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The Python Steering Council

In this lesson, you’ll learn about the Python Steering Council. Technically, Python’s governance is not a language feature. However, Python 3.8 is the first version of Python not developed under the benevolent dictatorship of Guido van Rossum. The Python language is now governed by a steering council consisting of five core developers:

  1. Barry Warsaw
  2. Brett Cannon
  3. Carol Willing
  4. Guido van Rossum
  5. Nick Coghlan

The road to the new governance model for Python was an interesting study in self-organization. Guido van Rossum created Python in the early 1990s, and has been affectionally dubbed Python’s Benevolent Dictator for Life (BDFL). Through the years, more and more decisions about the Python language were made through Python Enhancement Proposals (PEPs). Still, Guido officially had the last word on any new language feature.

After a long and drawn out discussion about assignment expressions, Guido announced in July 2018 that he was retiring from his role as BDFL (for real this time). He purposefully did not name a successor. Instead, he asked the team of core developers to figure out how Python should be governed going forward.

Luckily, the PEP process was already well established, so it was natural to use PEPs to discuss and decide on a new governance model. Through the fall of 2018, several models were proposed, including electing a new BDFL (renamed the Gracious Umpire Influencing Decisions Officer: the GUIDO), or moving to a community model based on consensus and voting, without centralized leadership. In December 2018, the steering council model was chosen after a vote among the core developers.

The steering council consists of five members of the Python community, as listed above. There will be an election for a new steering council after every major release of Python. In other words, there will be an election following the release of Python 3.8.

Although it’s an open election, it’s expected that most, if not all, of the inaugural steering council will be reelected. The steering council has broad powers to make decisions about the Python language, but should strive to exercise those powers as little as possible.

You can read all about the new governance model in PEP 13, while the process of deciding on the new model is described in PEP 8000. For more information, see the PyCon 2019 Keynote, and listen to Brett Cannon on Talk Python To Me and on The Changelog podcast. You can follow updates from the steering council on GitHub.

Ashirvad Zaiantchick on March 26, 2020


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