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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Future for Python 2.x

Python 2.7 is the last major release in the 2.x series, as the Python maintainers have shifted the focus of their new feature development efforts to the Python 3.x series. This means that while Python 2 continues to receive bug fixes, and to be updated to build correctly on new hardware and versions of supported operated systems, there will be no new full feature releases for the language or standard library.
However, while there is a large common subset between Python 2.7 and Python 3, and many of the changes involved in migrating to that common subset, or directly to Python 3, can be safely automated, some other changes (notably those associated with Unicode handling) may require careful consideration, and preferably robust automated regression test suites, to migrate effectively.
This means that Python 2.7 will remain in place for a long time, providing a stable and supported base platform for production systems that have not yet been ported to Python 3. The full expected lifecycle of the Python 2.7 series is detailed in PEP 373.
Some key consequences of the long-term significance of 2.7 are:
  • As noted above, the 2.7 release has a much longer period of maintenance when compared to earlier 2.x versions. Python 2.7 is currently expected to remain supported by the core development team (receiving security updates and other bug fixes) until at least 2020 (10 years after its initial release, compared to the more typical support period of 18–24 months).
  • As the Python 2.7 standard library ages, making effective use of the Python Package Index (either directly or via a redistributor) becomes more important for Python 2 users. In addition to a wide variety of third party packages for various tasks, the available packages include backports of new modules and features from the Python 3 standard library that are compatible with Python 2, as well as various tools and libraries that can make it easier to migrate to Python 3. The Python Packaging User Guide provides guidance on downloading and installing software from the Python Package Index.
  • While the preferred approach to enhancing Python 2 is now the publication of new packages on the Python Package Index, this approach doesn’t necessarily work in all cases, especially those related to network security. In exceptional cases that cannot be handled adequately by publishing new or updated packages on PyPI, the Python Enhancement Proposal process may be used to make the case for adding new features directly to the Python 2 standard library. Any such additions, and the maintenance releases where they were added, will be noted in the New Features Added to Python 2.7 Maintenance Releases section below.
For projects wishing to migrate from Python 2 to Python 3, or for library and framework developers wishing to support users on both Python 2 and Python 3, there are a variety of tools and guides available to help decide on a suitable approach and manage some of the technical details involved. The recommended starting point is the Porting Python 2 Code to Python 3 HOWTO guide