When Apple introduced Swift in June 2014, it expected that developers would eventually use the programming language to build apps for iOS and macOS, abandoning Objective-C, its aging predecessor, in the process.
But two and a half years later, Objective-C is still going strong, at least according to data from Dice: The number of job postings citing Objective-C outnumber those naming Swift by nearly eight-to-one. Meanwhile, developers continue to apply for Objective-C jobs in healthy numbers that, while not quite up to Swift levels, certainly suggest that the older language isn’t dying anytime soon.
There are a number of factors likely in play here. Over the past several years, many companies have built apps for iOS or macOS, generating a sizable code-base in Objective-C that must be updated and maintained. At the same time, businesses that need to develop new apps are asking for tech pros adept in Swift, and large numbers of people are applying for those jobs.
Upwork, a freelancing Website, recently placed Swift at second on its list of the fastest-growing skills in the fourth quarter of 2016 (right behind natural-language processing, and ahead of Tableau). In a note accompanying that list, it attributed that spike in part to the holiday shopping season: “Sales for the Apple Watch, which is developed using Swift, were at a record high during the holidays.”
Whether the Apple Watch by itself is enough to spur Swift adoption is an open question. That aside, the install base for iOS and macOS remains quite large, and it’s not going to shrink anytime soon; and as long as that’s the case, developers who know Objective-C and Swift will surely find companies in need of their skillsets. As companies mothball, update, or replace their legacy iOS apps, the need for those adept with Swift will only increase.
Swift 4.0 is currently in development, according to its GitHub repository. Changes to this upcoming version will increase greater overall stability to the source and binary interface, along with standard library improvements and changes to the memory model.