How to use sys.meta_path with Python

*Update: See this article for a Python 3 take on import hooks.  *

I was asked on Reddit a short while ago as to how to use sys.meta_path, which is an extremely valuable tool that can be used to implement import hooks. Since it seems there's little documentation as to how to use it properly, I decided to write an example that shows basic usage of sys.meta_path. I posted the example on Reddit in the thread I linked to, but I've put it here for posterity - enjoy. :)

import sys


class VirtualModule(object):

   def hello(self):
      return 'Hello World!'


class CustomImporter(object):

   virtual_name = 'my_virtual_module'

   def find_module(self, fullname, path=None):
      """This method is called by Python if this class
         is on sys.path. fullname is the fully-qualified
         name of the module to look for, and path is either
         __path__ (for submodules and subpackages) or None (for
         a top-level module/package).

         Note that this method will be called every time an import
         statement is detected (or __import__ is called), before
         Python's built-in package/module-finding code kicks in.
         Also note that if this method is called via pkgutil, it is possible
         that path will not be passed as an argument, hence the default value.
         Thanks to Damien Ayers for pointing this out!"""

      if fullname ==  self.virtual_name:

         # As per PEP #302 (which implemented the sys.meta_path protocol),
         # if fullname is the name of a module/package that we want to
         # report as found, then we need to return a loader object.
         # In this simple example, that will just be self.

         return self

      # If we don't provide the requested module, return None, as per
      # PEP #302.

      return None

   def load_module(self, fullname):
      """This method is called by Python if CustomImporter.find_module
         does not return None. fullname is the fully-qualified name
         of the module/package that was requested."""

      if fullname != self.virtual_name:
         # Raise ImportError as per PEP #302 if the requested module/package
         # couldn't be loaded. This should never be reached in this
         # simple example, but it's included here for completeness. :)
         raise ImportError(fullname)

      # PEP#302 says to return the module if the loader object (i.e,
      # this class) successfully loaded the module.
      # Note that a regular class works just fine as a module.
      return VirtualModule()


if __name__ == '__main__':

   # Add our import hook to sys.meta_path
   sys.meta_path.append(CustomImporter())

   # Let's use our import hook
   import my_virtual_module
   print my_virtual_module.hello()

Note: The original PEP that defined the sys.meta_path protocol is PEP #302, which you can read here.