Project Information

State of Project

The project is officially in beta state. The author is reasonably satisfied that functionality works as advertised. There will be some backwards incompatible changes before 1.0, probably in the 0.9 release. This may involve renaming the main module from zstd to zstandard and renaming various types and methods. Pin the package version to prevent unwanted breakage when this change occurs!

This project is vendored and distributed with Mercurial 4.1, where it is used in a production capacity.

There is continuous integration for Python versions and 3.5+ on Linux x86_x64 and Windows x86 and x86_64. The author is reasonably confident the extension is stable and works as advertised on these platforms.

The CFFI bindings are mostly feature complete. Where a feature is implemented in CFFI, unit tests run against both C extension and CFFI implementation to ensure behavior parity.

Comparison to Other Python Bindings is an alternate Python binding to Zstandard. At the time this was written, the latest release of that package (1.4.8) only exposed the simple APIs for compression and decompression. This package exposes much more of the zstd API, including streaming and dictionary compression. This package also has CFFI support. is an alternate Python binding to Zstandard. At the time this was written, the latest release of that package (0.14.1) exposed a fraction of the functionality in this package. There may be some minor features in pyzstd not found in this package. But those features could be added easily if someone made a feature request. Also, pyzstd lacks CFFI support, so it won’t run on PyPy.


zstandard is a highly tunable compression algorithm. In its default settings (compression level 3), it will be faster at compression and decompression and will have better compression ratios than zlib on most data sets. When tuned for speed, it approaches lz4’s speed and ratios. When tuned for compression ratio, it approaches lzma ratios and compression speed, but decompression speed is much faster. See the official zstandard documentation for more.

zstandard and this library support multi-threaded compression. There is a mechanism to compress large inputs using multiple threads.

The performance of this library is usually very similar to what the zstandard C API can deliver. Overhead in this library is due to general Python overhead and can’t easily be avoided by any zstandard Python binding. This library exposes multiple APIs for performing compression and decompression so callers can pick an API suitable for their need. Contrast with the compression modules in Python’s standard library (like zlib), which only offer limited mechanisms for performing operations. The API flexibility means consumers can choose to use APIs that facilitate zero copying or minimize Python object creation and garbage collection overhead.

This library is capable of single-threaded throughputs well over 1 GB/s. For exact numbers, measure yourself. The source code repository has a script that can be used to measure things.

Bundling of Zstandard Source Code

The source repository for this project contains a vendored copy of the Zstandard source code. This is done for a few reasons.

First, Zstandard is relatively new and not yet widely available as a system package. Providing a copy of the source code enables the Python C extension to be compiled without requiring the user to obtain the Zstandard source code separately.

Second, Zstandard has both a stable public API and an experimental API. The experimental API is actually quite useful (contains functionality for training dictionaries for example), so it is something we wish to expose to Python. However, the experimental API is only available via static linking. Furthermore, the experimental API can change at any time. So, control over the exact version of the Zstandard library linked against is important to ensure known behavior.

Note on Zstandard’s Experimental API

Many of the Zstandard APIs used by this module are marked as experimental within the Zstandard project.

It is unclear how Zstandard’s C API will evolve over time, especially with regards to this experimental functionality. We will try to maintain backwards compatibility at the Python API level. However, we cannot guarantee this for things not under our control.

Since a copy of the Zstandard source code is distributed with this module and since we compile against it, the behavior of a specific version of this module should be constant for all of time. So if you pin the version of this module used in your projects (which is a Python best practice), you should be shielded from unwanted future changes.