Perl is a general-purpose programming language used for a wide variety of system administration purposes including automation of system reports, network programming, web development, and much more.
Perl, though not officially an acronym, is commonly said to stand for “Practical Extraction and Report Language”. Perl was originally designed in 1987 by Larry Wall, a linguist working as a system administrator at NASA, as a tool to make processing of reports on Unix systems easier. Since those humble beginnings, Perl has grown to become the “Swiss Army chainsaw of scripting languages” and the “duct tape or glue that holds the entire Web together”, useful for things like automating system administration, tying together different computer systems, and handling a wide range of programming needs on the web.
There are three different branding symbols used within the Perl community. The first, is the camel which was first used (and is now owned) by O'Reilley Media on the cover a popular Perl programming text. The second is the Perl Onion which is owned by the Perl Foundation – a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the Perl community and advancing the Perl language. The third and final symbol, Camelia is the symbol chosen to represent the Perl 6 project.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Perl still used today?
Perl is an integral part of the UNIX core and is installed on every UNIX server and any other computer running a Unix-like operating system. As a result, Perl is installed on the vast majority of shared servers, and can be implemented by even the most low-budget organizations. While Perl has been relegated to a position of limited interest, Perl is still used today, though not for high-profile web apps. Instead, Perl is used for things like managing legacy networks, data mining and statistical analysis, administration of Unix systems, network design, and similar applications that make up the infrastructure of networks, the Internet, and the web.
What are some of the most popular Perl scripts today?
While most Perl use these days is happening in hosting and networking evironments, there are a few popular Perl scripts used regularly to create customer-facing websites. Among the most popular Perl scripts are:
- Movable Type: A proprietary content management system owned and distributed by Six Apart, Ltd.
- ShopSite: An ecommerce platform for the technically uninclined.
- SurfShopCART: An ecommerce platform that you can have up and running in 10 minutes and hosted from nearly any server.
- Dada Mail: An email mailing list manager that you can use to run a mailing from your hosting account.
What is the current version of Perl?
There are two versions of Perl under active development: Perl 5 and Perl 6. Confusingly, Perl 6 represents a completely new language, with a lot of carryover from previous versions of Perl but limited backward compatibility. Perl 5, on the other hand, is the direct descendant of previous versions of Perl and offers very good backward compatibility. In the future, it is probable that both Perl 5 and Perl 6 will be installed side-by-side on most Unix-like systems allowing users and admins the opportunity to select which version to run.