Who will take the crown?

The empty Python throne: Will there be a new BDFL?

Sarah Schlothauer
© Shutterstock / Roman Seliutin

It’s been a week since Guido van Rossum took a permanent vacation from his role as Python BDFL. What’s been happening in the community since then and what does the future of governance hold? We take a look at the discussion and see what suggestions are being discussed.

Since BDFL Guido van Rossum announced his “permanent vacation” on July 12th, there has been a hole that Python community has been trying to patch. The discussion of “what now” has been bouncing around in mailing lists and threads.

In his announcement, Guido wrote that he would not appoint a successor. It’s not up to him what happens next, or if there will even be another BDFL (or perhaps, just a DFL). It’s up to the community of core developers to decide which direction this snake slithers.

So, we ask the question: what’s going on in the post-Guido Python world? Here’s some highlights from the past week.

The game of code thrones

While there is no agreed-upon decision as of writing this, some core developers have been proposing ideas for who or what will replace Python’s BDFL.

Barry Warsaw began the discussion of an alternative governance model by suggesting keeping a singular BDFL with an official Council of Advisors. The advisors would help keep the BDFL in check and prevent any one-sided authoritarian decisions to be made. (The split feelings towards PEP 572 are still raw.) Who would this BDFL be? Warsaw nominated Canadian core developer Brett Cannon. A plus side of having one BDFL would be to keep the consistency of the language strong and uniform, without shaking up too much of Python’s already established order.

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Victor Stinner from Red Hat proposed that Python should function like PHP does. In the mailing list discussion he said, “For PEPs, I already told you in private about the PHP process to take
a decision on a RFC: vote where the majority wins. I like that. The vote is reserved to core developers. I would like to experiment that in Python.”

There has been another ongoing discussion for Guido’s Wise Kittens. Adorable name aside, this proposal has an active discussion about how future PEPs will be decided. The suggested options are a “majority wins vote”, dictator per PEP, a triumvirate of ruling elders, or another dictator that will make all the sole choices.

Is democracy the best option? Or is Warsaw’s idea better for the language’s development? Do we go back to Roman roots with a triumvirate? Whatever the future holds, Python’s fans and core developers are focused on maintaining the vision for Python. This fan-favorite language didn’t become one of the most popular coding languages for no reason, and it’s not going to go away simply because of this bump in the road.

A possible moratorium

Alongside these discussions, Nathaniel Smith proposed a time-limited moratorium on finalizing any governance decisions, which has been agreed upon by several other core developers. Smith suggested that no new governance choices be made before October 1, 2018 while the community allows itself to settle and refine their ideas.

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He writes, “We need some ground rules, because uncertainty makes it hard to think straight. But if we get sucked into a complicated meta-debate about the ground rules then that defeats the purpose.” This conversation is still in the works, so the date is not finalized yet. We will keep an eye on the discussions and see what the future of Python holds.

What do you think the future of Python should be? Now that some of the dust has settled, how do you feel about Guido taking a permanent vacation? Still stunned, agree with his choice?

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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