Determine prefix from a set of (similar) strings

Never rewrite what is provided to you: os.path.commonprefix does exactly this:

Return the longest path prefix (taken
character-by-character) that is a prefix of all paths in list. If list
is empty, return the empty string (''). Note that this may return
invalid paths because it works a character at a time.

For comparison to the other answers, here’s the code:

# Return the longest prefix of all list elements.
def commonprefix(m):
    "Given a list of pathnames, returns the longest common leading component"
    if not m: return ''
    s1 = min(m)
    s2 = max(m)
    for i, c in enumerate(s1):
        if c != s2[i]:
            return s1[:i]
    return s1

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