Use of Python

Meson is implemented in Python. This has both positive and negative sides. The main thing people seem to be mindful about is the dependency on Python to build source code. This page discusses various aspects of this problem.

Dependency hell

There have been many Python programs that are difficult to maintain on multiple platforms. The reasons come mostly from dependencies. The program may use dependencies that are hard to compile on certain platforms, are outdated, conflict with other dependencies, not available on a given Python version and so on.

Meson avoids dependency problems with one simple rule: Meson is not allowed to have any dependencies outside the Python basic library. The only thing you need is Python 3 (and possibly Ninja).


Meson has been designed in such a way that the implementation language is never exposed in the build definitions. This makes it possible (and maybe even easy) to reimplement Meson in any other programming language. There are currently no plans to reimplement Meson, but we will make sure that Python is not exposed inside the build definitions.

Cross platform tooling

There is no one technical solution or programming language that works natively on all operating systems currently in use. When Autotools was designed in the late 80s, Unix shell was available pretty much anywhere. This is no longer the case.

It is also the case that as any project gets larger, sooner or later it requires code generation, scripting or other tooling. This seems to be inevitable. Because there is no scripting language that would be available everywhere, these tools either need to be rewritten for each platform (which is a lot of work and is prone to errors) or the project needs to take a dependency on something.

Any project that uses Meson (at least the current version) can rely on the fact that Python 3 will always be available, because you can't compile the project without it. All tooling can then be done in Python 3 with the knowledge that it will run on any platform without any extra dependencies (modulo the usual porting work). This reduces maintenance effort on multiplatform projects by a fair margin.

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