Perl 6 small stuff #6: Century — a new name for a hundred-year language?

Shakespeare famously said that a rose by any other name is still a rose. But what should we do when what we’re trying to name isn’t even a flower any more?

Yes, this has to do with Perl 6: As many people have noted — myself included — Perl 6 just isn’t Perl 5. Alth0ugh it may be Perl in spirit, in practice it’s not; Perl 6 is Perl in name only. As it is, calling the language Perl 6 today is, more than anything else, bad marketing. Maybe even a hinder of adoption (more on that later).

I’m not the first person to propose a new name for Perl 6. But still, humbly, I propose a new name.


Why in the world “Century”?

  • Larry Wall has said that Perl 6 is his attempt at creating a 100-year language, i.e. a language that will stand the test of time throughout this century.
  • As inspiration, Larry points to Paul Grahams essay “The hundred-year language”.

An ambition like that is so big that it’s almost hubris. But I love big ambitions. That’s why I the name should reflect the ambition. The name “Perl 6” only reflects history, it looks backward to something it’s not even that compatible with. Look forward!

And that has to do with what I called bad marketing above.

As noted in a StackOverflow blog post, a survey said that Perl is the most hated programming language. It has to be said that I’m sure most of the votes are from people that hasn’t even used Perl, at most just looked at some code. But whatever is reality, and however you want to challenge the methodology, I think the survey more or less reflects the majority’s view on Perl.

In any case it’s a fact that comparatively fewer people are using Perl 5 today than 15 years ago. To many people, Perl 5 — rightly so in some cases — is a stale language, with few improvements over the last years.

A FastCompany article, “The fall of Perl, the web’s most promising language”, nicely sums up the attitudes of non-Perl and previous users.

In the end it doesn’t matter whether these things are correct or not. This is the prevailing view on Perl. So in my opinion the name Perl 6 will do nothing but hinder adoption. Python was lucky enough to find a new lease of life, not because of its strengths, but trough a few coincidences that made it the language of choice for AI and machine learning. Perl hasn’t been that lucky.

So it’s time to change. And Century reflects Perl 6’s ambition and intention. Should we change?