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The Anti-JavaScript: Perl 6

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The problems with JavaScript come from premature standardization. The language’s author Brendan Eich said

I had to be done in ten days or something worse than JS would have happened.

For a programming language designed in 10 days, he did an amazing job. Maybe he did too good a job: his first draft was good enough to use, and so he never got a chance to fix the language’s flaws.

The opposite of JavaScript may be Perl 6. The language has been in the works for 12 years and is still in development, though there are compilers you can use today. An awful lot of thought has gone into the language’s design. Importantly, some early design decisions were overturned after the community had time to think, a luxury JavaScript never had.

Perl 6 has gotten a lot of ridicule for being so slow to come out, but it may have the last laugh. Someone learning Perl 6 in the future will not care how long the language was in development, but they will appreciate that the language was very thoughtfully designed.


Another contrast between JavaScript and Perl 6 is their names. Netscape gave JavaScript a deliberately misleading name to imply a connection to the Java language. The Perl 6 name honestly positions the new language as a successor to Perl 5.

Perl 6 really is a new language, compatible in spirit with earlier versions of Perl though not always in syntax. Damian Conway has suggested that perhaps Perl 6 should have been developed under a completely different name. Then after it was completed, the developers could announce, “Oh, and by the way, this language is the upgrade path for Perl.”

If you think of Perl 6 as a new language, your expectations are quite different than if you think of it as an upgrade. If it’s a new language, it doesn’t matter so much how long it was in development. Perl programmers would be pleased with how similar the new language is to their familiar one, rather than upset about the differences. And people would evaluate the new language on its merits rather than being prejudiced by previous experience with Perl.

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Published at DZone with permission of John Cook , DZone MVB .

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