Guido van Rossum resigns: What’s next for Python

Python’s designer explains why he stepped down as “benevolent dictator for life”—and how he’ll stay involved with the language

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Python inventor Guido van Rossum shocked the Python world on July 12 when he stepped down as the language’s so-called BDFL (benevolent dictator for life). At the time, he cited acrimony over a recent Python enhancement proposal for a language expressions capability as motivating his exit.

But van Rossum, who invented Python in 1990, remains confident that the language will continue on just fine without his leadership. A principal engineer at Dropbox in his day job, the 62-year-old van Rossum spoke about his decision to move on with InfoWorld Editor at Large Paul Krill.

InfoWorld: Why did you resign as BDFL?

van Rossum: The for-life part was always a joke, of course, as certainly the dictatorship part was also. I’ve been toying with the thought of retirement probably for the larger part of a decade. I’ve had a few health issues, some of which I thought were exacerbated by the continuous threat of always being the most-responsible person in the Python community and having to tell people how to do stuff and stay quiet and be reasonable and explain the philosophy of the language for the umpteenth time.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was a very contentious Python enhancement proposal, where after I had accepted it, people went to social media like Twitter and said things that really hurt me personally. And some of the people who said hurtful things were actually core Python developers, so I felt that I didn’t quite have the trust of the Python core developer team anymore.

InfoWorld: That proposal was PEP (Python Enhancement Proposal) 572. Can you talk about the benefits of that proposal and why it was so controversial?

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