​Python language founder steps down

Guido van Rossum, the "Benevolent Dictator For Life" of Python, has had enough and is walking away from leading the popular open-source language.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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After almost 30 years of overseeing the development of the world's most popular language, Python, its founder and "Benevolent Dictator For Life" (BDFL), Guido van Rossum, has decided he would like to remove myself entirely from the decision process.

Van Rossum isn't leaving Python entirely. He said, "I'll still be there for a while as an ordinary core dev, and I'll still be available to mentor people -- possibly more available."

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It's clear from van Rossum's note he's sick and tired of running the organization. He wrote, "I don't ever want to have to fight so hard for a PEP (Python Enhancement Proposals) [PEP 572 Assignment Expressions] and find that so many people despise (sic) my decisions."

In addition, van Rossum hints he's not been well. "I''m not getting younger... (I'll spare you the list of medical issues.)" So, "I'm basically giving myself a permanent vacation from being BDFL, and you all will be on your own."

What does that mean for Python's future? Good question. The nonprofit Python Software Foundation over sees CPython, Python's reference implementation, but van Rossum is its president.

All van Rossum had to say on the matter is he's "not going to appoint a successor."

Where Python goes from here will be up to Python's core developers. Van Rossum asked: "So what are you all going to do? Create a democracy? Anarchy? A dictatorship? A federation?" Van Rossum continued, "I'm not worried about the day to day decisions in the issue tracker or on GitHub. Very rarely I get asked for an opinion, and usually it's not actually important. So this can just be dealt with as it has always been."

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The real issues for whomever leads Python going forward will need to deal with, van Rossum thinks, will be: How PEPs are decided and how new core developers will be inducted.

Van Rossum thinks these and other issues may lead to conflict. He reminded the core developers that Python has a Community Code of Conduct (CoC), and, he added, "if you don't like that document your only option might be to leave this group voluntarily. Perhaps there are issues to decide like when should someone be kicked out (this could be banning people from python-dev or python-ideas too, since those are also covered by the CoC)."

That said, "I'll still be here, but I'm trying to let you all figure something out for yourselves. I'm tired, and need a very long break."

The developers themselves seem to hope that van Rossum will come back. They refer to his stepping down as "a break" or "a rest." In the meantime, there's discussion of looking to other open-source projects for a new governance model or setting up a triumvirate to manage Python.

This is all a long way from Python's humble origins as a 1989 Christmas break hobby programming project. Van Rossum created Python as an interpreter for the new, simple-to-read scripting language, which would appeal to Unix/C hackers. He "chose Python as a working title for the project, being in a slightly irreverent mood (and a big fan of Monty Python's Flying Circus)."

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It quickly became very popular. Not long after it was released, it became part of the famous Linux, Apache, MySQL, Perl, Python, and PHP (LAMP) stack, which dominates web development to this day.

Hopefully, Python will continue to be a powerful and popular language as the project faces its first fundamental leadership crisis.

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