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Swift Evolution Monthly

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Swift Evolution Monthly Overview

Summary of interesting developments on Swift Evolution

Recap of Swift Evolution History
Since the day Apple open-sourced Swift in December 2015 it was possible to follow and even participate in the future of Swift. At the beginning the discussions were hard to explore & a mess to follow due to their mailing list nature. Thankfully, more than a year after the first suggestion to migrate over to a proper forum software and dozens of participators backing the idea, the Core Team had decided to do the migration. It took nearly another year until the Swift Forums officially opened in January 2018.

In the 4 years since then ~17k developers discussed Swift topics in ~27k threads with ~245k posts overall as of March 2022 (source). Even more developers (probably ~100k) have at least viewed and read some portion of them. A whole 9 new Swift versions were released since migrating to the forum, each accompanied by an official announcement blog article which lists all Swift Evolution proposals that went through the Swift Evolution Process and informed the changes: 4.1, 4.2, 5.0, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, 5.4, 5.5, 5.6.

The road to Swift 6 is outlined since January 2020 and is the most-viewed thread in the forum for a reason. It summarizes the Swift 6 focus in 3 areas:

First, “the Swift software ecosystem” to broaden Swifts usefulness outside of Apple app development. Second, “a fantastic development experience” like faster builds & more accurate error messages. And third, “user-empowering language directions” such as improvements to concurrency, generics, DSLs, memory-ownership and low-level programming. All these areas have seen large steps forward since the announcement with the changes in Swift 5.2 and later, Swift Concurrency being a large recent focus. But there’s still much work to be done in all of them, so Swift 6 release is not a topic for this year and we can expect at least Swift 5.7 and 5.8 before that.

Why a “Swift Evolution Monthly”?
My main takeaway from the recap of the Swift Evolution history above is that the future development of Swift is truly a community effort. While Apple is still the main driver of this language (more on that at the end), setting the rough direction and current focus, we all have a say in all the details and can even make suggestions for improvements or entirely new features ourselves.

At the same time, we developers are “users” of the Swift language first and foremost. Being a “designer” of a language is an entirely different thing and can eat quite a large chunk of our precious time. Nevertheless, I’m personally very interested in what’s coming next in Swift so I can make informed decisions about which APIs or frameworks I make use of right now. And on which parts I maybe use a temporary solution and wait a couple of months before diving into making things proper. Because there might be a related Swift feature coming soon that will simplify things or allows entirely new concepts. But how would I know if I didn’t follow the discussions? And will the change actually work for my problem, too, or should I give feedback?

For these reasons, I sometimes wander around in the Pitches category to find ideas I want to support. But more importantly, I’m skimming through the Proposalsthat are officially in review or even accepted. Of course, I’m reading Paul Hudson great write-ups whenever a new Swift version is released, but for an informed long-term decision-making that’s too late for me.

Actually, Paul Hudson used to talk about new and coming Swift features together with Erica Sadun in the Swift over Coffee podcast. Likewise, Jesse Squires and JP Simard used to talk about Swift Evolution proposals in their Swift Unwrapped podcast. But both stopped recording new episodes after their WWDC episodes in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

The same Jesse Squires had also started the Swift Weekly Brief newsletter in 2015 right after Swift was open-sourced, to stay up-to-date with the latest in Swift Evolution. The community-driven newsletter was later maintained by Bas Broekand most recently by Kristaps Krinbergs. But unfortunately, it ended a few months ago with Issue #200 on December, 16th 2021.

So, here we are, me trying to fill the gap with a monthly summary of what interesting developments I’ve come across in the Swift forums.

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