The magnitude of the migration to Python 3, illustrated
I was just reading Nick Coghlan's Python 3 Q & A. and ran across this:
Support in enterprise Linux distributions is also a key point for uptake of Python 3. Canonical have already shipped a supported version (Python 3.2 in Ubuntu 12.04 LTS) with a stated goal of eliminating Python 2 from the live install CD for 12.10. A Python 3 stack has existed in Fedora since Fedora 13 and has been growing over time, but Red Hat has not made any public statements regarding the possible inclusion of that stack in a future version of RHEL.
To give some other perspectives on the transition, I'll note that Ubuntu already has a tentative plan to move their Python 2 stack into the community supported universe repositories and only officially support Python 3 for their 14.04 release.
(It should be noted here that based on the release schedule, Ubuntu 14.04 is currently scheduled for April 2014, with a feature freeze probably happening around six months earlier.)
I'm afraid that my reaction to this involves a certain amount of grim laughter. To explain why, let's talk about the magnitude of the effort involved in making this sort of transition for a Linux distribution; in particular, I am going to look at Ubuntu 12.04 and Fedora 17.
On an Ubuntu 12.04 machine more or less configured as a desktop and with
a decent package selection installed, there are around 240 executables
installed that use Python 2, from around 90 different Ubuntu packages,
with over a hundred programs that are directly run by people (ie are in
/usr/sbin). Now some of these are part
of Python or otherwise tied to it but there are fair number that are
not, including some large and important packages like Mercurial.
On my Fedora 17 workstation (which has quite a number of packages) there
are around 310 executables installed that use Python 2, from over 130
packages; over 200 programs are in
there are large and significant packages involved, including a fair
number of important system management packages (especially
many ways the core package management system for Fedora).
But the bad news is not done yet. On both Ubuntu 12.04 and Fedora 17, there are no non-Python packages that use Python 3. Zero. Zip. None. The only Python programs that use Python 3 come from Python 3 itself. And if you want another bit of bad news, neither Fedora 17 nor Ubuntu 12.04 even install Python 3 by default. New, stock installed systems are Python 2 only. This is not a migration that is in progress; this is a migration that hasn't even started yet.
(By the way, as far as I am concerned this means that Ubuntu 12.04 can't be fairly described as 'shipping Python 3', merely as having it available.)
Sidebar: why not installing Python 3 by default matters
Imagine a new Python user on a Fedora or Ubuntu system. The most
convenient version of Python for them to start using is one that's
already on their system (especially the one that's called '
The more you needs to know and the more you need to do to use another
version, the less likely you are to use it or try it out. Right now, as
a new Python user you have to go out of your way to know about Python 3,
install Python 3, and then use it. By contrast you can use Python 2 by
just typing '
(Among other things this affects people who are casually curous about how things are in Python 3. Casual curiosity doesn't survive work.)
Or in short: installing Python 3 by default makes it enticing. Not installing Python 3 by default makes it unenticing.