Perl far from dead, more popular than you think

Perl has been around since 1987 and became an early darling of web developers. These days, however, you don’t hear much about Perl. Everyone seems to be talking about trendier languages like PHP, Python and Ruby, with Perl left in the back as a neglected, not-so-hip cousin.

That might lead you to think that Perl is dying, but as it turns out, it’s still used by plenty of websites out there, including some pretty big hitters.

Here are some of the more popular sites that use Perl extensively today:





The Guardian


More sites (and apps) using Perl

When the subject of Perl was brought up here at the Pingdom office, we were not sure how widely used it is now in 2009, especially on the Web. That’s why decided to dig around a bit, which in turn led to this article. The above websites are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Here are even more examples of sites making extensive use of Perl:

Add to this all blogs using the Movable Type blogging software from Six Apart, which uses Perl. Prominent examples include The Huffington Post,, Boing Boing and ReadWriteWeb. And of course all blogs on the Typepad blogging service, which uses a special version of Movable Type.

There are also plenty of projects and applications using Perl, such as the already mentioned Movable Type and various web frameworks like Catalyst and Mason. Other examples include AWStats, Bugzilla and SpamAssassin.

In short, Perl is alive and kicking. A new version, Perl 6, is on its way but still under development. Although Perl may never recapture its glory days of the early Web in the ‘90s, it isn’t dying on us anytime soon. It has become the gray-haired distinguished old gentleman next to the young hotheads like Python and PHP.

We couldn’t help but finish off with this XKCD comic strip:

Gotta love it. :)


  1. I think most people think Perl is dying because those who use it don’t usually make such a fuss about at *those* other dynamic language folks.

    I’ve been a Perl developer, mostly doing new development for several years (new modules for existing products or completely brand new products).

    Inside the Perl community, people know it is widely used. At least one Alexa top 100 website is fully coded in Perl and several other top 100 sites partially use it.

  2. Heyy, and it’s not all about “web” development, right? I use it for everyday activities and some finely-adjusted hacking activites, too.

  3. There are no citations in this article and there is no way to verify these claims. All of these sites could use for all we know. Backup up your claims.

  4. There are fashions in computer languages in much the same way as there are fashions in clothing. Programmers don’t like to acknowledge that. Just look as the example code included in the comments here. Not much to choose between them really (save your proselytizing). There is little that can be done in Python or Ruby which cannot be done in Perl and there is such a vast library of Perl modules available in CPAN that to be honest, I doubt that I wonder how many times Python and Ruby coders have reinvented the wheel (Let’s face so have Perl coders).

    Next year you will see the first bundled releases of Perl6 in the mainstream distributions. Where there was once ridicule aimed at a still unreleased Perl6, there will be surprise, relief, interest and adopters. mod_perl6 is already being ported. Books will be published and take up shelf space in the computer departments of book shops. It will be noticed and newbies will want to give it a try. Old Perl hands will take a look at it, and some Python and Ruby diehards will also consider their options (though most will stay put because that is how people are). Next year interest in Perl will grow. Just take a look at Google trends; the interest is already building.

    Next year, and increasingly, it will be Perl6 which is the new kid on the block, and Python and Ruby will be the oldies who struggle to keep up.

    The author of the article is right. Perl is far from dead.

    Could be wrong though. You can never tell :-)

  5. Sure, Perl isn’t dead…just like COBOL isn’t, either. 😉

    I heard Perl being referred to as, “the COBOL of the Web,” on Slashdot not so long ago, and considered it an apt analogy.

    They’re both horribly ugly languages that should have died long ago, but their sheer volume of pre-existing code makes them self-sustaining. Perl has a camel as its’ mascot for a very good reason; that animal is an extremely apt metaphor for the language’s temperament and general aesthetic appeal. 😉

    People still need to write COBOL in order to maintain the vast amounts of COBOL code that is still in use from the early 70s or so. Since people don’t like the idea that they’ve developed skills for nothing, (especially considering how painful the development of said skill likely was, in this particular case) they then have the (disastrous) idea to also write new COBOL code.

