Python 3 is more in-demand and includes a typing system. Python 2 is outdated and uses an older syntax for the print function. While Python 2 is still in use for configuration management in DevOps, Python 3 is the current standard.
Python (the code, not the snake) is a popular coding language to learn for beginners. If you’re jumping into the coding scene or switching careers, you may have heard of Python. Programmers tout Python as a high-level language that’s more productive than others like Java. Computer science courses in universities usually teach Python to students first because it’s one of the easiest programming languages to learn.
Programming communities appreciate Python for its general-purpose functionality. Despite not being around for too long, the open-source language has evolved into an efficient, readable language meant to streamline the web development process. This evolution has taken Python through multiple versions, including the two most recent, Python 2 and Python 3.
In this article, we’ll examine the differences between Python 2 and Python 3. We’ll also answer the question of which you should use, Python 2 or 3.
The History of Python
Before its release in 1991, Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum had been working on Python since the late 1980s. He created Python from a previously failed program called the ABA language made by the Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) research institute in the Netherlands.
Rossum transformed the code into a simple, innovative language that would revolutionize the global programming community. It was meant as a scripting language for Amoeba, a distributed operating system used by the CWI.
As Python grew with major releases and improved in its ease and accessibility by the edits of other programmers, it has become one of the most commonly used and learned languages today. It has influenced the birth of Perl and Ruby, other more complex languages.
Today, companies that use Python has grown to include famed names like Netflix, Uber, Spotify, Reddit, Instagram, and others still are in the process of updating their back end code to support Python.
Advantages of Python
Python is such a common language for good reason. Developing code with Python brings with it numerous advantages compared with some older languages like C or C++. Python is object-oriented (OOP) which focuses on a variety of dynamic web systems. Object-Oriented Programming focuses on the objects, or the data of the code, as opposed to the procedure.
What this allows for flexibility—you can reuse the same base code for different applications and add or change objects as needed.
Another feature of Python is automatic memory management. When a function or object is no longer used, you don’t need to look for it to delete it. Python automatically tracks this and throws out unused objects to free up space.
With its expansive library, it gives programmers limitless possibilities on codes and features, allowing for efficiency in writing code written in Python. No need for writing new or more code, since there’s a high chance you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Python standard library. There exist modules for web development, app development, interface protocol, and so on.
Python is famous for is its readability. The simple language is ideal for beginners in coding, who might find it difficult to remember certain syntax and function names. Python’s basic syntax, consisting of plain English words instead of complicated jargon, helps novice programmers acclimate to the coding world.
As an open-source language, Python is accessible and free for anyone to use. Because of this, other programmers have helped debug and refine it over the years. That also means there’s an immensely supportive community, as well as expansive libraries: overall, an abundance of resources.
Python is the base for frameworks like Django and Pyramid, providing simplicity and ease of use for Python developers. Python frameworks are fantastic tools to use for developing an app rapidly while maintaining a high standard.
Python 2 vs 3: Comparison
Python 2: Origins
Python 2.0 first came out in 2000 and was created by the BeOpen Python Labs team. Before the team’s birth, Rossum was in charge of most feature changes and debugging of Python, but he wanted Python’s role to be more inclusive and key in spreading coding “literacy.”
Python’s entire purpose was to be easy to learn for the average person. With that in mind, the Python Labs team released Python 2.X with the intent of opening it up to community improvements as opposed to being under Rossum’s jurisdiction. The latest version of Python 2 was Python 2.7, which would be the last. The year 2020 will be the last in Python 2’s legacy.
Python 3: Origins
Python 3.0 was released in 2008, but it wasn’t just another version of Python 2 code after debugging. Rather, it completely changed the language into one with forward-compatibility, meaning it will only support new versions that come after it.
The purpose of Python 3 syntax was to prevent redundant or repetitive code—code that essentially does the same tasks in different ways. Python 3.X aims to procure only one, clear way of doing things. For novice programmers, this immediately discards the main problems that occur when learning a programming language.
