Up to Python 2.1, old-style classes were the only flavour available to the user.
The concept of (old-style) class is unrelated to the concept of type:
if x is an instance of an old-style class, then x.__class__
designates the class of x, but type(x) is always <type
This reflects the fact that all old-style instances, independently of
their class, are implemented with a single built-in type, called
New-style classes were introduced in Python 2.2 to unify the concepts of class and type.
A new-style class is simply a user-defined type, no more, no less.
If x is an instance of a new-style class, then type(x) is typically
the same as x.__class__ (although this is not guaranteed – a
new-style class instance is permitted to override the value returned
The major motivation for introducing new-style classes is to provide a unified object model with a full meta-model.
It also has a number of immediate benefits, like the ability to
subclass most built-in types, or the introduction of "descriptors",
which enable computed properties.
For compatibility reasons, classes are still old-style by default.
New-style classes are created by specifying another new-style class
(i.e. a type) as a parent class, or the "top-level type" object if no
other parent is needed.
The behaviour of new-style classes differs from that of old-style
classes in a number of important details in addition to what type
Some of these changes are fundamental to the new object model, like
the way special methods are invoked. Others are "fixes" that could not
be implemented before for compatibility concerns, like the method
resolution order in case of multiple inheritance.
Python 3 only has new-style classes.
No matter if you subclass from object or not, classes are new-style
in Python 3.