Plone’s Migration to Python 3

by Fulvio Casali published 2020/06/24 01:32:00 GMT+0, last modified 2020-07-01T08:27:46+00:00
A brief history and the significance of our efforts to bring Plone into the world of Python 3.

July 19, 2019, marked the day Plone officially entered the world of Python 3 when version 5.2 was released.  Support for Python 3.6, 3.7, and 3.8 is now included with Plone 5.2, opening up the future for Plone’s continuing 19-year reputation for unrivaled security and stability.

Plone is the venerable open-source Python web content management system that was created in 2001. It has continued to be maintained and enhanced by hundreds of contributors around the world and is protected by the nonprofit Plone Foundation.

Plone 5.2 is the culmination of over 3.5 years of development that was driven by the looming deadline of January 1, 2020: the impending end of support for Python 2. Work on Plone 5.2 ran in parallel with continuing feature-centric work on versions 5.0 and 5.1.  The move to Python 3 was to be a major undertaking, given its huge codebase, its large ecosystem of add-ons, and its dependency on the Zope web application framework (https://www.zope.org), which itself would have to be upgraded to Python 3.  Many sprints were held over these past few years in which Plone and Zope developers collaborated in this joint effort.  One of the earliest fruits of this collaboration was to see all 9000 tests passing as a result of work done at the Alpine City Sprint in February 2017, but more work was still needed.  At the core of the security model for which Zope and Plone are renowned is a feature known as Restricted Python.  Although core developers had feared that Restricted Python could not be ported to Python 3, this was accomplished in Innsbruck, Austria: Restricted Python now runs in Python 3.6 and up.

ZODB, the ACID compliant and extremely robust database, was upgraded to the latest version for Plone 5.2, along with a Zope instance running via a WSGI server instead of ZServer.

Zope developers came together and released the Python 3 compatible Zope 4 in May 2019. Plone developers were able to release its Python 3 compatible version 5.2 soon after, complete with its traditional in-place upgrade, with an additional database upgrade step required to convert to Python 3 strings.  Plone 5.2 is the first release to fully support Python 3 while maintaining complete compatibility with Python 2.7, which is expected to be dropped with the upcoming release of Plone 6.

Once available as a separate add-on, a REST API is now also included in the core of Plone 5.2, making it even easier to use Plone with modern JavaScript front ends such as Angular and React and to integrate Plone with other applications.

This release provides the Plone community the certainty of having a stable backend without an expiration date and the excitement of developing a new frontend.  Plone is more than 19 years old, and Zope is more than 22 years old. Yet both projects have reinvented themselves several times and are maintained by a worldwide, dynamic community. These two platforms provide a very secure, flexible, and mature solution in the often uncertain, unstable landscape of web applications.