I find this post a little unsettling. It seems like even the Perl community is unsure why they are doing this.
At least for me, Perl === Perl 5 (and probably always will). It works, and it's ecosystem is very mature.
Edit - to be clear - I don't think this is a good idea. I'm not inverting the meaning of the "bird in the hand" idiom, I used it specifically because I think this is an example of chasing after a fantasy that's going to leave them worse off in the long run by compromising their existing user base. I don't know why you'd expect a sudden rush of new users coming to Perl today and try to tailor a release to new users when, as the parent comment mentioned, new uptake is really limited and most users are working with existing systems/value stability.
The full proverb is "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." I recognize that you didn't quote this directly.
I am not sure if you meant to invert the common meaning here. The thrust of your post reads as if favoring this new direction for Perl, on the basis that it will bring in new users. The "bird in the hand" proverb would counsel the opposite - favoring stability to cater to current users, regardless of the impact on potential new users.
The reason for this is that the bird in hand is certain. The value to the bird-holder of the free birds must be discounted based on some probability that the bird-holder may capture these birds.
The implication is that to go bird-hunting, one requires two hands. In order to attempt to capture the two birds in the bush, one must first relinquish the single held bird. Bird hunting has some probability of failure. If you hunt for the two birds in the bush (by first letting go of the bird you have), you may end the day with no birds to your name, a position that is leaves you worse off than if you had simply held your bird in hand.
In the case of Perl and its userbase, the bird in hand consists of existing users who value stability and portability (per the article). The birds in the bush comprise current Perl non-users. There are more current Perl non-users than users. Pursuing current non-users by means that alienate current users may leave the language with fewer total users if there are simultaneously
1. A low rate of non-user to user conversion
2.And a high rate of user to non-user conversion.
Several references for the proverb, usage, and origins:
In Spanish, the proverb is "A bird in the hand is worth more than a hundred flying." and according to https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=auto&tl=en&u=https... it comes from a Latin proverb that is "A bird in the right hand is better than four out (of it)."
I think this is exactly it, and I also think it's the right thing to do. The antagonism to existing users (that don't want to change versions) is minimal. To them, it's just that Perl won't release anymore after a while, but there will be third parties to step in and offer support. I'm sure ActiveState is very interested in Perl 5 right now.
All this is is a recognition that Perl has been in maintenance support mode for years now, and providing a clean and clearly defined way for people that are interested in changes to opt in to them.
As a community, I think this is clearly the correct choice. The (current) nature of programming language communities and new user means that a large percentage of new users comes into programming each year. For a community as small as Perl, if you can increase the amount of those people that are coming to your community even minimally, it will probably dwarf the existing community fairly shortly, and that's needed if it's to survive at all.
I do and have developed Perl as either my main or one of my main responsibilities in by job for over two decades now. Perl 7 won't change how we do anything at work for years, if ever, since we have decades of Perl code to maintain and extend. I still am extremely happy about Perl 7 because it's the first time I've been excited about a Perl development in quite a while, and because I can't see any negatives for our existing code.
And that won't change unless Perl is allowed to change.
Nobody is going to hail perl 8 as the hot new thing, the only thing that will happen is this move killing perl off entirely.
Nothing there looks as drastic as the big changes from python 2 to 3, for example.
I also created and maintain a large Perl stack and in my opinion, the things that made Perl great 10-15 years ago, other languages have adopted and did better. Now for lack of want of updating the language, it’s just languished. I just don’t see a compelling reason to start a Perl project in 2020.
The whole "stab our existing users in the back and chase a new user base" model has been bizarrely popular lately, but I'm not sure I've seen it work even once.
(I exaggerate a bit with "stab", but still...)
> Way better than stabbing it's user base in the back, and still not attracting any new users.
I'm one of those users, and I'm very happy about this. I see it sort of as a family member opting for chemo rather than just waiting out the end. Sure, it might not work, and might be a painful, and might quicken the end slightly, but maybe it actually given them many more years at a better quality of life than they currently have.
Also, I don't really think it's stabbing them in the back that much. It's not like anyone using Perl 5 that doesn't want to change won't be able to keep doing what they're doing with close to or better support than they've had, if it plays out as I suspect (for professionals, there's a business opportunity to provide support to Perl 5 long-term, so someone will do so).
I don’t really know where I stand now. Maybe they should just leave it alone. I just stare wistfully at the hole PHP has dug itself out of over the past decade in terms of modernizing the language, and its 2020 and I can’t even have subroutine signatures without experimental flags. I feel like opportunity was missed with Perl and I don’t know if it can be reclaimed.
