4 min read

Python is one of the most popular scripting languages widely adopted and loved due to its simplicity.  Since its humble beginnings in the last 80s as an interpreter for the new, a simple-to-read scripting language, it has now come to dominate all of the tech world. Python has become a vital part of web development stacks such as Perl, PHP, and others have been core to domains like security. It is also used in current popular technologies such as AI, ML, and DL.

After 28 years of successfully stewarding the Python community since inventing it back in Dec 1989, Guido van Rossum has decided to take himself out of the decision making process of the community as a Benevolent dictator for life (BDFL). Guido still promises to be a part of the core development group. He also added that he will be available to mentor people but most of the times the community will have to manage on their own.

Benevolent dictator for life (BDFL) is a term that Guido’s fellow Python enthusiasts came up with for him, as a joke, when discussing minutes of the meeting over email regarding leading Python’s development and adoption.

Who will look after the Python community now?

Guido Van Rossum said, “I am not going to appoint a successor”.

True to his leadership style, he has thrown his team of core developers into the deep end by asking them to consider what the Python community’s new governance model could be. In his memo, he asked, “So what are you all going to do? Create a democracy? Anarchy? A dictatorship? A federation?”

Guido’s parting advice to the core dev team

Guido expressed confidence in his team to continue to manage the day-to-day tasks and operations just as they’ve been doing under his leadership. The two things he wants the core developers and the community to think deeply about are:

  1. How the PEPs are decided and
  2. How will the new core developers be inducted?

He also emphasized the importance of fostering the right community culture militantly through Python’s Community Code of Conduct (CoC). He said, “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).”

He assured the team that while he has stepped down as the BDFL and from all decision-making duties, he will continue to be an active member of the community and will now be more available as a mentor to those on the core development team.

Guido’s decision to quit seems to have stemmed partly from the physical, mental, and emotional toll that the role has taken on him over years. He concluded his thread on Transfer of Power by saying, “I’m tired, and need a very long break”.

How is the Python community taking this decision?

The development team hopes Guido will make a come back after his well-deserved break. As a BDFL, Guido has provided them with consistency in design and taste. By having Guido as a monitor, the team has had a very consistent view of how the community should behave and this has been an asset for the whole team.

Now they have four ways to explore to govern the Python community

  1. Find a new BDFL. This option seems highly unlikely as Guido’s legacy is irreplaceable. Besides, it is practically the least robust to rely on one person to take all key decisions and to commit their full time to the community. That person also needs to be well respected and accepted as a de facto head.
  2. Set up an N-virate leadership team (a group of 3 (triumvirate) or 5 (quintumvirate) experts). With such a model, the responsibilities and load will be equally distributed among the chosen members from the core development team. This appears to be the current favorite on the thread that opened yesterday.
  3. Become a democracy. In this model, the community gets to vote on all key decisions. This seems like the short-term fix the team is gravitating towards. At least to decide on the immediate task at hand. But many on the team acknowledge that this is not a permanent answer as it will pull the language in too many directions and also is time-consuming.
  4. Explore the governance model of other open source communities. This option is as being seriously considered in the discussions.

Clearly, the community loves Guido, evident from the deluge of well wishes he’s receiving from all over the globe. You know you’ve done your job well when you hear someone say ‘You changed my life’. Guido has changed millions of lives for the better.

Thank you, Guido, for Python, your heart, and your leadership. We know the community will thrive even in your absence because you’ve cultivated an excellent culture and a great set of minds.

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