Take a look at this graph of alternate browser adoption:
Firefox adoption dropped 20% in a year and a half on that chart. What does that tell you about Firefox? Nothing. That's the problem.
Now take a look at this graph from Indeed.com:
|perl php ruby python Job Trends||Perl -administrator -sysadmin -cgi -scripts -etl jobs - PHP -administrator -etl -cgi -sysadmin jobs - Ruby -administrator -etl -cgi -sysadmin jobs - Python -administrator -etl -cgi -sysadmin jobs|
What does that tell you about Perl? Nothing. And that's a problem. Though the "Perl is dead/dying" meme seems to be dying (ha!), it still crops up and I heard it again the other day (and they posted that graph as proof). People would laugh themselves silly if you used the first graph to "prove" that Firefox is dying, but they nod sagely when the second graph is presented as "proof" that Perl is dying.
Here's what I wrote in response to someone posting that second graph (they also included a link to TIOBE):
TIOBE isn't taken very seriously. However, the Indeed.com link is great and has a good lesson in basic economics. It works like this:
If a product is very successful, very profitable and has a relatively low barrier to entry, competitors will arise (for example, look at the bewildering array of diet sodas on the market). So when Diet Pepsi does well and Diet Coke is successfully released, Diet Pepsi's market share will fall due to competition. And then when somebody writes an article on their blog about how "Diet Pepsi is dying" and others desperate to look like they're "in the know" will repeat this and soon, everybody will know that there's no future for Diet Pepsi. However, anyone with even a passing knowledge of economics would look at that and see it as a sign of a healthy market, not that Diet Pepsi is dying and that's exactly the behavior we see in the dynamic language space.
Meanwhile, the Diet Pepsi drinkers will sigh and wish everybody else had either taken an Econ 101 class or learned how to apply these lessons to the real world.
Personally, I see no sign that Perl is dying and I still see plenty of new companies adopting it (there's a hot new startup in London right now which is using a Perl stack, but I can't name them). However, Perl is facing stiff competition and it's improving as a result. This is a great thing. If Perl wasn't improving, then you could say it's dying. That being said, there's some opposition from some Perl programmers to Perl's improving (sometimes I want to cry when I read P5P) and they'll gladly strangle the baby rather than let it grow up. If they win, Perl's dead.
Once again I really wish more people would take classes in economics or, better still, applied economics. You can talk about economic theory all you want but if you can't recognize it in action in the real world, it's useless. Any economist worthy of the name who understood technology would have looked at Perl's fantastic success and predict that it could face a massive drop in market share due to competition for its space. At the time, there wasn't a huge amount of competition in dynamic languages and as an immature market, it was crying out for a correction.
For non-dynamic languages such as Java and C++, the market has stabilized more. I still expect to see market shifts. They aren't going to be as dramatic, but they're happening.
One side note: don't disregard TIOBE entirely. Economics isn't just about the efficient allocation of scarce resources; it's also about perception. Just ask anyone in advertising what makes Coke better than that no-name soda sitting on the lower shelf in the super market. If perceptions aren't managed, strange things can happen. That being said, I am tremendously impressed with how the Perl community has rallied together to manage some of the issues that have cropped up with the perception of Perl the past few years. So long as we don't rest on our laurels and say "job well done", things are looking pretty good.