When the Swift bombshell was dropped on us at WWDC yesterday, there was an awkward hesitation in the room before the unsure applause set in. I heard that while everyone was clapping, one guy in the audience was just starting, clearly upset, in the live stream.
Yet, as we learned more and more about Swift in the Platform State Of The Union yesterday, and as we started looking through the Swift iBook, I could see the excitement building throughout the day in both myself and the other developers I’ve come across. Here is are some of the reasons:
— Scott O’Hara (@scottohara_) June 3, 2014
Hmm… Swift => Haskell, Ruby mix based on Rust? — Jeremy Bae (@opt9) June 3, 2014
The more I learn about swift the more I like it. I’m glad I’ve been playing with ruby and C# recently because that’s making it easier — Andrew Carter (@andrewroycarter) June 3, 2014
Basically, Apple has managed to release a brand new language that is already intuitive to most developers. That is pretty amazing.
Experts Love It
Yesterday, I was very lucky to be in the presence of some iOS Developers who’ve been working with Objective-C for somewhere between 10-25 years, with years of iOS expertise. It was amazing to see them open up the Swift iBook and get so excited and rejuvenated at the possibilities. There are frameworks, open source libraries that need to be written, events to put on, education to refine!!!!
The Experts seem to really trust the team behind Swift, and they seemed excited to see that all their issues / complaints with Objective-C were resolved in Swift. Of course, I’m not an expert in all of this stuff, but it was great to be part of such amazing conversations and feel excitement (instead of annoyance to have to learn something new) from people who really are Objective-C experts. It makes me proud to be part of this community.
How neat that we’re all beginners at the same time though, right?
— Mattt Thompson (@mattt) June 2, 2014
Beginners Will Love It
As I was watching Apple demo the “playground’ tools for iOS app development, I couldn’t stop thinking how much this will benefit beginner coders.
Just think about it – all a beginner has to do is install XCode, launch the fun playground, and go! They see real-time expression evaluations as they code. Or, if they’re making a game, they can see the game in action as they type the code. Oh yeah, and then there is the documentation playground! That is seriously ground breaking.
— Michael Liendo (@model3volution) June 3, 2014
Compare that to the Android installation process, or even Ruby or Python for that matter! No intimidating terminal to look at! Oh yeah, and I still honestly am not really sure how to navigate the Android documentation.
I remember when I was first starting to learn to code in Java via Stanford’s CS106A, I got a bunch of people (over 40!) to join me on my learning journey. About 3/4 of them dropped out at the setup process – they couldn’t get Eclipse installed and running, and I couldn’t help them, because I was also a beginner at the time. Swift CHANGES EVERYTHING for beginners.
As I mentioned in my tweets earlier, I really wouldn’t be surprised if iOS becomes the first language of choice for self-taught beginner developers. I’m also not sure they’ll be able to switch to anything else!
Level Playing Field
Starting yesterday, EVERYONE is a Swift expert. This is amazing. We have a unique chance of being really good at a language, right at the start of it, that we know MILLIONS of developers will use in the upcoming years.
I was talking to a very experienced developer yesterday, and he mentioned how he wrote Ruby on Rails back when it was in version 1.0 and 2.0. There was very little chance that it was going to take off. Luckily it did, but my guess is that most new languages don’t. Here, we have something that nobody knows yet (except the creators of Swift) that we KNOW FOR SURE will be HUGE, and we get to start learning it with everyone else on day one.
This means that newer developers will have the opportunity to make pretty big contributions to the community. Again, think of all the open source libraries that will need to be re-written, written from scratch, etc!!! This is truly an exciting time to be an iOS developer.
Big Risk, Big Reward
Apple took a MASSIVE risk yesterday. They KILLED a language they’ve been working with and creating since the 1980s to open up development for the mass market. This is seriously crazy and awesome of Apple at the same time. Yet, the risk seems to have already paid off. Instead of isolating existing iOS developers, we cannot be more excited about the future.