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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, 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'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,'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 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." 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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