[Python-Dev] PEP 492: async/await in Python; version 4

Paul Moore p.f.moore at gmail.com
Tue May 5 23:29:39 CEST 2015

On 5 May 2015 at 22:12, Guido van Rossum <guido at python.org> wrote:
> I apologize for the confusing documentation. We need more help from
> qualified tech writers! Writing PEP 3156 was a huge undertaking for me;
> after that I was exhausted and did not want to take on writing the end user
> documentation as well, so it was left unfinished. :-(

Fair enough. When I properly document one of my projects, *then* I'll
think about complaining :-) These things happen.

> In PEP 3156 (asyncio package) there are really three separate concepts:
> - Future, which is a specific class (of which Task is a subclass);
> - coroutine, by which in this context is meant a generator object obtained
> by calling a generator function decorated with @asyncio.coroutine and
> written to conform to the asyncio protocol for coroutines (i.e. don't use
> bare yield, only use yield from, and the latter always with either a Future
> or a coroutine as argument);
> - either of the above, which is actually the most common requirement -- most
> asyncio functions that support one also support the other, and either is
> allowable as the argument to `yield from`.
> In the implementation we so often flipped between Future and coroutine that
> I imagine sometimes the implementation and docs differ; also, we don't have
> a good short name for "either of the above" so we end up using one or the
> other as a shorthand.

OK, that makes a lot of sense.

> *Unless* you want to attach callbacks, inspect the result or exception, or
> cancel it (all of which require a Future), your code shouldn't be concerned
> about the difference -- you should just use `res = yield from func(args)`
> and use try/except to catch exceptions if you care. And if you do need a
> Future, you can call the function asyncio.async() on it (which in PEP 492 is
> renamed to ensure_future()).

Again, makes sense. Although there are some bits of example code in
the docs that call asyncio.async() on a coroutine and throw away the
result (for example,
That confuses me. Are you saying that async() modifies its (coroutine)
argument to make it a Future? Rather than wrapping a coroutine in a
Future, which gets returned?

> In the PEP 492 world, these concepts map as follows:
> - Future translates to "something with an __await__ method" (and asyncio
> Futures are trivially made compliant by defining Future.__await__ as an
> alias for Future.__iter__);
> - "asyncio coroutine" maps to "PEP 492 coroutine object" (either defined
> with `async def` or a generator decorated with @types.coroutine -- note that
> @asyncio.coroutine incorporates the latter);
> - "either of the above" maps to "awaitable".

OK. Although "future" is a nicer term than "something with an
__await__ method" and the plethora of flavours of coroutine is not
great. But given that the only term we'll need in common cases is
"awaitable", it's still a net improvement.

So in the PEP 492 world, there's no such thing as a Task outside of
asyncio? Or, to put it another way, a Task is only relevant in an IO
context (unless an alternative event loop library implemented a
similar concept), and we should only be talking in terms of awaitables
and futures (given concurrent.futures and asyncio, I doubt you're
going to be able to stop people using "Future" for the generic term
for "something with an __await__ method" at best, and quite possibly
as equivalent to "awaitable", unfortunately).


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