On Perl Names And Numbers
This was originally posted in response to this discussion on the p5-porters mailing list and similar discussions on blogs.perl.org. I am also reposting it here.
I started cooking a big editorial essay in my head, but I'm just going to try and boil it down…
So long as a fixed number ("5" in this case) is *prominently* attached to Perl, it will be seen as stuck. Specifically, it is stuck behind that thing called "Perl6".
You may understand the distinction between "Perl" and "Perl5" and "perl-5.16.2", but the rest of the world (including many developers) does not.
Others (notably Apple, Java, Mozilla) understand how to manage perceptions through names and numbers. We should learn from them.
Continuing the affiliation between Perl5 and Perl6 is harmful to both camps. Negative or false perceptions about either needlessly end up affecting both.
The Perl5 community must pursue its own best interests and cannot be held hostage by the name and number of another language.
Establishing a way forward through both minor and major (i.e. non-backcompat) releases to Perl5 will help to energize and accelerate development.
The Perl6 community will not take offense at anything the Perl5 community does. We all understand that we have common roots, but we are now on separate paths.
I will not argue whether Perl is thriving or dying, but I will assert that the language and community does not receive as much "buzz" as it deserves.
Rebranding, renaming, and/or renumbering are useful tools for generating "buzz." But these alone are not sufficient -- a compelling message is also required.
Initial reactions to these kinds of changes are always mixed. But those feelings will fade and the benefits will come over time.
Yes, this is mostly about marketing and image, but that doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile. Perceptions do matter, regardless of whether they are rational.
Not everyone in the community cares about marketing (nor should they), but we must not impede or discourage those who do. We are all on the same team.
If we want things to *be* different, than we must *do* things differently. Let us not be afraid to try.