Perl and Raku Both Anticipating Newfound Glory
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Perl 6 is going to be renamed to Raku. What will that change herald? 

rakusq

Despite Perl 6 starting out as a community rewrite, Larry Wall still possessed the rights to the name. As such despite the name change calls from prominent and core members of the project's development community, which were funneled into pull requests on its GitHub repository, Larry's approval was still required.

He finally gave in in replying to pull request Path to raku  in Biblical fashion:

I am in favor of this change, because it reflects an ancient wisdom:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

While this wise message is open to interpretation and maybe even requires the engagement of some Bible's scholars for it to be deciphered, approving the name change isn't. It's a resounding 'yes', which has probably been met with a huge relief from both camps, Perl5 and Perl 6. Relief, because each group regards its dissociation from '6' as a way to finally open its wings and look for newfound glory.  

But first of all let's revisit the original issue - what was the fuss all about ? As reported in The Perl Renaming Debate Highlights Tensions, the real issue was that:

Given how the differences outweighed the similarities, calling the language Perl and giving it the number 6 misled people into believing that it's an updated version of Perl 5 rather than a different language; and the rift has been widening since then. 

But now with the change, what are each camp's expectations?

Perl 6 looks to leave the Perl 5 baggage behind. From the same report:

Zoffix a member of the Perl 6 core team even felt that "Perl" is strongly associated with Perl 5, and as such Perl 5's alleged decline in popularity also drags down the reputation, and "marketability", of Perl 6:

  • It is similar to earlier Perl language (and thus comes with all the negative connotations attributed to it)

  • It is the next version of Perl language

  • It is faster, more stable, and "better" than earlier Perl language 

On the other hand Perl5 will look to break free from the following shackle:

The Perl 5 language is effectively blocked from releasing the next "major version", because Perl 6 is squatting on it. And were Perl 5 to release a "Perl 7", that would immediately paint Perl 6 as obsolete. The lack of any established alternate names leaves Perl 6 vulnerable to such a scenario.

It is important to note that this name change to Raku was not a one-off hastily taken decision.A year ago Larry offered Raku as an alias rather than a breaking change: 

Why not a straightforward rename, but just an alias?

According to Zoffix:  

While numerous members of the community would have liked to see a full language rename, there are also those who believe a full rename would be detrimental. The full rename at this point in time is also a lot more challenging due to the existence of books, websites, documentation, environmental variables, and dynamic variables in the language—all with the name "Perl" in them. 

As it seems that pull request approval finally turned the tide towards the backward breaking and full renaming. Still the original problem posed by that full renaming is at large and is going to take some time till everyone adapts to the new landscape.

With that in mind and until adjustment happens, as far as the Perl 6 books goes, there's this innovative solution suggested by Rakuist.io; applying a patch

raku1

In the forums and communities there are discussions on how to move forward. Will for example PerlMonks include posts about Raku?

Sites such as PerlMonks appear to be really Perl (aka Perl 5) focused, and could possible make that clear in their description, or change their description to specifically include Raku.

One thing is certain, however - Perl5 diehards who opposed the inclusion of Perl6 posts in the Perlmonks community from the beginning will rejoice.

Other discussions are evolving around versioning like :"Why switch from 5 to 7 when we can switch to Perl 32, much like Java did?"

In the end it looks like issues like that will be resolved by community voting.

Ultimately the big bet for Perl 5 is that by dissociating from 6, fresh air will be breathed and much needed fresh blood will arrive, which '6' was allegedly hampering. Will it jump places on the TIOBE index? Time will tell, but the difference is that now there's newfound hope that didn't exist.

The same goes for Perl 6, ah sorry Raku, too. Will it finally get the recognition and fame it deserves due to its admittedly innovative facilities like iconcurrency infrastructure, precision math or expendable grammars? There's more on what's on offer in the Think Perl 6 book review.

In then end renaming Perl 6 as Raku is a move that will certainly prove beneficial for both sister-foe languages. The degree of beneficence will undoubtedly be the topic of a new debate.

Still issues like that are of concern to other programming language communities too. If you think that it's just Perl getting caught in this turmoil of naming collisions and mishaps, think again! The much more popular, Javascript might be next in line! The question Should We Rebrand JavaScript?  has already been raised (Mocha anyone?)

rakusq

More Information

Path to raku

 

Related Articles

Perl 6 To Become Raku?

The Perl Renaming Debate Highlights Tensions

Think Perl 6 book review

 

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 16 October 2019 )