Perl never had anything like that. It allowed to do CGI in the early 1990s then nothing major I can think of.
Not quite. Perl actually has several widely-used web frameworks such as:
Mason - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason_(Perl)
Dancer - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dancer_(software)
Catalyst - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalyst_(software)
Mojolicious - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mojolicious
Many of these were/are widely-used and most are still maintained and in use.
Mason powered the Amazon.com retail web site (maybe it still does?).
Catalyst powered DuckDuckGo's Community Platform, the BBC iPlayer, and YouPorn.
You're also right about mod_perl vs php. Shared hosting was really common and mod_perl was really unpleasant.
At some point it's just goodbye perl and thanks for all the scripts.
I've seen it work several times ... but maybe no interesting times. One example would be Algol58 to Algol60!
That can be achieved right now for anyone who is interested: download Perl5.32 and never update it. No one will ever force you to upgrade to Perl7 if you don't want to. Why hold everyone else back when remaining in a static state can be done in isolation?
I think this is an interesting sentiment when contrasted with the Python 2/3 split, where most people are pushing to get projects into on 3 and warning users of 2 they will not be getting official security patches any more. Maybe because Perl's community is smaller they wouldn't be as hard-line on this and release security fixes for Perl 5 if they were merited (though I don't see Perl as a tempting target for malware authors).
It feels like that article states that some people in the Perl community want to make the breaking changes to free themselves of legacy and gain the advantage of accessibility from new users by doing so, being that Perl 5 desperately needs new users, but contrasts this with the fact that protecting that legacy was both a core value of the Perl project and possibly one that held it back for too long.
I honestly wonder where we would be if Python never made the 2/3 split and we'd all still be using Python 2 at this point with all of its design flaws. Surely it wouldn't die from becoming outdated, seeing other languages do the same things better, as with Perl?
Fill in the [X] with your choice of language. It's not like it was 20 years ago when you chose a language because it was literally the only practical way to do what you needed to do. Unless you have something pretty niche, there's always another language.
I don't see a compelling reason not to start a Perl project in 2020. Granted, I don't use the language much, but I think it still has its place.
GP's point was that we're no longer in the situation where only one language is capable of doing what you want, so there's no "compelling reason" to use a particular one. You can pick the one you like instead of being compelled to a particular one.
Oh wow, that headache I had earlier really got me. I remember thinking "should I capitalize 'script' or not?" since I usually wouldn't but it's the right way to type both TypeScript and CoffeeScript and it looks nicer to be consistent and not technically wrong, but didn't notice "javs" at all.
Much too late to edit it now.
Most examples that come to mind for me would make more sense as Python.
As far as I know, one liners are not possible in Python. As a matter of fact, I'm not aware of any popular tools that can even hold a candle to Perl's power at the command line. So, my options are:
1. Forget about one-liners. This is the option most people seem to take, and also by far the worst one. In my career I regularly saw my perfectly competent colleagues take minutes or hours to write throwaway scripts to do what I would do in seconds with a Perl one-liner.
2. Use Perl for one-liners, then rewrite the few that graduate to scripts in Python. This one isn't as obviously absurd as the first, but still seems like a rather large waste of time overall.
3. The obvious: paste your one-liner into a new file, add some newlines and whitespace and command-line options and whatever else.
When I write one liners I tend to build them up in bash, and so when I want them to be reusable I do the same as your (3) but targeting bash. Then when they get at all complicated I rewrite in python.
The worst of both worlds.
I don’t use it anymore because of the culture of hating on it from non-users, who have just hounded users so much that they have succeeded in dampening the fun a lot. I mean you can’t even talk about it in HN without encountering some serious negativity, usually uninformed. It’s unpleasant.
On the good side, there are other great languages that don’t have this problem.
Sunken costs fallacy would apply if someone said "well, I spent so much time learning it, I might as well keep using it even though the environment is so hostile."
So, that's exactly the path I'm not taking. I'm disregarding any sunken costs. The sunken costs fallacy applies to those who would cling on to a path, not those who leave it.
But maybe you're using it from a different perspective.
Is that better than driving Perl 5 to a stable end? I don't really think so. But I'm not involved in the development of Perl, I'll just keep writing Perl scripts until it gets hard to install.
If your result for inaction is eventual death anyway, then the sensible thing is to go out swinging. At least that way you have a half chance of reviving the language — which is better than the zero chance you have if you do nothing.
Also a company with a huge Perl code base there is large value in new developers who can become productive without much special training.
You shouldn't hang your career on any one language.
