It has been reported that Apple’s new programming language Swift, which is now in its second version will be made available as open source software (OS) under a permissive license. However, the specific license under which it will be made available as OS has not been specified. Some bloggers are of the opinion that it would most probably be available under Apache or another BSD style license. Over the last five years, flexible licenses have taken over the viral GPL type licenses, and it is today estimated that more than sixty percent of all OS software is governed by Apache license.
Any software under Apache License or similar licenses can be used with minimal restrictions. As the restrictions relate to attribution and liability limitations, the software would be highly feasible for business adoption, and has worked very well for google’s android, which has been extensively adopted. It is estimated that more than eighty percent of all devices shipped in developing countries have android on them. However, fragmentation of android poses problems for updates and adoption of developments.
By making Swift 2.0 as open source, Apple aims to tap into benefits offered by OS for app development, and related technology progress. It has been stated that IOS would not be made open source, and that only the programming language would be made open. This will allow Apple to control the OS and avoid fragmentation problems.
While creating a new license of its own to further its business objectives through open sourcing might be a good idea, spreading awareness about the license and encouraging its adoption may take time. OS programmers view companies, which primarily follow proprietary models with circumspection and an adoption lag might be inevitable in such a scenario. On the other hand, picking Apache License, which is well recognized and has been well accepted by the OS community provides the advantage of fast, hassle free adoption, but may be too flexible to suit Apple’s long term business goals. Having said that, being an OS proponent by heart, I hope Apple picks Apache License and fuels the open source movement to the next level.
We will keep you posted on developments with respect to the open source license Apple chooses for Swift.