Why is Perl so popular?
- Powerful language: it can do what any other modern
programming langauge can.
- Flexible syntax: suitable for OO programmers, or for
more traditional non-OO use.
- Relatively easy to use, though this doesn't lose power
- Cross-platform: Probably the most important
component of success.
- Some competition: Compared to Java, Perl is much
easier for compilation, much easier for programs to run,
and more likely that someone else's .class files will run
on your system (because Perl includes quite a bit - while
Java often needs additional class/jar files to run particular
- More competition: Python and Ruby have many of the
benefits of Perl, but started from scratch. These are good
alternatives for starting a programming project. They are not
yet as ubiquitous as Perl, and not as fully integrated with
other tools (especially Apache, per mod_perl). Also, they
share some of the heritage and ideas of Perl. These are both
object-oriented languages, and both are interpreted.
Perl 6 and other Perl futures
- Perl 6 is an ambitious project to rewrite many of the
Perl 5 internals. In particular, they want to separate the
parser, interpreter, and compiler, to allow integration of
Perl with other languages. They also want to get rid of some
of the krufty parts of old Perl.
- See dev.perl.org/perl6 for
the main pages on Perl 6.
- The timeline is not so certain. Meanwhile, Perl 5 continues
to be developed, and so new features continue to be added.
- The other place to watch is www.parrotcode.org, which is the
virtual machine project to run Perl. Yes, this is starting to sound
like it is borrowing quite a bit from Java, and in fact they talk
about JIT (just-in-time compilation), bytecode, and other Java-like
- Note: we already talked about using CPAN
to extend Perl. But what happens when there's a new version?
- Use perl -v to see what version you have. Visit
perl.org or cpan.org to see what's latest
- One approach to upgrade is to use your Linux distribution's
built-in upgrade tools. For example, Debian uses apt get,
while SuSE uses yast2.
- Or, get the source! The latest source is via cpan.org, or
FTP to CPAN/src at ftp.cpan.org.
Perl and the Online Future
- Perl is here to stay, at least for awhile. There are
many lines of Perl written, and it continues to be useful
for many tasks.
- Perl programming jobs are available. A solid foundation
in other programming languages, Unix/Linux, and Web-based
interaction (including HTML) is probably best, to augment
- CPAN continues to add application and domain-specific
functionality to Perl, some of which ends up in the
mainstream Perl. This means that stuff Perl doesn't do too
well today might be much easier in the future.