Google is one of the biggest tech companies in the world, and Python is the most popular programming language. Is there a connection between them? Is Python a proprietary language? Does Google own Python?
Python is not owned by Google - it is an open source project developed and maintained by various individuals, who keep the ownership of their contributions, but license the rights to the Python Software Foundation.
Read on to learn more about the relationship between Python and Google.
The Real Owners of Python: PSF and the Core Developers
Although Python was originally created by Guido van Rossum, as I mentioned before Python it has grown far beyond being a one-man-project, so for many-many years, it’s been developed and maintained by the community.
There are several governing bodies and nonprofit organizations dedicated to safeguarding the future and guiding the development of the language. The most important of these is the Python Software Foundation (PSF). PSF holds all the intellectual property rights regarding the Python programming language. These rights are licensed to the PSF by the individual contributors.
Google’s Own Python Implementations
When we talk about Python, in reality, we usually mean the reference implementation: namely cpython. However, cpython is only one of the available implementations of the Python language, in fact there are several alternative implementations - these are compatible with cpython to a varying degree.
One of these implementations (actually just an optimization branch of cpython) was funded by Google.
Unladen Swallow was a fork of cpython. It’s goal was to optimize certain aspects of Python and reach a speed improvement by a factor of five. The developers wanted to achieve these improvements by adding an LLVM-based JIT compiler to the language.
The project was started in 2009, but got cancelled after 3 releases by the end of the year.
The project owners got redirected to other projects inside Google, the funding got cancelled, and the branch diverged too much from the main cpython branch so it never got merged into cpython.
Grumpy is another interesting Python project by Google. It can also be considered an alternative Python implementation, however it is a bit more interesting than that. Actually, it is a Python-to-Golang transpiler.
Grumpy is mostly compatible with cpython, however there are a few exceptions: among others the main one is that given the nature of the transpiler it will never support dynamic code evaluation like
Unfortunately this project has been abandoned: it is a working proof-of-concept, but never got finished.
How Is Python Used At Google
Python is one of the official languages of Google alongside C++, Java and Google’s own programming language: Go. Python is used extensively across different Google products, in fact Google was an early adopter of Python, which helped to boost the popularity of the language tremendously.
Google App Engine
Google’s own serverless platform - the Google App Engine - has Python as one of the available runtimes.
APIs and Client Libraries
Most of Google’s public APIs - like Drive, Maps, Youtube or the Cloud API - have a client library implemented in Python. However some of these are not maintained by Google, but by a 3rd party.
Python Core Developers Employed by Google
Last but not least Google actively contributes to the popularization and the development of the Python programming language. There are quite a few google engineers who are also python core developers.