But languages themselves are almost trivial.
Knowledge of libraries, and community expectations around them, doesn't translate well between languages.
And personal libraries, laden with solutions for the domains you've tended to specialise in, don't translate at all. You basically have to start from scratch, which is a huge loss if they are genuinely useful and took years to develop and accumulate.
You can't just rewrite those quickly, and you're unlikely to find a third party library in any language that solves the same problems.
I can see how this may be meaningless to someone whose career consists of moving from company to company, never carrying anything forward other than what's in their head. But some people carry forward substantial personal libraries which they use.
The loss of those can easily be a 10x loss in productivity, so switching to a new language and its entire ecosystem can be a big and expensive step, compared with not doing so.
Yes, over a career you can become expert in several. I would even say quite a lot. And yes, you can always learn new things.
But there will be times when you lose a lot of your advantages due to starting from scratch with something new. That's a big cost, it shouldn't be ignored.
When it's necessary, such as learning an ML framework, say, it's a justified cost, and everyone pays it.
But when it's just due to changing fashions it's a bit galling, and difficult to justify when is the right time. So much is lost.
(The first two being the primary languages we use, I don't remember how java came up that day - I know others are also the same)
that said I don't know what kind of "special training" you need to pick up a new language. I got hired for a perl job despite never having written it. the conversation went something like "can you write c?" "yep." "can you write shell scripts?" "yep." "ok, you can write perl." read what the sigils meant and could write it with minimal competence same day. expertise and nuance can come as you go
by loc I've probably written more perl than any other language, maintaining a massive legacy codebase at a previous job. I will probably never write perl again, and the idea of starting a new project in it is unthinkable to me. nevertheless I can see how it could find a new batch of users as a comfy expressive intuitive scripting language, if they can clear out some of the deadwood. it's certainly more suited for that role than python or js. and honestly I doubt it will break much given, as you said, no one running legacy perl ever updates their perl version anyway
the real reason why this is being done probably is that the maintainers love their language and want for it to continue to live rather than die a slow death. I wish them luck
Use Major Version to break compatibility when it is necessary and bring performance advantage as incentive to switch. It is not one or another but both.
Where there are business value in switching, they will.
It's never going to happen. They don't even think of performance as an important value to have . And in current implementation (without redesigning the language) AOT and JIT compilers are too impractical and too costly to implement.
 Even though benchmarks-marketing is a known way to attract users.
I'm assuming that sort of thing will continue, but with less backporting to version 5. Jitting just the regex engine without compatibility problems is one potential thing that could happen. PCRE2 is pretty close to that now.
I don't know who you think "they" are but that statement has not been true for a few years now.
A lot of ticketing platform for the 2008 Olympics was Perl, and I was responsible for one of the engineering teams.
The first on-sale basically flopped because our load testing environment had a different version of DBD::Oracle.
On the other hand, I'm a bit worried about Cor; it feels like Ovid is trying to repeat in a few months the same work that TimToady took a few years to do. A good object model is nontrivial, and it feels a little rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline. And I generally feel that Moose syntax is not that great, and it's making a lot of the same mistakes. Maybe I'm not the target audience for this.
Heck Perl in the last 30 years has been even more stable than C. I remember when gcc and clang switched from a default of GNU89 to GNU99 and it broke several packages who didn't set or check for the right flags; nobody bitched about it and just went on to fix their Makefiles.
Essentially, it is just perl 5.32 with more modern defaults. They will keep evolving the language. Perl 5 isn't going anywhere.
>I don't know where we're going. I'm not even sure if this forking is good or bad in the long run (it could be good if managed well, but so far it isn't). And that terrifies me.
Hopefully this new version will make Perl easier for newcomers. But maybe before the final decision they will find a compromise solution where some old features may be dropped, while making it not-so-hard to migrate Perl5 to Perl7.
Why thank you :-)
they skipped 6 to avoid confusion with raku.
I am not sure what the balance of facetious vs serious is here. The various Unix shells have been stable for quite a while. Obviously sh is very barebones, but zsh and bash, for example, have associative arrays and other modern conveniences.
Outside of various shells, there are several other options that come to mind which do not teeter on facetiousness.
So far as I know, tcl is also quite stable.
Common Lisp is perfectly usable as a scripting language and has a very stable standard and mature libraries.
Trust me, /bin/sh is not a stable, non-moving target. Not even on GNU/Linux. Go further afield and there are a great many quirks.
Even on Linux I've encounted four major flavours of /bin/sh: Dash, Bash, Ash and Msh.
