Sunday, December 19, 2010

Perl 2011: Where are we now?

Piers Cawley wrote an excellent forward looking piece The Perl Future in January 2009. As we approach the two year mark, how have we fared? He talks about perl 6, perl 5.10.0, aka "perl5 version 10," Perl Enlightenment & the rise of Moose, and "on frameworks and the future."

Where are we now?

Perl 5.12 is out, as scheduled, on time -- two years of work representing 750,000 lines of changes over 3000 files and 200 authors. Deprecated features of perl4&5 are finally marked as such. More Unicode improvements. Features improvements for the Y2038 bug (is epoch time 64 bit now ?) Includes pluggable keywords and syntax. A new release schedule means stable releases come out in the spring, followed by a .1 fix release, then monthly releases (on the 20th) for new bug fixes.

Perl 6 released a real, honest to goodness release candidate. Rakudo Star, "A useable perl6 release" was released in June, aimed at "Perl 6 early adopters." Rakudo star has seen monthly updates, most recently Rakudo Star 2010.11 released in November 2011. Rakudo Perl is a specific implementation of Perl 6 the language, this Rakudo Star 2010.11 release includes "release #35 of the Rakudo Perl 6 compiler, version 2.10.1 of the Parrot Virtual Machine, and various modules, documentation, and other resources collected from the Perl 6 community."

A year-and-a-half of the Perl Iron Man blogging project has seen a flurry of posts from nearly 250 perl bloggers! We've seen advocacy, snippets, whining, and community. I've seen a lot more Japanese language perl posts -- folks happy to use perl, python and ruby and pull the best from each.

I now find it strange and unsettling to meet self proclaimed perl programmers who don't use Moose. If you haven't played with it (and it does feel like playing, it's liberatingly fun), go do so now. I'll wait.

I don't know about you, but I just switched from one startup using perl to another startup using perl. Awesome perl folks are hard to find, they're mostly already busy doing work they love. Why are we using perl? -- because perl works, it scales with developer time, and perl is beautiful.

Piers mentioned frameworks -- yes individual frameworks are important but the vast armada of options available at CPAN as a whole provide an immense multiplier on developer productivity. It's so massive, it is easy to overlook -- Doesn't everyone have a massive, distributed, user-written body of code with excellent testing methodology available at the touch of a button?

Merry Christmas to all!

However, if you look at the good parts (O'Reilly haven't announced "Perl: The Good Parts", but it's a book that's crying out to be written), there's a really nice language in there. Arguably there's at least two. There's the language of the one-liner, the quick throwaway program written to achieve some sysadmin related task, and there's the more 'refined' language you use when you're writing something that is going to end up being maintained.

I think it's this split personality that can put people off the language. They see the line noise of the one liner school of programming, the games of Code Golf (originally called Perl golf, the idea spread), the obfuscated Perl contests, the terrible code that got written by cowboys and people who didn't know any better in the dotcom bubble (you can achieve an surprising amount with terrible Perl code, but you will hit the wall when you try and change it) and they think that's all there is.

But there is another Perl. It's a language that runs The Internet Movie Database, Slashdot,,, LiveJournal and HiveMinder. It's a language which enables people to write and maintain massive code-bases over years, supporting developers with excellent testing and documentation. It's a language you should be considering for your next project. It's also something of a blue sky research project - at least, that's how some people see Perl 6.



chromatic said...

The book Piers mentioned has indeed come out -- at least, I like to think so.

Andrew Grangaard said...

Yes, that book has come out, and you should all get a copy of Modern Perl.

Read chromatic's blog modern perl blog for more info.

Or come pick up a copy today at Scale9x and get it signed!