Pioneered by Dutch programmer Guido van Rossum in 1991, Python is one of the world’s most popular programming languages. In fact, nearly 50% of the global population of programmers use Python—and it’s certainly within the top three most used languages. However, within the world of coding, the debate continues: Python 2 vs. Python 3?
If you’re new to coding, you might wonder what the difference is—or even why it should matter. This guide will unpack the ins and outs of Python 2 and 3. We’ll also offer helpful tips on learning to code and join the 8 million other Python developers.
What Is Python?
Let’s start with the basics—what is Python? Essentially, Python is a popular, beginner-friendly programming language that enables coders to create powerful and versatile projects. Used by almost every industry, it’s a valuable language for all projects. Python is an excellent place to start if you’re a coding novice. It’s easy to learn and loved by employers.
Like everything in life, Python has undergone many changes since its first release in 1991. Today, Python 2 and 3 are the strongest variations left standing.
Released in 2000, Python 2 has been around a long time. The upgrade made the language more accessible for the average person. Additionally, it added many sought-after features, such as list comprehension, Unicode support, and more. Transitioning from Python 1 to Python 2 was the obvious choice.
However, when Python 3 came out in 2008, it was more than a simple upgrade. The issue with Python 3 was that it wasn’t backward compatible with its predecessor. The shift has been slow, given the number of Python 2 developers and applications depending on Python 2. Up until 2020, Python still supported both languages.
So, which is better? Python 2 vs. Python 3? New developers might feel confused. After all, you don’t want to waste your time learning an outdated language. Yet, knowing Python 2 might still have its advantages.
What Is Python Used For?
Python has its fingers in everything—from software engineering to machine learning. Developers and novices alike use Python. Because of its accessibility, many people use Python for general purposes, such as organizing data or finances. However, expert coders and website developers also use Python.
Many big names use Python. Intel, NASA, Pixar, Netflix, Facebook, Spotify, and Youtube—to name a few—all rely heavily on Python. Moreover, academia, particularly in bioinformatics, biology, and mathematical circles, depend heavily on Python.
So, what can you use Python for?
- Developing websites and software
- Task automation
- Data analysis
- Data visualization
- Machine learning
- Everyday tasks—such as keeping track of the stock market or converting text files to spreadsheets
Python is so popular—even thirty years on—because it’s so versatile. It has a simple syntax, so it’s easy to learn. However, it’s also incredibly powerful with a large and active community to support each other.
Python 2 vs. Python 3: What’s the Difference?
If you’re looking for a Python programming language to learn, you need to know the difference between Python 2 and 3. Python 3 is over ten years old, yet many companies still rely on Python 2. Moreover, despite Python 2 support ending two years ago, many still use the language. Clearly, both still have their place in the world today. So, what are the key differences?
- Python 2 was launched in 2000; Python 3 was launched in 2008.
- Python 2 considers the “print” keyword a statement; Python 3 considers “print” a function.
- Python 2 stores strings by ASCII; Python 3 uses Unicode.
- Python 2 has a more complex syntax than Python 3.
- Many Python 2 libraries aren’t forward compatible; many libraries exclusively use Python 3.
- Python discontinued Python 2 support in January 2020; Python 3 remains the most popular choice.
Python 2 vs. Python 3: Which Is the Best to Learn?
So many companies still rely on Python 2—fourteen years after the introduction of Python 3—because transferring codes between Python 2 vs. 3 is a lot of effort. It could take years. It took DropBox three years to migrate, despite Guido Van Rossum working for them.
So, while it makes sense to learn Python 3, a level of familiarity with Python 2 still has its advantages. For example, if your company still uses outdated code or is still in the process of migrating, some knowledge is valuable. However, Python 2 has primarily lost the interest of many developers.
Python 3 is the newer, easy-to-learn, safest, and more powerful choice. Since Python discontinued Python 2 support, Python 3 is the no-brainer for new developers. Starting might be overwhelming—beyond the Python 2 or 3 debate, there’s also Java or HTML language, among many others. Beginning with the most up-to-date language is the safest choice.
Plus, employers will value Python 3 experience over Python 2. While it’s best to verse yourself in multiple languages, Python 3 is the most broadly used and more likely to benefit your career development.
Top Reasons to Learn Python 2
Let’s check out the top reasons to learn Python 2 programming language.
- If you want to become a DevOps engineer, you will need to work with both versions of Python. For example, you may need to work with configuration tools, such as puppet or ansible. Python 2 would be helpful.
- If your prospective employer’s code uses Python 2, you’ll need to work with Python 2 as well. Alternatively, if the company is in the process of migrating from Python 2 to Python 3, you’ll need to learn the latter.
- If your team is working on a project that explicitly uses third-party libraries or software in Python 2 and you cannot port to Python 3, you will need to learn it.
- Python 2 has been around longer. This means that there are far more Python 2 libraries, not all of which have migrated to Python 3. Accordingly, you may find yourself using Python 2 occasionally.
It’s up to you to decide whether working with older coding languages is worthwhile.
Top Reasons to Learn Python 3
If you’ve been paying attention to the Python 2 vs. 3 debate, then we have a clear winner. While Python 2 has its uses, learning Python 3 is more beneficial—particularly for new coders. Here are the top reasons you should learn Python 3.
- Python 3 better supports AI, machine learning, and data science. It has more updates that don’t exist in Python 2.
- Python 3 is still supported and has a wide range of users to assist support, while Python 2 was sunsetted in 2020. Python 3 is one of the fastest-growing programming languages. It’s an easier and more efficient language than Python 2, or even C#, R, or Java.
- Python 3 is a cleaner language with a more straightforward syntax. You can write code more quickly and neatly with Python 3.
- Avoid syntax confusion—slight grammatical differences between Python 2 and 3 might confuse beginners. Learning Python 3 is the better choice.
- Python 3 is high in demand in just about every industry. Whether you want to become a software developer or not, adding Python 3 to your resume will stand you in good stead in the job market. For example, recruitment, healthcare, financial services, marketing, and education sectors all value Python 3 developers.
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The Python 2 vs. Python 3 debate has a clear-cut winner. While Python 2 had its heyday in the early 2000s, Python 3 is the best choice to learn in 2022. You might find some circumstances in which you need to use Python 2, but on the whole, Python 3 is the most popular language.
Since Python 2 was sunsetted in 2020, Python 3 has dominated the programming world. You can learn the most up-to-date coding skills and programming languages within just 14 weeks at Coding Dojo’s Bootcamp—the ultimate way to begin coding. Go from novice to expert faster than you would have thought possible.