The available variable interpolation syntaxes vary considerably. The only portable way to do most string things tend to use combinations of 'echo' or 'printf' and 'sed', and even those aren't portable without some platform detection. Something as simple as adding the right number of backslashes to a command, for example to quote a command given to SSH, is tricky in shell and quite version dependent.
Bash isn't a non-moving target either; I've had Bash scripts break when moved from one Linux distro to another, due solely to different behaviours of different Bash versions.
Some of the things Autoconf does to workaround /bin/sh differences are quite exciting.
If you consider /bin/sh scripting to include the behaviour of commands run from it, which you probably should, the situation is much worse. Very standard things like 'ls', 'echo', 'cp' vary across platforms in meaningful ways.
In comparison, Perl is much more consistent across platforms and versions. If it does something in one version on any platform, it almost always does exactly the same in any later version on every platform.
I would argue that it is unfair to compare different implementations of shell, though. I think it's fair to compare across versions of bash, for example, but disingenuous to compare, e.g., Dash, Bash, Ash, and Msh. If, for example, Dash is my target, then I should call and install Dash. For this reason, it was probably a poor idea for me to call out /bin/sh, specifically, as custom dictates that this is, in fact, a different program in different environments.
I don’t bother with python as you get into a horrendous mess with pip breaking and the v2/v3 issue.
Not every piece of code needs to serve a million people, not every piece of code needs to be sold to google, sometimes you just need code to do a simple occasional job and not change every couple of years.
Quick edit: To sibling comment's point, we're not a tech company, so it's very difficult to get this type of work done. It pretty much only happens on new development (where we are using python3), but that new development doesn't replace the old code.
There are current three outstanding CVEs for the latest version of Python 2. Hopefully, they'll be patched up in the upcoming release, but good luck after that.
Pip install? Or pip3 install? Who knows, whatever you do don’t follow the instructions s to upgrade pip as that breaks Debian and Ubuntu installs. Cpan was always a bit ropey but never this bad.
One issue is that it has diverged from Lua but still shares the same name. Mainstream Lua will probably continue to be a rapidly moving target.
For the hundreds of thousands of lines of Perl 5 code at work, I expect we'll still be running Perl 5 a decade from now, and it will still be supported in maint mode by someone, if not the official Perl devs (but probably them, I suspect some will be fine just doing big fixes for the old code base).
For any new Perl project/environment, I'll just use Perl 7.
Given that 95% of CPAN supports a 15 year old version of Perl (and even Mojo supports an 8 years old version), I don't think the ecosystem is going to drop it any time soon.
Computerists should not be afraid to try something new at every turn, and then reject that something if it does not measure up. In the short run, change is often scary, but in the long run it is the only way to survive.
Breaking back compat without any new features on the horizon to justify them is not only ridiculous, it's suicide. They even broke back compat in 5.30 with the change of attribs on subs, which is heavily used outside of perl5, but not at all within. Totally unjustifiable.
I disagree. EmberJS is a great example of this philosophy done right. Major releases of Ember typically have no new features, they just break backwards compatibility in favor of more efficient ways to do things. This "sets the stage" for features that get added in minor releases. So when Ember releases a new major, you typically don't have to upgrade to it if you don't want the new features. But it's released so you can measure the level of effort as well as the impact the upgrade would have on your codebase. Contrast this with the way Ruby on Rails releases new major versions, with one giant release every couple years that either breaks compatibility, causes performance/cognitive issues, or some combination of the two.
In my opinion, major versions shouldn't have new features. The way Ember gets away with this is by sometimes releasing two versions simultaneously, a major "X.0.0" version for upgrading apps to measure the level of effort, and a minor "X.1.0" for new apps. Want to start a new app? Choose the first minor. Want to upgrade your old app? Choose the major.
No, but time-scales matter. A good idea in a notoriously short lived ecosystem is not necessarily transferable to an environment in which one has to maintain 20 or 30 year old, mostly write-only code.
Also, based on the GP, it seems like Perl is planning something similar to what Ember has been doing: They are planning for Perl 7 to offer no new features, just change behavior. Then users can take their Perl 5 software and try it out with Perl 7 to see how much work it is to upgrade. Or they comb the source code to look for constructs that are deprecated.
one thing that always struck me is that the number of developers of X language is some factor times the number of developers at the point in time when it first had a strong community. if that factor is greater than 2, and it usually is, then to me dividing the language into two distinct dialects with different values makes sense.
It was really easy to write code that worked in both 5 and 7. Most of my time was spent waiting for dependencies or frameworks to make the same jump.
