closures, generics and tuples,” wrote Enochson in an email. “This was done by removing the inherited C-like constructs and building on the recent modern development in Objective C like LLVM and garbage collection.”
The new language might open doors to other developers who might have been put off on having to use Objective-C for iOS development, Enochson wrote, and he believes that this is a major announcement for iOS-only engineering shops who were maybe blindsided by the news.
While Swift may be a big deal for current developers, it might be even more exciting for people who want to learn how to code, explained Josh Michaels, a mobile developer who creates apps under the company name Jetson Creative.
“The simplicity of the syntax, ease of use of the tools, real-time execution model, and documentation model will make it much easier for new people to learn to develop,” wrote Michaels in an email. “This will be great for education.”
Michael Klishin, a staff software engineer at Pivotal, echoed Michaels’ sentiments:
In general, Swift will bring several important features from "advanced" languages to millions of developers. That's a good thing.—
Michael Klishin (@michaelklishin) June 02, 2014
Does not compute
Of course, there are some Swift naysayers like Joel Spolsky, co-founder of Fog Creek Software. He tweeted that while he believes that Swift is better than Objective C, he doesn’t think “developers are ever happy hearing about another single-purpose proprietary programming language.”
Read the swift book. It feels exactly like go, with just enough irritating differences to be painful. Like Java:C# :: Go:Swift—
Joel Spolsky (@spolsky) June 02, 2014
Brendan Quinn, a mobile test lead at the Global Betting Exchange, wrote in an email that Swift is not a revolutionary step and is “merely a large incremental step for Apple developers.”
“It is unlikely to attract existing developers in any numbers from Windows/open web-based languages, Android etc.,” Quinn wrote. “Would a developer give up years working with C++ 11 for example to move to Swift?”
While the new language may help developers with productivity, Quinn does not believe this will be a major leap for the coding world as he believes developers will continue to choose for themselves whether or not they want to participate in the Apple universe, either from within or from the outside.
If you want to get start developing using Swift, Apple released a hefty iBook that gives you the full rundown. And please let me know whether you are a Swift supporter or an on opponent.
Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock user Andrey Bayda