What is Python?


Python is an object-oriented high-level programming language. Although Python is an interpreted language, like PHP or Perl, Python code can be compiled into standalone executables or cross-platform bytecodes run by a Python Virtual Machine. This makes Python an ideal programming language for use in a wide variety of environments such as an interactive shell, website infrastructure, GUI application, or command line utility. The cross-platform nature of the language lets users concentrate on the development of their applications without worrying about infrastructure changes or vendor lock-in. Although the name of the language conjures images of unfriendly reptiles, the name Python actually pays homage to the British comedy troupe Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Although high-level programming languages in general and interpreted languages in particular are not considered secure nor fast enough for enterprise-grade applications, Python has seen quite a bit of enterprise use. Probably the largest endeavor ever taken with a high-level language was ITA Software's use of Python for Air Canada's reservation management system. The system encompasses hundreds of terminals across the globe, with over 100 different interfaces for both employee and customer use. The system has a world wide web interface that must provide additional layers of protection yet allow potential customers to freely access the system. As the ITA initiative helps garner trust in Python, other companies are developing enterprise-ready versions of the language complete with support. ActiveState, for example, now markets ActivePython Enterprise Edition, a CD-distributed Python installation specifically configured for the customers platform.

Although Python had always been distributed under a free software licence, early versions of the license were not considered open source by the Free Software Foundation. The original license was developed from the BSD License, an influential software license that serves as the model for many other programs and libraries. However, a clause stating the jurisdiction of the license's enforcement made the original Python license incompatible with the GPL, a restriction that hindered Python's advancement and adoption. After ten years of incompatibility, Python was rereleased under a newer, more relaxed and less explicit license which met the FSF's standards for Open Source. Not only did this net Python's creator the FSF's Award for the Advancement of Free Software, it helped provide programmers worldwide with incentives to develop with the language.

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