Swift is again replacing Objective-C, report claims

Swift has climbed 10 places to become the 10th most popular programming language.

Apple, iOS, Objective-C, Swift, iPhone, Catalyst, Tiobe, Apple

Swift may finally be replacing Apple’s former favorite, Objective C, according to the latest Tiobe programming language popularity charts.

Swift is on the way up (again)

The trend should be of interest to Apple watchers, as it suggests significant changes both in how developers are approaching the platform and in what our expectations of future application development should be.

Java, C, Python and C++ remain the top languages, of course, but Swift has now climbed 10 places to become the 10th most popular programming language, according to the Tiobe report, with Objective C falling from 10th to 20th position. 

“In 2014 Apple announced the new programming language Swift to be the successor of Objective-C. At that moment Objective-C was at position number three in the Tiobe index, and development of mobile apps for iPhones and iPads was booming," Tiobe explains.

"After the announcement Objective-C dropped from 12% market share in 2014 to 1% market share in 2016. Surprisingly, Swift grew from 1% to only 2% at that same time. The other 10% was consumed by other programming languages that appeared to be compilable for multiple mobile platforms,” the report continues.

Has this been as a result of Catalyst?

Now, I think it possible that the Swift’s growth reflects Apple’s quiet move toward a develop-once, use-anywhere approach. Catalyst, after all, lets developers more easily port apps from iPad to iPhone, or iPad to Mac, and while it’s not a perfect solution, it is seeing more adoption. In short, Swift has become a more attractive tool for use in some projects (particularly for those building solutions they hope to release across all Apple platforms in the years to come).

The move to replace Objective-C was mandated because the language has become somewhat outdated, Tiobe argues, noting that the transition has dented Apple’s overall language market share a little – though its share remains dwarfed in comparison to the larger languages.

Swift 6 hovers into view

The thing is, when looking at Apple, it’s seldom a zero-sum game. The company continues to develop across all of its products and services, and Swift really is no different. Swift 6 is already in development and this promises to be a far more capable tool for software development across multiple platforms.

Swift’s teams are also focusing on improving the developer experience, including development of new languages for machine learning, services and API development, a post of Swift.org said.

The current iteration of Swift is Swift 5.2.

“We are likely to see a succession of Swift 5.x releases — each which will make progress on the frontiers outlined above — as we build up towards Swift 6. Each of those releases will be a major release in their own right,” the core Swift team explains.

In one recent move, Swift benefited from the introduction of Swift Crypto, new APIs that enable developers to make use of Apple CryptoKit in their apps. This should make it possible to build secure encryption within apps on supported platforms.

The bottom line?

Swift’s ascendancy means aspirant developers will be even more motivated to learn how to use the language, particularly as most small- to mid-sized companies now write all their iOS apps using the language.

Sure, Objective-C remains in wide use at larger enterprises. But the direction of travel here quite clearly favors further adoption of Swift, which means those thousands of students worldwide engaging in Swift training sessions at Apple retail stores are making good use of their time.

In addition to which, given Apple’s continued growth in the mobile enterprise, businesses may find it strategically appropriate to identify the most talented young Swift developers as they struggle to meet recruitment targets.

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Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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