Python 2 vs Python 3: Differences
Python 3 is a multi-paradigm language, which means it has a variety of classifications for its purposes. With its functionality, Python 3 is perfect for a broad range of things like web development, data science, and analytics scripting. With the “one way to do something” aspect, the unlimited possibilities become more narrow and simpler for programmers.
The complete overhaul of Python 2 was not necessarily because the language is bad. The purpose of switching to Python 3 was to support typing, a system that establishes a set of variables or characteristics to the “type” property. Python 2 is an untyped language, which impedes on creating new code. Python 3 improves the ease of writing and understanding code, as well as the performance of the code’s runtime.
Python 2 and Python 3 have a few key distinctions. Syntax is the major one, like with the print function. Print “hello” in Python 2 becomes print (“hello”) in Python 3. While the addition of some parentheses doesn’t seem too significant, in this context, it changes print from a statement to a function. Python 3 has clear, existing commands already built into the code, making it very user-friendly.
The type of default text strings is another difference. Python 2 uses ASCII—a method of encoding English characters with an assigned number. While functional, ASCII remains 7-bit, meaning it does not encompass a broad range of symbols. On the other hand, Python 3 uses Unicode, which is the practical UTF-8 (Unicode Transformation Format – 8-bit). This gives it the ability to represent foreign languages and other widely used symbols and emojis.
As for libraries, Python 2 is not forwards-compatible like Python 3 is. Not only does this incompatibility prevent the usage of Python 2 for newer versions, but it also complicates the process of porting Python 2 libraries to Python 3. If you are just starting at Python, this isn’t something to worry about just yet. Porting is left for more advanced programmers. Python 3’s libraries are backward-incompatible, so the language is geared towards future improvements. With this update, it makes sense that Python 2 will no longer be supported by the year 2020.
A final contrast is in the process of dividing numbers. Previously, Python 2 would round down to the nearest whole number in integer division (5 divided by 2 returns 2), while Python 3 gives the exact number (5 divided by 2 returns 2.5). Integer division in Python 3 becomes more accurate, resulting in expected values rather than estimations. This feature removes the programmer’s manual guesswork when doing math with the code.
Python 2 vs Python 3: Which Should You Learn?
Now for the real question: Which version is better to learn—Python 2 vs Python 3?
Python 3 is a definite victor. It’s the safest choice, especially for novice programmers who are unsure as to what programming specialization they want to pursue. Python 3’s readability, functionality, and popularity gives it the upper hand in the competitive world. Most importantly, it makes sense to learn the latest version of Python, especially when Python 2 is quickly running out of steam.
With the denouncement of Python 2, numerous companies, like Facebook, are racing to update their codes to Python 3. Python 3 is certainly easier to grasp than Python 2. Furthermore, it’s pretty rare to come across a modern company that uses Python 2, except for the sake of legacy. For those that still do, it’s usually because their libraries have yet to be Python 3 compatible.
Learn Python 3–Python 2’s Time Is Up
For beginner programmers, it can be confusing to differentiate between coding languages, and even harder when it comes to various versions within a language. Python is suitable to start you off.
If you’re wondering which Python language type is best to start with, go for Python 3. As the most recent version that’s growing in popularity, usage, and library databases, it makes more sense to acquire a language that isn’t fading out of style. While Python 2 has quite a legacy with some more classic programs, most companies are already starting the switch from Python 2 to Python 3.
So is there any point in bothering to learn Python 2? Is its time is running out?
Generally, it’s more efficient to start with a potentially profitable and in-demand language like Python 3. If your programming level is intermediate to expert level, and you have specific goals like doing configuration management in DevOps, you may need to know Python 2. Since you’ll be dealing with code that has yet to completely support Python 3. A career path that consists of translating Python 2 to Python 3 is also a potential option.
When in doubt, stick to the simplest option. In this case, Python 3 is the way to go.