Hey Apple, we're gonna tailor Swift as open source – indie devs throw down gauntlet

GPL language clone is 'a friendly nudge' to Cupertino

A group of independent developers has launched a project to develop a free, open source implementation of Apple's Swift programming language.

Dubbed 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 GNUStep project, who is described as Ind.ie's newest member.

The code, which is being released under the Gnu General Public License (GPL) version 3, is still in a raw state. Tagged as a "sneak peek," it so far consists of 14 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 on Tuesday that work on the project is progressing rapidly and that the group expects to have a running Phoenix compiler "within the week."

What Ind.ie would really like, however, is for Cupertino to join the party and release the source code for its own Swift compiler and tools.

"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?"

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.

"These moves will, no doubt, 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.

Failing that, however, Balkan said that anyone interested in helping out with the Phoenix project should "please do get in touch." ®

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