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How and when did Swift get its name?

Recorded – watch the full episode on YouTube.

Swift was called Shiny, originally, but how did it evolve into the Swift name?

Chris Lattner: It was really when it became close to launch. Shiny was a code name. Many things at Apple then, and many companies generally, when you start you create a stand-in name. To be more specific about it, in 2010 it was a directory on my laptop. So you have to pick a name. At that point in time, you have no idea what it turns into.

Shiny, the name, came from it being a shiny new thing. It was a Firefly reference, which is a TV show that's very good. But when it was developing and as more people got involved, it became clear that may not be the best way to represent and communicate what this thing was all about, and by then we had a much better idea of what we were trying to achieve.

"I'm very happy with the way the name turned out. I think Swift is a great name for it. It connotes the right things."

I think it was three months before launch, we started thinking about what would be the right name. You have to do trademark searches; it’s very complicated. It turns out there was another language called Swift – a little research language, basically. But it's just complicated. As with naming in computer APIs, naming with products is hard, because all the good names are taken and it's actually a really, really hard problem.

But I'm very happy with the way the name turned out. I think Swift is a great name for it. It connotes the right things. It also happened to be the exact same length as Shiny, so that made revising history in the version control much easier!

Paul Hudson: I bet you folks want to know what the other names were going to be. What were the backup names? Because I'm amazed it was three months before that people started trying to find a marketing name. That seems significantly later, by about year or so, than I would have expected. But I guess as soon as Apple registers the domain name, people spot it and go, what's going on here? And they wonder what it is. And yeah, it grows.

Chris Lattner: Well, a lot of magic happens in the month before WWDC. A lot of the making it real and getting things together happens then.

Paul Hudson: Recently Jordan Rose tweeted that the magic number for Swift modules is the shiny emoji or sparkle emoji. So, it'll always be in there somewhere. It never goes away!

"Well, it was one of the trademark things originally. Look, we've got amazing support for characters that you've never seen before, and it's just grown and grown, which is amazing."

Chris Lattner: Magic numbers are an old-school Unix thing, so you could tell what kind of a file something is, and typically you use very simple hexadecimal numbers or similar. So of course Swift would use emojis – it makes perfect sense!

It was one of the trademark things originally. Look, we've got amazing support for characters that you've never seen before, and it's just grown and grown, which is amazing.

This transcript was recorded as part of Swiftly Speaking. You can watch the full original episode on YouTube, or subscribe to the audio version on Apple Podcasts.

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