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New Perl Released

In the world of open source programming languages, few have had the success that Perl has enjoyed for the past 17 years. This week, the Perl 5 Porters, the group responsible for maintenance and development of Perl, released the latest version, Perl 5.8.5.

"Perl 5.8.5 implements a number of minor bug fixes, and provides improvements in specific areas, such as threads and unicode support," Perl 5 Porters contributor Paul Fenwick told internetnews.com.

One of the reasons for Perl's success over the years has been its reputation for stability. Fenwick explained that Perl users need not necessarily immediately migrate to the new version.

"It should be noted that the previous versions of Perl are quite stable, so unless users specifically need any of the features or bug fixes in 5.8.5, there is no requirement for them to upgrade," Fenwick said.

Larry Wall created the Perl language, which was first released in 1987. It is a widely deployed, cross-platform language offered under the GNU GPL .

According to Fenwick, Perl is one of the most flexible, powerful and cross-platform programming languages available to developers.

"It has over 5,500 completely free modules available from CPAN," Fenwick said. "Perl is being used in mission-critical systems in areas, including banking and finance, government, defense, bioinformatics and satellite control."

The Perl community is also actively at work on the next major milestone in the evolution of Perl 6. Fenwick explained that Perl 6 will still be able to run code written for Perl 5, but it also implements a number of powerful new features, including an improved pattern-matching interface, greater support for multi-processor machines and cleaner, more powerful object-oriented features.

Interoperability with other languages is also being improved in Perl 6. Parrot, the new Perl run-time environment, allows both Perl and other languages to be compiled into a common bytecode representation. Parrot compilers are being developed for many languages, including Java, Scheme and Python.

"By using the common Parrot run-time environment, it will be easier for these languages to communicate with each other than ever before," Fenwick said.

In recent years other open source languages, such as PHP 5, which has a syntax that is similar with Perl, have gained both mind and development share. But Fenwick argues that the growth of PHP and others has not eroded Perl's user base.

"One of Perl's great strengths is its ability to work alongside other programming languages," Fenwick explained. "Perl has numerous modules for communicating with other languages and applications effectively. Developers have the ability to directly embed other programming languages into their Perl code.

"Due to Perl's great interoperability, we view the uptake of other languages as only increasing Perl's user base."