O Python is one of the most popular programming languages at the moment (not to mention more). But your universe is not perfect. It’s not uncommon to find developers complaining about the language’s performance. The good news is that there is a movement to improve this situation. Part of these efforts has an unusual origin: the Microsoft.
Basically, the company assembled a small team of engineers to actively work on improving Python. This team works together with Guido van Rossumcreator of the language.
In addition to being the main name behind Python, van Rossum is a Distinguished Engineer at Microsoft. With everyone under one roof, it’s easier to get the optimization work moving forward. But how is this being done?
The Microsoft team that advances Python
THE Microsoft own account that this work started in 2020, indirectly. In October of that year, Mark Shannon, the main developer of the language, proposed a four step plan to speed up CPythonthe most common implementation of Python.
Guido van Rossum considered this a job too big for one person. That’s when the idea of assembling a small but engaged team came up to support Shannon’s proposal and, in effect, advance the language in terms of performance and features.
Efforts to improve the language come from several fronts, with each developer on the team dealing with specific tasks. Irit Katriel was responsible for handling groups of exceptions through the new except* syntax in Python 3.11, just to give you an example.
Another comes from the Brazilian engineer L. Pereirawhich uses its experience with computers from the 1970s and 1980s (very limited in hardware resources) to optimize the language:
To do even the most basic things [em sistemas mais antigos]you need to optimize your programs. [Desenvolvedores] you must really think about how the memory is going to be organized, how you are going to do this and that. This sort of thing is very useful for Python or any other language interpreter that people will use for real-world use cases.
Python 3.11: up to 60% faster
The results of these efforts appear in Python 3.10 and, more importantly, in the Python 3.11, released in late October. The news arrived with the promise of up to 60% higher performance compared to the previous version. This is possible, among other factors, thanks to a lower demand for RAM memory.
There is still work to be done, however. Take for example the fact that, even with the latest update, many projects running in Python still rely on machines with generous hardware to run them.
Not coincidentally, efforts now turn to Python 3.12 and later. Microsoft explains, as an example, that L. Pereira works to “alter smaller integers to use native computation instead of slower algorithms targeting arbitrarily large numbers”.
But let’s be clear: Microsoft doesn’t “own” the language and doesn’t claim to be. All the advances implemented and to come are in line with the efforts of the community around Python, formed mainly by volunteers.
The company has been contributing to the Python community for some time, and it does so because it recognizes the importance of the language to the world of software development.