Linked by Shlomi Fish on Sat 16th Oct 2004 07:28 UTC
General Development The purpose of this essay is to explain why I believe Perl 6, the way it currently seems to progress, is the wrong thing at the wrong time, and why I predict (with all the expected caveats of predicting something) that it won't be successful. I will also suggest a better alternative for the future of Perl which makes more sense at this point.
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I have been really looking forward to Perl 6. I will readily admit that I don't understand everything going on in the Apocalypses and even some of the Exegeses (a lot of it seems to presume a familiarity with "inside talk" in the Perl developer community.). Of course, I'm sure if I spent more time, and kept another couple Firefox tabs open to Google and Google Groups, I could probably figure it out eventually. But, what I do already understand of it really looks great.

Meanwhile, I really *don't* understand some of the author's complaints. Yes, Perl 6 will allow for some very complex esoteric stuff, but from what I read it will also allow the simple stuff to be even simpler. So I don't think the problem is complexity. I agree there will have to be discussion in many development shops about whether, where and when to use Perl 6, but even then, there is no closed door. Perl 6 programs will easily be able to incorporate libraries from Perl 5, (and as I understand, even vice-versa, via Parrot and Ponie). Other than those complaints, it seems like Perl 6 addresses many, many valid complaints about Perl.

I think its fairly well understood that version 6 is not supposed to be part of the progression of Perl 4, 5, etc... but a new language. In the article I see "Here's a better idea: Let's continue to develop Perl 5...". Umm... that's not a "better" idea; that's in fact what they are doing. Larry Wall himself said several times that he doesn't expect Perl 5 to go away for many years. So where's the problem? They can keep incrementing points all they want from 5.8.x onward, making the increments smaller and smaller, because that in fact represents the reality of how much Perl 5 would change to stay recognizable. If The Perl project falls into the (author-recommended) trap of relentlessly incrementing Perl 5 until it becomes what Perl 6 intends, over the period of 10 years, that means 10 years of headaches, small paradign shifts, and minor incompatibilities along the way. No thanks.

The whole point of this exercise was to make a clean break of things, and inject some new life into the world of programming, while still not closing the door on the existing world of Perl 5. I personally admire the guts it took to do this, and I think the programming world in general will be the better off for this. Perl has always been driven by a certain amount of fun and playfulness, and I think Perl 6 is perfectly in keeping with that spirit. I have actually put off studying Perl 5 because I am looking forward to Perl 6. Since I never was much of a Perl 5 hacker anyway, I figure moving to Perl 6 won't be too much of a headache. So, while the diehard Perl users can stick with 5.x all they want, Perl 6 stands to win a lot of new converts from people who like the newer scripting languages, and from people genuinely interested in advanced programming concepts.

I have used Perl 5 occasionally, but in the end there were just so many... oddities. I still think Perl is a fun language, but I tended to lean more towards simpler (PHP) or more sophisticated (Python). But Perl 6 looks to me like many of the oddities are cleaned up: it will allow one to choose all the simplicity of a PHP-like approach or the sophistication of a Python/Ruby/functional of language.