Then again, I suppose PHP developers had the hindsight of Python 3 and Perl 6 as a gigantic warning klaxon of what not to do.
Perl5 has a very strong position on backward compatibility. Even when they change behaviour or add new syntax, that's disabled by default unless a script or module explicitly asks for the new behaviour.
Each significant feature can be switched off or on per module. Even if the main program turns on features, they remain off for the modules used by the main program.
So as far as I can tell, the proposal is just to change this default, so that modern Perl5 features are available to new code by default, instead of having to be explicitly requested, and there's no radical change or incompatibility planned for v7.
That's a change of compatibility-first culture. It means scripts which don't specify what they do and don't want will indeed break with newer versions, occasionally. However Perl5 changes quite slowly, and it's unusual for something new to break something old anyway.
But it should be easy for scripts to specify what they want.
If there's a "no v7" directive that should be enough at the start of any script or module that wants to keep working while being insulated from future changes. That's not much different, in practice, than what they already have to do to ask for features they do use.
Another idea would be to have two search path directories, with different defaults in each, and modules install into the appropriate one according to module metadata. This would allow existing, old modules to carry on working in v7.
Perl 6 was finally released in ~2018 but by this time no one cared. The perl 6 team feels because of the name 'perl', people aren't adopting this new language, so they change the name. And now a year later, the small perl 5 team is wanting to take perl into the modern age by breaking backwards compatibility. It makes no sense at all, that was the job of perl 6.
It would no different if I started complaining about python 2 not getting any updates and then making a plan to better improve its parser and object model and break backwards compatibility and bring it into the modern age. Python 3 already did that, so like what the heck are you doing???
And then the comments from the perl 7 supporters... saying things like we can either "fight or die" or doing nothing is "certain death" but the alternative is "uncertain hope". I just don't see the point in fighting for something the original author of gave up on over 20 YEARS ago.
I've stated my points  before on how companies that stick with perl 5 do so at their own demise. They get cultured into a train of thought where updating software is seen as bad and unhealthy. And if they are a consultancy, their downstream customers also get cultured in to never having to worry about "updates" and/or paying for updates. So then long term contracts with said customer only take into account the cost of feature enhancements instead of "maintenance". So then it becomes impossible to move either consultancy or customer off of the "perl platform" because going to something like django, while a big cost in its own right, would involve a different long term contract that would require paid support and downtime for future django updates/releases. Never mind that finding devs would be easier (and probably cheaper), and the fact that django gets regular security audits and has a much larger plugin/library support ecosystem.
Anyway, to each their own. And godspeed to the perlings out there, I just don't see how any of this is worth it...
Personally, I don't like a major version of a programming language making major breaking changes because upgrading a programming language is not at all like upgrading an app.
Would it be so bad of them just to keep Perl as it is and imagine the 'new shiny' and give that a new name - maybe Porl or something?
And I really wish, if those working on Perl 5 would have switched to Raku, but sadly i think CPAN for Perl 5/7, have a lot more activity than the equivalent at Raku
Most new and modern languages are Compiled, Functional or targeting the JVM or .Net frameworks
Raku is I think the last and only modern scripting language , it could have used the helping hand of the Perl 5/7 community
But a Perl 7 which is not focused on retaining backwards compatibility with 5 is worst of both worlds. Existing code bases will not upgrade, and nobody will start a green field project in it when Raku (not to mention Python, Ruby etc) is available. It would be dead in the water.
Python 3, is in my opinion more of an incremental and conservative change
Clojure, you will need boot or leiningen , or use the new command line tools which are not supported on windows
F#, you will install dotnet core and will have to learn about the differend SDKs and compatibility differences between OSes
Next try to find, install use package, its a lot less obvious how to do this compared to what I call a pure scripting language like Raku
And compared to Ruby and Python, I think Raku have more modern features , gradual typing, rational number, grammars, unicode operators etc ..
Raku is one very few pure scripting language where innovation is still happening
Sounds like excellent values for a programming language.
I'm interested to hear what the top three values for Perl 7 are?
Exciting times for Perl!
1. Reintroduce Perl 6 (Raku) as a completely new language, since some thought that being linked to Perl prevented adoption
2. Open the road for Perl 5 to evolve and add features, many people in the Perl 5 community thought that Perl 6 prevented Perl 5 from growing
In Summary, the sentiment was, Perl 5 and Perl 6 are two different languages each with its own roadmap, but that the name gave the impression they are one, and prevented both from evolving
Last I heard, Tom Christiansen is still alive. And I'm not sure what the connection is, other than that he's done a lot of work with perl.