Python is eating the world: How one developer's side project became the hottest programming language on the planet

Frustrated by programming language shortcomings, Guido van Rossum created Python. With the language now used by millions, Nick Heath talks to van Rossum about Python's past and explores what's next.

Python is eating the world: How one developer's side project became the hottest programming language Frustrated by programming language shortcomings, Guido van Rossum created Python. With the language now used by millions, Nick Heath talks to van Rossum about Python's past and explores what's next.

In late 1994, a select group of programmers from across the US met to discuss their new secret weapon.

Barry Warsaw was one of the 20 or so developers present at that first-ever workshop for the newly-created Python programming language and recalls the palpable excitement among those early users.

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"I can remember one person in particular who said, 'You cannot tell anybody that I'm here because our use of Python is a competitive advantage.' It was their secret weapon, right?"

Even at that early meeting, at the then US National Standards Bureau in Maryland, Warsaw says it was evident that Python offered something new in how easy it was to write code and simply get things done.

"When I first was introduced to Python, I knew there was something special. It was some combination of readability, and there was a joy to writing Python code," he remembers. 

Today enthusiasm for Python has spread far beyond that initial circle of developers, and some are predicting it will soon become the most popular programming language in the world, as it continues to add new users faster than any other language. Millions of people use Python each day, with the exponential growth in users showing little sign of tailing off.  

Python is used for tasks big and small by professional and amateur developers and is particularly popular among web devs, data scientists, and system administrators. 

It was Python that earlier this year helped stitch together the first images of a black hole some 500 million trillion km away, just as it's Python that powers countless hacked-together scripts on desktop PCs worldwide.

Python plays a pivotal role in some of the world's best-known organizations, helping Netflix stream videos to more than 100 million homes worldwide, powering the photo-sharing phenomenon Instagram, and aiding NASA in space exploration.

In some respects, the rise of Python is as surreal and surprising as the British comedy group it was named after, and, in its own niche, the coding language has become just as famous and influential.

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