VS Code’s ability to edit Python in a web browser comes at the cost of open source

A developer writing code
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Elle Aon)
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Microsoft has updated the Python (opens in new tab) extension for its Visual Studio Code (opens in new tab) integrated development environment (IDE) to introduce support for editing in the web browser, thanks to the new Python language server, Pylance.

“We are delighted to announce that as of this release you can enjoy the performant editing experience of Pylance in the browser via github.dev (opens in new tab),” shared (opens in new tab) Microsoft program manager Savannah Ostrowski. 

Ostrowski shares that Microsoft has ensured that the extension supports all the core editing features, including semantic highlighting, syntax errors, code navigation, function signature help, contextual document highlighting, and more. 

According to The Register, VS Code is one of the most popular Python IDEs (opens in new tab). In fact, there wasn’t much difference in its user base (29%) compared to that of the winner, JetBrains PyCharm (33%), in last year’s Python Developer Survey (opens in new tab)

Proprietary creep

Perhaps more notably, Microsoft has decided to ditch the open source (opens in new tab) Python language server that powered the extension, in favor of the closed source Pylance.

Stressing on the importance of language servers, The Register notes that this is the engine that drives programming language-specific features in the IDE, such as syntax highlighting, code completion, and error detection. 

Microsoft's original Python language server back in 2018 was released under the open source Apache License. However it has now been replaced by the proprietary Pylance, which was introduced last year (opens in new tab) to eventually deprecate and remove the old language server.  

Add in the fact that although VS Code is technically free and open source, the binaries built by Microsoft are not, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to tick off open source campaigners, even more so now that Python’s creator works for Microsoft (opens in new tab).

Via The Register (opens in new tab)

With almost two decades of writing and reporting on Linux, Mayank Sharma would like everyone to think he’s TechRadar Pro’s expert on the topic. Of course, he’s just as interested in other computing topics, particularly cybersecurity, cloud, containers, and coding.