Guido van Rossum Quits As Python BDFL
Written by Mike James   
Thursday, 12 July 2018

Soon after the news of PEP 572 and the turmoil it caused, we now have the announcement that Python's BDFL is taking a permanent vacation from the job. Where now Python?


PEP 572 was a surprising proposal to modify Python in a fairly minor way, yet it stirred up emotions. Eventually the impasse was broken by the BDFL (Benevolent Dictator For Life) Guido van Rossum. Even though this is supposed to be the last word, people are still chewing over the pros and cons as if the PEP hadn't been accepted.

In yesterday's news item about the PEP 572 decision, I commented that Python was lucky to have such a BDFL because in other language communities the deadlock would have gone on forever and no progress would have been made. You might not like the progress that PEP 572 brings, but it is progress.

Now we have the surprise news that Guido is giving up, partly because of PEP 572:

"Now that PEP 572 is done, I don't ever want to have to fight so hard for a PEP and find that so many people despise my decisions."

I don't think that there are many who despise the decision, but I can sympathize with the position. I don't know that many Python enthusiasts are going to be any happier with the next part of the message:

"I would like to remove myself entirely from the decision process. 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. But I'm basically giving myself a permanent vacation from being BDFL, and you all will be on your own."

Yesterday I commented on the dangers of relying on one person in any open source project - the bus factor is ever present - and Guido has the same message:

"After all that's eventually going to happen regardless -- there's still that bus lurking around the corner, and I'm not getting younger... (I'll spare you the list of medical issues.)"

What can one say? It is a very reasonable position, but I have to say that I am worried for the future of Python now it is likely to be thrown open to the community. Or will it?

"I am not going to appoint a successor.

So what are you all going to do? Create a democracy? Anarchy? A dictatorship? A federation?"

None of these options sound reassuring. A language designed by a committee is not a good idea as it generally lacks vision and coherence.

The final line is touching:

"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 discussion goes on, but it is clear that an era is over. 

Watch this space as they say.


  • Mike James is the author of Programmer's Python: Everything is an Object published this month by I/O Press as part of the  I Programmer Library. With the subtitle "Something Completely Different" this is for those who want to understand the deeper logic in the approach that Python 3 takes to classes and objects.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 06 May 2019 )