Perl - The Secret Workhorse

Something we’ve been aware of at ActiveState for a long time, but the industry at large doesn’t seem to know, is that Perl is the secret workhorse across several industries. A mission-critical language with decades of development behind it, Perl turns an amazing 30 years old next year. All manner of IT professionals from application developers to DevOps personnel to data scientists and system administrators have it as part of their indispensable toolkit for success.

Perl’s “secret” popularity has many sources. Professionals around the world use Perl to tie things together, process data, automate DevOps workflows, build out custom web applications and more. Because of its scripting flexibility Perl can produce powerful one-liners up to full-on applications. Perl boasts an extensive repository, CPAN, of over 161,000 modules, growing by the day, and is available on hundreds of mirror sites worldwide. Embedded in this amazing resource is a multitude of ways to extend Perl’s capabilities to address a variety of challenges, all in a cross-platform fashion. In addition, Perl is backed by an extensive history and a vibrant, welcoming open source community that generates consistent releases to advance the language.

How about recent hiring data? A quick survey of jobs posted worldwide to LinkedIn in the last 30 days shows over 29,000 (19,000 in North America) listing Perl as a job requirement. Among those looking for Perl talent are top corporations including Amazon, Salesforce, Boeing, Nike, Cisco, Intel, AMD, Oracle, Symantec and many others. Not the least of which is’s substantial long-term investment in Perl as its core development language. It’s clearly not a secret to these organizations.

If this is the case, why is Perl sometimes overlooked? For starters, languages rise and fall in popularity with the current favourite cornering the headlines and fanfare. Although you can argue with each particular method to measure current language popularity, Perl’s case is somewhat understated. As an example, the ascendency of Github (and its extensive API) has meant that language popularity measures such as Red Monk use Github as part of their metrics. However as of December 2015, only one-third of the CPAN repository was actually using Github so clearly Perl’s popularity would be underrated. Lastly, the type of solutions that are built with Perl are not necessarily the same type of solutions built with Python. At the time of writing, Github shows 113,000 projects in Perl and an astonishing 965,000 in Python and yet, Python only shows twice as many jobs in the industry for its skills (58,000 worldwide on LinkedIn.)

Clearly there is an inconsistency here that may account for why Perl appears to be a well-kept secret. At ActiveState we’re proud to be part of what makes Perl the workhorse that it is, contributing to its success across industry, government, education and for individual enthusiasts.

Download one of our ActivePerl builds (available on a variety of platforms) or start your 21-day trial of Komodo IDE for your Perl programming .