An open source implementation of Apple's Swift programming language
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October 22, 2014
We've learned today that a group of independent developers have launched a new initiative to
develop an open source implementation of Apple's Swift programming language.
Called Phoenix, the project is being developed under the auspices of Ind.ie, a group that
claims to want to develop "consumer products that are beautiful, free, social, accessible, secure,
and distributed" and that eschew business models based on "corporate surveillance."
The Phoenix project's lead developer is Greg Casamento, leader of the GNU Step project, who
is also described as Ind.ie's newest member.
The new code, which is being released under the Gnu General Public License (GPL) version 3, is
still in an initial development stage.
Tagged as a "sneak peek," it so far consists of fourteen source code files written in a combination
of C, Objective-C, and a grammar definition file.
In a discussion forum on Hacker News, Ind.ie's Aral Balkan said yesterday that work on the
new project is progressing rapidly and that the group expects to have a running Phoenix compiler
"within the week."
But what Ind.ie would really like is for Apple to join the party and release the source code
for its own Swift compiler and tools.
"Just imagine how different Apple's own story would have been if Richard Stallman had not
written the GNU C Compiler and released it under a free license," Balkan said in an open letter
posted to the Phoenix website.
"Steve Jobs could not have had an Objective-C compiler built on top of it at NeXT. Or what if
Chris Lattner had not released LLVM under an open license?," he added.
Comparing Apple's current competition with Google to its rivalry with Microsoft in previous decades,
Balkan speculated that Apple wants to keep Swift closed as a way to make cross-platform mobile development
more difficult. And he probably has a point there.
"These moves will probably gain iOS more exclusive titles," Balkan wrote. "But only those who
lack confidence in their ability to otherwise compete resort to lock-in as a competitive advantage.
You don't need this. You're better than this."
Ind.ie is releasing Phoenix now, Balkan said, as "a friendly nudge" to Apple to rethink its strategy
and release Swift under a free and open source license.
But failing that, Balkan said that anyone interested in helping out with the Phoenix project
should "please get in touch."
Source: The Phoenix Project.
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