The distutils cross-platform build and distribution system was added to the Python standard library in late 2000. This means the current Python software distribution ecosystem (which builds on distutils) has a foundation that is almost 15 years old, which poses a variety of challenges to successful evolution.
The current effort to improve the situation started when the
library (also known as
distutils2) did not make it into the
standard library for Python 3.3. That effort had spanned from 2009 to 2012.
The current effort is managed by the Python Packaging Authority (PyPA), in cooperation with members of the Python core development team.
PyPA’s current goals are:
To provide a relatively easy to use software distribution infrastructure that is also fast, reliable and reasonably secure. “Reasonably secure”, due to backwards compatibility constraints preventing turning off some insecure legacy features.
Although it’s still being defined, to work towards a “Meta-Packaging”  system that:
Clearly delineates the phases of distribution
Allows for multiple interacting tools vs one monolithic tool
Specifically allows for alternative build systems, i.e. a “MetaBuild” system.
To improve the docs for users, including the Python Packaging User Guide, anything related to packaging on docs.python.org, and the project docs for pip, setuptools, virtualenv, and wheel.
To be progressive, but also be very mindful to not break things that are currently working, due to haste.
To specifically not focus at first on adding something to the standard library as our solution to our packaging problems. Adding something to the standard library is hard, and once it’s added, it’s a slow process to change it. Most of the current effort is largely focused on 3rd party projects.