    Thus, when they get to the end of their careers, the COBOL plague will find new victims, as maintainers will be needed for the additional old code…and so it goes on.

    Exactly the same thing has happened with Perl; CPAN is submitted as article A for the prosecution.

    So it’s true. Perl and COBOL aren’t dead. They’re *undead.* 😉

  6. I don’t think Amazon should be included on the list of sites which are mostly Perl. Since at least 2007, Amazon has been more of a Java site than Perl. They replaced their old framework with a Java rewrite which has been driving the main shopping site for 2+ years now. Their entire AWS platform, yeah, it’s also Java. Sure they use Perl for a bunch of stuff, but they’ve been swapping out their legacy Perl code for rewritten Java.

  7. What is the proportion of web developpement compared to developpement in general? hum..
    I work in the space field where we need to make complex treatments on terabytes of data. We use perl and 100% Unix and derivates. Maybe in 20 years when all engineers have switched to, say python this will change. But not right now..

  8. Not only is Perl still popular for web sites, it is gaining in the field of bio-analysis. Not only is it not dead, it’s growing.

  9. You could also point out that Cobol and Fortran are equally alive and well. Consider just how much legacy code exists for either.

    Perl will likely be a sysadmin’s best friend, but I would question coding anything in it that will be used another day.

  10. As a Perl programmer I can say with all certainty that Perl is not dead, if it were I wouldn’t have a job! is written entirely in Perl.

    The Perl community has yearly conferences in Europe, North America and Asia, and just released a new major version in 5.10. And if anybody still thinks Perl is dead, check out the recent uploads to CPAN – – dead languages don’t have people writing in them every day.

  11. Hey.. Perl runs the “third fastest growing social network in the US” and is behind the “3rd largest local search site in Canada”.. wow.. that’s a lot of thirds.. I wonder what runs 1st and 2nd :)

    Seriously, Perl is dead? Meh.. not as long as there are people who love it. There’s always going to be more of you than Haskell programmers any day.

    Personally I can’t stand the language.. but I’ll fight for your right to code in Perl any day.. and as a Ruby fan I’ll readily acknowledge the giants’ shoulders we stand upon.. Perl, and Smalltalk.. and all the other languages we seem to happily bag.. Go Perl..

  12. People who say Perl is not dead are in denial. Perl is being relegated to its roots – a sys admin glue language.

    Having done Perl for most of my career, I am not fooling myself about the fact that knowing only Perl *significantly* reduces the number of cool jobs I can apply to.

    My current shop, as well as any other shop I have encountered in the last coupe of years, is aggressively trying to dump the “legacy” Perl codebase.

    Just mentioning a handful of sites is really not enough to make it a popular language. Almost no new major sites (or just any sites) use Perl as their backbone. Deal with it.

    Technology is moving quickly – learn something new or risk becoming a legacy developer, together with your language.

    Maybe you love Perl. Fine. Good for you, but just face the reality, or you will not be a marketable software developer in the next decade.

    Search Dice for “Perl” and find any job that does not require it as a nice to have or a “side” skill. Your options will be extremely limited. And it will only get worse.

  13. I use perl exclusively as system admin for a dental group with over 300 offices all over the US. I use it by choice, could use others but just like perl.

  14. We should first understand that Perl is not just used for webapps. So just looking for website created in Perl doesn’t give the complete usage statistics. As Mike mentioned above, it is used by various sys admins.

    And not to mention geeks who write small programs here and there to get tasks completed. Now, you can also do it with Python, Ruby or other things. But that’s your choice.

    Many a times, I feel that it’s easier to learn all of Python, Perl and PHP than wasting time and energy on thinking which one’s better. A real programmer is never bound by a specific programming language anyway.

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