1.3 aka "And Now for Something Completely Different" Published on 13 Jul 2016 by Marcin Kulik

I’m very happy to announce the release of asciinema 1.3, which is kind of a special release. It brings several bug fixes and improvements for end users, and at the same time it makes life of asciinema developers (mostly me) and package maintainers (many people!) way easier.

See CHANGELOG for a detailed list of changes, continue reading for motivation on transitioning back to Python.

Wait, what? Back to Python? Yes, asciinema 1.3 brings back the original Python implementation of asciinema. It’s based on 0.9.8 codebase and adds all features and bug fixes that have been implemented in asciinema’s Go version between 0.9.8 and 1.2.0. We’ll keep the Go implementation in golang branch, it won’t be maintained though.

While Go definitely has its strengths (easy concurrency, runtime speed, startup speed, stand-alone binary), this project didn’t really benefit from any of these (and suffered from Go’s pain points). Here is a (not exhaustive) list of things that contributed to the decision of dropping Go for Python:

asciinema recorder codebase (and feature set) is relatively small (under 900 LOC currently) so it wasn’t a big effort to port all newer features on top of the old Python implementation.

Note, that the above list applies specifically to asciinema recorder. There are great use cases for Go (like IPFS) and if I was to build system-level software, protocol implementation or any kind of network daemon (proxy for example) I’d definitely consider Go. Also, asciinema is a cli app distributed to end users. If you’re building in-house software that has to run only on single platform then many of the above points may become non-issue for you.

Anyway, it feels good to be back on Python!

2016-07-14 update: Many people raised a question: why was it ported from Python to Go in the first place? There were several reasons. First, Go’s static binaries nicely solve the packaging problem (we didn’t have that many native packages then and pip install asciinema wasn’t always reliable due to the fact that it supported both Python 2 and 3). It later appeared that majority of people prefer native packages so distributing precompiled binaries wasn’t a big win for this type of project in the end. Second, Go was initially advertised as a “systems language”, and if your program does system stuff like select/signal/ioctl then Go should be perfect, right? Well, it appears that Go excels (and was built for) slightly different things (multi-core concurrency, networking, distributed systems). It is no longer advertised as a “systems language” by its authors. Third, Go’s static type system with type inference and functions as first class citizens felt like a nice bonus. In reality, the lack of generics forces you to write lots of boilerplate and repetitive code. 20 lines of boilerplate, imperative code is not simpler and easier to understand (like some Go defendants claim) than 2 lines of higher level code because it adds noise to the essence of algorithm. When reading code you don’t need that level of granularity in most cases. Well, at least I don’t need it :) Fourth, it was interesting to apply my knowledge of this domain to a language with different qualities. I would lie if I said having fun wasn’t part of the thing.

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