The 20-year-old Perl platform offers speed of development and flexibility, McAdams says. Another highlight of Perl is access to extensions via the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network (CPAN), featuring 16,000 extensions for capabilities such as database connectivity, Web applications, and XML, McAdams says.
"One of the biggest things about Perl is [it has] a very active worldwide community," which holds 10 to 20 conferences and workshops a year, McAdams says. Perl also offers more maturity than rivals such as PHP, Python, and Ruby.
Perl is undergoing a major upgrade with its planned version 6. "Perl will be a completely different language than Perl 5," offering better object orientation, McAdams says. But the Perl 5 variant of the language will continue as well.
Python used all over the map
Python has been used for everything from writing cell phone systems to Web applications to stand-alone applications, says Raymond Hettinger, a core developer of the platform. Main benefits include reliability and its readability; one developer can maintain code written by another, Hettinger emphasized.
Ruby and Python are almost exactly in the same category, Hettinger says. "They have similar performance, design, and applications," he says. Python, though, typically runs slower than compiled languages such as C, but it is dramatically easier to program with and much more concise, McAdams says. "A typical program in C that runs 1,000 lines can often be expressed in 100 to 150 lines in Python," McAdams says.
That may be why Python is serving as the initial language supported by the Google App Engine platform for developing and hosting of Web applications.
Ruby and Rails come on strong
The newcomer dynamic language, Ruby, originated in Japan as a general purpose language used for just about anything short of games programming, notes Bruce Williams, a software developer, or "Rubyist," at FiveRuns.
"It's a very elegant language, it's easy to work with, and because it's not compiled, it's also very quick," Williams says. Developers gain advantages in expressiveness, he says. But it has the same weaknesses as any language that is not compiled thus would not be of use in high-performance applications, says Williams.
Complementing Ruby is the Ruby on Rails Web framework. "I think the big thing that you're going to see anybody talk about with Ruby and with Rails is the speed at which you can develop, which translates to the money side of the house," Williams says. Development is quick and developers are happy, he says.