Perl Turns 34 - A Retrospective
Written by Nikos Vaggalis   
Wednesday, 22 December 2021
Article Index
Perl Turns 34 - A Retrospective
A Bright Future For Perl

Why Perl Is Still Worth Using

Other reasons for picking up Perl include :

Multi-platform support
Without even using a VM, Perl runs on hundreds of sparse and diverse architectures, from Solaris to Windows 10.

Perl can be applied to all fields of Computer Science ranging from working with databases, regular expressions and parsing, to sys admin, developing for the web and the desktop, networking and much more; you name it.

A rich syntax
The richness of the language itself, being highly idiomatic with a natural and expressive syntax as well as being a full blown programming language. Don’t be fooled by the ‘scripting language’ description which circulates all over the Internet. I never understood why it acquired that label, but I guess it probably is because of its archaic relation to the Unix shell tools awk, sed, etc. Mastering the language will open the doors to a world where “Hard Things are Possible” and even enter the realms of functional programming as MJ Dominus’ book Higher Order Perl demonstrates. I don't know of many scripting languages that can do that.

It seems that by no means is it easy to denounce any language as dead or that it has no use nowadays. There are use cases where one solution applied is more efficient than the other. For example for embedded programming, C is still the king. Is it old? Yes. Is it popular? No. Is it deprecated? Certainly not.

And, of course, don't forget the virtues that come attached to each language. Compared to Python, I like the way that Perl's syntax does not restrict me, that it is not opinionated, that TMTOWTDI (there's more than one way to do it). Sometimes I like to play smart, sometimes I want to play safe, sometimes I want to experiment. It's fun in all cases. Of course, it can give you Enough Rope to Shoot Yourself in the Foot, but that is the power as well magic of it.

And the features. I remember when Java 8 brought in lambda expressions and functional programming to the language - it was a 'wow' moment in Java's world. In retrospect Perl had functional programming decades ago (see map, grep, subroutine references, Schwartzian Transform) and no one was going 'wow' about it. It was business as usual.

Still things might have been different popularity wise for Perl if it wasn't for Perl 6 and the trouble it introduced. Back in 2018 I  looked into "The Perl Renaming Debate Highlights Tensions" :

So 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.

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

But what would happen if Perl 5 Porters (p5p) called the next version of Perl 5, Perl 7 in order to puts the lid on the coffin of the impression that Perl 6 is a newer version of Perl 5?

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.

Finally, at the beginning of November, there came the definitive answer by Larry Wall himself. The alias would be 'Raku', being analogous to a stage name.

Late October 2019 and in "Perl and Raku Both Anticipating Newfound Glory" I saw the renaming being utilized:

Ultimately the big bet for Perl 5 is that by dissociating from 6, fresh air will be breathed in 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 concurrency infrastructure, precision math or expendable grammars?

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.

It's now the end of 2021 and while that beneficence has not become apparent yet, things look like they are moving. Massive Perl 5. 34. 0 was Released- What's New? plus the Perl foundation with Andrew Solomon got into the game particularly strongly.

In June 2021, in "New To Perl? What Do You Need?"  I presented the results of the Foundation's sponsored survey into what help and guidance Perl beginners would find useful. Amongst others it provides a clear view of the current landscape on Perl's share in the job market :

Solomon took inspiration from the fact that many of his trainees were solo devs rather than belonging to a larger Perl group. While in the latter case there's an onboarding process, in the former there was none, and with no colleagues to ask when stuck, these developers find solving their problems hard by themselves. The question that arose then is "how do you support those people in their lone journey and how can the TPF help out?"

Among other findings, it was revealed that beginners would like a standardized way of doing things along the lines of a framework, they crave the security and agility that an IDE provides, and that, when they look for help, their preference is first books and then online courses and videos, relegating real-time chat and one-to-one contact at the final places.

And books are certainly Perl's biggest selling point as they are of the greatest quality. I have reviewed many but the books that stood out to me, were the milestone "Effective Perl Programming, 2nd Edition"  (review here) and "Think Perl 6" (review here ) 

It is only after you cope with the idiosyncrasies of the language by making them your friend rather than your enemy, that you will enhance your productivity, efficiency and derive pure fun on the way

In July 2021 and in "It Was About Time To Find A Shared Vision Of Perl"  I took a look at the Foundation undertaking a number of initiatives which aimed to advance Perl's ecosystem further.

The problem that TPF is now looking at is that Perl's ecosystem is compartmentalized; one part doesn't know what the other part is doing and there's no clear communication path between them. So the attempt now is to get a high-level overview of what is important for each compartment and connect the pieces in order for the TPF to be able to offer the best possible help and collectively push Perl further ahead.

Therefore, a new survey asks the following questions, and its answers reveal what Perl should do to become popular again:

What do you see as the Perl ecosystem’s core values and initiatives?
1. A willingness to share information, be helpful, and to provide meaningful answers.


What are your future aspirations for Perl?
1. Modernization without compromising backwards compatibility.

2. Keep backward compatibility but made it easy to use modern features.

What do you perceive are the main challenges of unifying the Perl community, culture, and governance with a shared vision?
1. Everyone has their vision.

2. Perhaps the lack of market momentum doesn't attract enough critical mass to drive things - especially people with fresh energy

As an individual, how might you support Perl in the future?
1. Simply by using it!

2. Contribute to CPAN

How could Perl community groups contribute to our long term goals?
1. By existing and pushing enthusiasm for the language

2. Ensure that there are enough good modules and frameworks on CPAN to get popular tasks done

How can The Perl Foundation help the community achieve their long term goals?
1. Education of what Perl can do. Getting Perl integrated into vendor's tools would be helpful. Python seems to be many vendors love child.

2. Get some big names on board for their SDKs - e. g. AWS, Azure. The lack of Perl's presence for modern SDKs adds to the perception of it's irrelevance.

If these findings are utilized it might bring a brighter future, popularity wise. In any case Perl's longevity and prosperity are two things guaranteed, no matter what.


More Information

Connecting To The Outside World with Perl and Database Events

The Perl Renaming Debate Highlights Tensions

Perl and Raku Both Anticipating Newfound Glory

Perl 5. 34. 0 was Released- What's New?

It Was About Time To Find A Shared Vision Of Perl

Related Articles

Effective Perl Programming, 2nd Edition  review

Think Perl 6 review

Launchpad Unrar Extract and Recover

Unrar Extract and Recover at Findmysoft

Ultimate Extract and Recover 

Ultimate Extract and Recover at Softpedia


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Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 December 2021 )