Language DesignWhat do I mean? Well, primarily this:
Swift is a crescendo of special cases stopping just short of the general; the result is complexity in the semantics, complexity in the behaviour (i.e. bugs), and complexity in use (i.e. workarounds).The list Rob compiled is impressively well-researched. Although "special cases stopping just short of the general" for me is enough, it is THE cardinal sin of language design, I would add "needlessly replacing the keyword message syntax at exactly the point where it was no longer an issue and adding it back as an abomination of accidental complexity the world has never seen before". Let's see what Gilad Bracha, an actual programming language designer, has to say on the keyword syntax:
This notation makes it impossible to have an arity error when calling a method. In a dynamically typed language, this is a huge advantage.Abandoning keyword syntax at this point in time takes "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" to a whole new and exciting level!
I am keenly aware that this syntax is unfamiliar to most programmers, and is a potential barrier to adoption. However, it improves usability massively. Furthermore, a growing number of programmers are learning this notation because of its use in Objective-C (e.g., the iOS APIs).
Or the whole idea of having every arithmetic operation be a potential crash point, despite the fact that proper numeric towers have been around for many decades and decently optimized (certainly no slower than unoptimized Swift).
And yet, Rob for example writes that the main culprit for Swift's complexity is Objective-C, which I find somewhat mind-boggling. After all, the requirement for Objective-C interoperability couldn't exactly have come as a last minute surprise foisted on an existing language. Folks: if we're designing a replacement language for Apple's Cocoa frameworks, Objective-C compatibility needs to be designed in from the beginning and not added in as an afterthought. And if you don't design your language to be at odds with the frameworks you will be supporting, you will discover that you can get a much cleaner design.
PerformanceThe situation is even more bizarre when it comes to performance. For example, here's a talk titled How Swift is Swift. The opening paragraph declares that "Swift is designed to be fast, very fast", yet a few paragraphs (or slides) down, we learn that debug builds are often 100 times slower than optimized builds (which themselves don't really rival C).
Sorry, that's not the sign of a language that's "designed to be fast". Those are the characteristics of a language design that is inherently super, super slow, and that requires leaning heavily on the optimizer to get performance to an acceptable level.
And of course, the details bear that out: copy semantics are usually expensive, they need the optimizer to elide those copies in the majority of cases. Same with ARC, which is built in and also requires the optimizer to be effectively clairvoyant (and: on) in order not to suffer 30x regressions.
Apart from the individual issues, the overriding one is that Swift's performance model is extremely opaque (100x for turning the optimizer on). Having the optimizer do a heroic job of optimizing code that we don't care about is of no use if we can't figure out why the code we do care about is slow or how to make it go fast.
JealousySo what makes little amateur language designer me jealous is that I really do try and get these things right, make sure the design is parsimonious, and these guys just joyfully ignore every rule in the book, and then trample on said book in ways that should get the language designer's guild to revoke their license, yet there is almost universal fawnage.
Whoever said life was fair?
As always, comments welcome here or on HN