Is Perl Still Relevant?

By Deane Barker on July 9, 2005

Is Perl Still Relevant?: An interesting answer from Tim O’Reilly about whether or not he thinks Perl is still relevant.

In terms of the competitive landscape among programming languages, in addition to PHP, Python has long been gaining on Perl. From about 1/6 the size of the Perl market when I first began tracking it, it’s now about 2/3 the size of the Perl book market. The other scripting language (in addition to Perl, Python, and PHP) that we’re paying a lot more attention to these days is Ruby. The Ruby On Rails framework has taking the world by storm, and has gone one up on PHP in terms of making database backed application programming a piece of cake.

Note the compliment he pays to Ruby and Rails. I did some reading on Rails over the last few days, and it’s got me predicting we’ll soon see a new generation of Web developers who never learn SQL. Seriously — it’s one wicked database abstraction, among other things.



  1. My first steps were taken with Perl the PHP until I took my first job as a programmer. It required VBScript/Javascript for ASP pages. With .Net 2.0 on the way and Mono for .Net 1.0 continuing to progress I don’t see any reason to use Perl or even PHP. When Microsoft officially releases the Express developer tools there will be little reason, if you are a windows user, to use other web languages. Unless you just hate MSFT which I imagine a lot of people do. There will always be people who hate success.

    I think C# will win the fight in the end. it is available on all platforms and is a child of the C language.

  2. While I appreciate your enthusiasm, nothing is absolute. Even if .Net wins as you predict, it will only remain on top until the Next Big Thing comes along.

    And it will. It always does.

  3. Two things:

    • First, I’ve been doing a lot of Ruby on Rails lately, and it’s as cool as everyone says. However, you occaisonally still need SQL for performance reasons. Sad, but true — but it’s okay, Rails lets you use it very gracefully wherever you must have it, and ignore it otherwise. See the Pragmatic Programmer’s book on the subject.
    • Second, as to Micros~1, if .NET is going to take over the world as the drooling ranting fanboy above seems to think, how come Ballmer (he’s only #2 at Micros~1) recently admitted that it’s stuck? As to C#, it’s just Java with a few (largely worthless) additions (was anyone asking for GOTO?). But it doesn’t have Java’s penetration… and no (unlike Java) it doesn’t run everywhere — only on Micros~1 windows, and Linux. Java is on more platforms (e.g., HP Unix, IBM Mainframes, etc.).
  4. Well, I beg to differ with the previous poster. I have programmed in both C# and Java, and I much prefer C#, for several reasons. It offers many improvements over Java and eliminates a lot of its stupid restrictions, like on the names of code files.

    Now, I personally don’t think that C# will replace PHP. However, I do think that there are applications implemented in Perl/Python (cough Mailman cough) that would be better implemented in a compiled language, and since Mono makes it possible to run C# apps on Linux, it would be ideal.

  5. drooling ranting fanboy… that is a stretch. i think you bias is clear to see in your second “point”.

    java has a niche but it sucks for websites. case in point was using Java to generate their labels, they recently replaced it.

    i should not have been so absolute about .net and C#. AJAX will take over client side and probably change the world as well ;-)

    oh. I love Microsoft. I love Microsoft… not really but as long as I’m being accused of being a drooling ranting fanboy I might as well try to live up to the expectation.

  6. drooling ranting fanboy… that is a stretch. i think you bias is clear to see in your second “point”.

    I’m not going to call you a fanboy, but when you say things like this…

    I don’t see any reason to use Perl or even PHP. When Microsoft officially releases the Express developer tools there will be little reason, if you are a windows user, to use other web languages.

    …you’re really just asking to get pounced on.

    I’ve learned that there are two ways to insult someone: directly (“you suck”) and indirectly (“this thing is SO good, that if you’re not using it, you must suck”). By putting your chosen platform such a pedestal like you did, and saying there was “no reason” to use anything else, you’ve essentially said: “I am right. Those who disagree are simply uninformed.”

    Don’t feel bad, because you’re certainly not the first…

    This is the problem I’ve had with Rails so far — all the promotional material is full of indirect insults to everything else. The Rails camp makes it completely clear that this is a huge advance over everything else and that all the other platforms and frameworks have been doing it all wrong and that Rails is the one, true platform that finally understands the problem like no one else ever has.

    I’m trying to get past that and embrace Rails because it’s so good, but to do this I’ve had to look past a lot of stuff that alienates the hell out of non-Rails developers. All the material on Rails has a huge “you’re an idiot because you haven’t been doing it this way all along” subtext to it.

    That and: “Forget everything you know, because it’s all been a waste of time. All those years you spent perfecting your [insert your platform here] skills — a complete waste. Throw it all away and we’ll teach you the right way to do it.”

    It’s that exact thing that has delayed me adopting Rails by at least a year — it just pissed me off to no end. Joe and I would argue about it regularly. My standard response to Rails was “I don’t hate Rails, I just hate the people who program it.” I’m slowly getting past this, but it’s tough.

    This stuff fascinates me because it speaks to the emotional side of programming and the emotion that programmers put into their skill and their creations. They’re like children, in a way. Insult them, and we get pissed off.

Comments are closed. If you have something you really want to say, tweet @gadgetopia.