Larry Wall Announces Alternative Name “Raku” for Perl 6

A very small but influential contingent of Perl fans completely lost their minds over it. A few more are confused by the concept, a fair few seem happy or neutral about it. One or two have said they don’t like the sound of the word. The vast majority just don’t care either way, so far as I can tell. Larry Wall, Perl creator and Benevolent Dictator For Life, has the ultimate say in these matters so the resulting spats which broke out on several venues (Twitter, Reddit, IRC, FaceBook) surprised me slightly.

Credit: Zoffix Znet

The worst thing about this kerfuffle is that it is overshadowing a major Perl 6 release, the first one since its initial release in 2015, which I think is a huge shame.

It’s difficult to understand why anyone would complain about the alias. Perl is still Perl, with two languages in the overall project, versions 5 and 6. Version 5 has several decades of experience under its belt while version 6 took its sweet time getting to the point where the core team felt it was ready to be released (Christmas 2015). The alternative name ‘Raku’, is simply a shorthand for Perl 6. It hasn’t been renamed in any meaningful way. I have a Perl 6 butterfly plushie and it’s still perfectly relevant. All those Perl 6 books, stickers and so forth? Still fine. If I were in the Perl 6 marketing business, I would try to find someone to donate Raku stickers. They would be just the thing for the next workshop or conference.

Why would an alias, or alternative name, be useful? Mostly because it’s cumbersome to differentiate between Perl 5 and 6 by using a version number. The languages are similar in some respects, but very different in others. This causes confusion, not least by creating a false expectation that Perl 5 software should be rewritten in Perl 6. Or that Perl 5 is lesser, rather than simply different. It has been suggested, and I agree, that it would be a neat idea if Larry Wall would also come up with a suitable alias for Perl 5. The ability to refer to both of the Perl languages by a fresh bit of “branding” would be a big plus.

Did anyone get really upset when someone with less authority than Larry Wall rather boldly went ahead and provided a couple of aliases for Perl 5? I’m referring to Pumpkin and Velociraptor, by Matt Trout. I don’t remember anyone complaining very much, never mind to the degree we’ve seen in the past few days over this new alias. There was even a not very veiled hint that the 2019 European Perl conference might be canceled as a result of the ‘Raku’ announcement.

So to the tiny handful of bitter Perl 6 haters out there, and the three Perl 6 people who seem really upset — I’m sorry that you are unhappy. Please accept my condolences. I think the alias is fine, and everything is peachy-keen.