Can Perl ever regain its reputation?
Pretty much anyone involved with the Perl community knows that we have an image problem. You don’t have to look far these days to find someone dismissing Perl as obsolete. For instance, this InfoQ interview with Tim Bray (Sun’s Director of Web Technologies) from a couple of months ago. In it, Bray says:
I moved from Perl to Ruby, because Ruby is more modern
It wasn’t always this way, of course. In the early boom days of the web (around ’96-’01), Perl was king. Exactly how this fall from grace occurred is a matter of some debate. Dave Sherohman recently said it wasn’t because of the “line noise” Perl is infamous for, but for poor support for casual users, allowing PHP to fill Perl’s web niche. I think it was also to do with the cowboy practices that the early Web hysteria brought on. Everyone was in a rush to become the next eBay or Amazon, and produced a lot of awful code in the process. The fact that it happened to be in Perl was not necessarily Perl’s fault.
Regardless of how this happened, we are where we are. The question now is: can we ever reverse the trend? We’re certainly trying harder than ever, but will our attempts be in vein? You would think technical people would be rationale and pragmatic, but it seems all humans are emotional and stubborn at the best of times. I’ve encountered good quality programmers who hate Perl with a passion (including ones that have actually done a reasonable amount of Perl themselves). Will these people ever be turned around?
Or perhaps the real question is: does it matter? Do we really care that some people will never like Perl, no matter how good it is? Why worry about something we can never change? After all, surely the truly smart people will recognise when something is genuinely good, and especially when it’s significantly better than anything else available. Maybe that’s Moose. Maybe that’s Perl 6 and Parrot. So long as enough people (outside the community) know about these things, sooner or later, reputation will stop mattering.
So can Perl ever regain its reputation? Probably, but lets stop worrying about it. 🙂