Farewell to the BDFL

Python creator steps down

Sarah Schlothauer
© Shutterstock / VectorPixelStar

The news is out. Guido van Rossum has stepped down from Python. Why did he leave? And what did he say in his farewell? Amidst speculation, we say a fond farewell to the Python BDFL and wish him luck on his next adventure.

Guido van Rossum, the Dutch programmer behind Python, stepped down from his open source programming language on July 12th.

Previously, Guido was affectionately known as Python’s BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life). In 1999, Guido submitted a proposal to DARPA titled “Computer Programming for Everybody“, listing his goals for what would soon become Python. The language’s growth has been spectacular and according to StackOverflow, it is the fastest-growing major programming language. In June 2017 it became the most visited tag on StackOverflow, beating out JavaScript and Java.

However, on July 12th he announced that he was taking a permanent vacation and leaving his child Python behind. In an e-mail, Guido wrote a heartfelt message about the tolls that development had been taking on him. Between the negative feedback from developers about his decisions, and his growing health concerns, Guido decided it was best to move on.

“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”, Guido wrote, referring to a controversial choice that Guido made to accept the PEP 572 proposal. PEP 572 was disliked by a vocal group of developers because of how it broke previously established syntax and added a new operator into the mix.

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While Guido was excited to present this new choice, arguments online were heated and some long-term fans of Python commented that Guido was losing his touch. The new := operation was seen as counter-intuitive and unnecessary by many. At the 2018 Python Language Summit, Guido van Rossum led a session about PEP 572, however developers still remained unconvinced. Between Reddit threads full of disappointed Python fans and a Twitter poll where 64% of people said they did not like the new Assignment Expressions, it was clear that Guido’s choice was splitting the community.

I am not going to appoint a successor. So what are you all going to do? Create a democracy? Anarchy? A dictatorship? A federation?

However, instead of focusing on the negative, many fans have taken this time to thank Guido for his creation and wax nostalgic about their memories with Python, their respect for the language, and the legacy that he has created. Memories of Guido speaking at the Python Language Summit and his iconic TED talk are all warm memories.

Any news about the future of Python is still in development at the time of writing. Will previously blocked decisions be up for debate and potential acquisition again? Will the community stick to the rules established by Guido or will Python move into a bold new direction? Debate will continue in the Python mailing list, and it’s anyone’s guess what the community will choose.

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One thing is for sure we hope to see the PYTHON license plate driving down the highway, headed down the windy road.

What are your fond memories about Python? How do you feel about Guido leaving? Share your comments with us, we are eager to hear what developers think about this news!

Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is the editor for She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, New Jersey. She currently lives in Frankfurt, Germany with her husband and cat where she enjoys reading, writing, and medieval reenactment. She is also the editor for Conditio Humana, an online magazine about ethics, AI, and technology.

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