PEP 430 – Migrating to Python 3 as the default online documentation
- Nick Coghlan <ncoghlan at gmail.com>
- Georg Brandl
This PEP proposes a strategy for migrating the default version of the Python documentation presented to users of Python when accessing docs.python.org from 2.7 to Python 3.3.
It proposes a backwards compatible scheme that preserves the meaning of existing deep links in to the Python 2 documentation, while still presenting the Python 3 documentation by default, and presenting the Python 2 and 3 documentation in a way that avoids making the Python 3 documentation look like a second-class citizen.
With the transition of the overall Python ecosystem from Python 2 to Python 3 still in progress, one question which arises periodically [1, 2] is when and how to handle the change from providing the Python 2 documentation as the default version displayed at the docs.python.org root URL to providing the Python 3 documentation.
There are a couple of key concerns that any migration proposal needs to address.
Don’t Confuse Beginners
Many beginners learn Python through third party resources. These resources, not all of which are online resources, may reference in to the python.org online documentation for additional background and details.
Importantly, even when the online documentation is updated, the “version added” and “version changed” tags usually provide enough information for users to adjust appropriately for the specific version they are using.
While deep links in to the python.org documentation may occasionally break within the Python 2 series, this is very rare.
Migrating to Python 3 is a very different matter. Many links would break due to renames and removals, and the “version added” and “version changed” information for the Python 2 series is completely absent.
Don’t Break Useful Resources
There are many useful Python resources out there, such as the mailing list archives on python.org and question-and-answer sites like Stack Overflow, where links are highly unlikely to be updated, no matter how much notice is provided.
Old posts and answers to questions all currently link to docs.python.org
expecting to get the Python 2 documentation at unqualified URLs. Links from
answers that relate to Python 3 are explicitly qualified with
the path component.
This PEP (based on an idea originally put forward back in May ) is to not migrate the Python 2 specific deep links at all, and instead adopt a scheme where all URLs presented to users on docs.python.org are qualified appropriately with the relevant release series.
Visitors to the root URL at
http://docs.python.org will be automatically
http://docs.python.org/3/, but links deeper in
the version-specific hierarchy, such as to
http://docs.python.org/library/os, will instead be redirected to
a Python 2 specific link such as
The specific subpaths which will be redirected to explicitly qualified paths for the Python 2 docs are:
/py3k/ subpath will be redirected to the new
With this scheme, the following URLs would be presented to users after resolution of any aliasing and rewriting rules:
/x/ URLs mean “give me the latest documentation for a released
version in this release series”. It will draw the documentation from the
relevant maintenance branch in source control (this will always be the
2.7 branch for Python 2 and is currently 3.3 for Python 3). Differences
relative to previous versions in the release series will be available
through “version added” and “version changed” markers.
/x.y/ URLs mean “give me the latest documentation for this release”.
It will draw the documentation from the relevant maintenance branch in
source control (or the default branch for the currently in development
version). It differs from the status quo in that the URLs will
actually remain available in the user’s browser for easy copy and pasting.
(Currently, references to specific versions that are not the latest in their
release series will resolve to a stable URL for a specific maintenance
version in the “release” hierarchy, while the current latest version in the
release series resolves to the release series URL. This makes it hard to get
a “latest version specific URL”, since it is always necessary to construct
/dev/ URL means the documentation for the default branch in source
/release/x.y.x/ URLs will refer to the documentation of those
releases, exactly as it was at the time of the release.
The developer’s guide is not version specific, and thus retains its own
There is some desire to switch the unqualified references to mean Python 3 as a sign of confidence in Python 3. Such a move would either break a lot of things, or else involve an awful lot of work to avoid breaking things.
I believe we can get much the same effect without breaking the world by:
- Deprecating the use of unqualified references to the online documentation (while promising to preserve the meaning of such references indefinitely)
- Updating all python.org and python-dev controlled links to use qualified references (excluding archived email)
- Redirecting visitors to the root of
Most importantly, because this scheme doesn’t alter the behaviour of any existing deep links, it could be implemented with a significantly shorter warning period than would be required for a scheme that risked breaking deep links, or started to redirect unqualified links to Python 3. The only part of the scheme which would require any warning at all is the step of redirecting the “http://docs.python.org/” landing page to the Python 3.3 documentation.
Namespaces are one honking great idea - let’s do more of those.
Note that the approach described in this PEP gives two ways to access the
content of the default branch: as
/dev/ or using the appropriate
/x.y/ reference. This is deliberate, as the default branch is referenced
for two different purposes:
- to provide additional information when discussing an upcoming feature of
the next release (a
/x.y/URL is appropriate)
- to provide a stable destination for developers to access the documentation
of the next feature release, regardless of the version (a
/dev/URL is appropriate)
The URLs on docs.python.org are controlled by the python.org infrastructure team rather than through the CPython source repo, so acceptance and implementation of the ideas in this PEP will be up to the team.
- May 2012 discussion (https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/2012-May/119524.html)
- October 2012 discussion (https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-ideas/2012-October/017406.html)
- Using a “/latest/” path prefix (https://mail.python.org/pipermail/python-dev/2012-May/119567.html)
This document has been placed in the public domain.
Last modified: 2017-11-11 19:28:55 GMT