Should Perl 7 Be Backwards Compatible?

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    Long-time Slashdot reader destinyland writes: What’s up with Perl 7? Perl Foundation board member Ricardo Signes tried to sum up the state of the community in a detailed post to the “Perl 5 porters” mailing list. And in a section titled “To Break or Not To Break,” he writes that “The central Perl 7 question is not about version numbering, but rather about backward compatibility guarantees…” And more specifically, it’s how to respond to the question of whether Perl 5 “is too constrained by backward compatibility to grow significantly in utility or rate of use.” He presents three possible responses: — Reject the premise. “There is a lot of room for forward motion without breaking changes, if we would just stop trying to change the rules and move forward.” — Accept the premise, but then “let Perl continue along its current course, becoming ever more stable as it is used by an ever-diminishing audience until it is given its rightful place in the Hall of the Honored Dead.” — Or, “figure out which constraints can, like chains, be shrugged off so we can move ahead…” While he sees merit in all three positions, the core hope of the Perl 7 plan is choice #3. “Maybe there are kinds of backward compatibility that can be shrugged off without disrupting the vast majority of Perl users, while making the language easier to use and (very importantly) easy to *continue* to improve.” And more to the point, “We aren’t picking up new core developers for a bunch of reasons, but one is ‘it’s just too much of a slog to -do- anything.’ So I am in favor of making selective breakages in order to make the language better and the implementation more workable. I think this is the core of the Perl 7 plan, and the big question is ‘what are those selective breakages.'” That section is followed by another one titled “How Shall I Break Thee?” (“The impact on existing code is a big question to be answered. Nobody is arguing that we’ll attract a new set of users and developers by first alienating all the existing ones.”) While there’s good suggestions, right now “The plan is to come up with a plan.” And this starts with creating a document to formalize the governance model of the Perl Steering Committee as their way of pre-forming some early consensus and refining ideas before they’re then put up for general discussion on the mailing list, with a project manager giving final approval to the larger community’s decisions. This will then be followed by “producing a clear set of intended changes…” “Until that happens, I just hope for a little period of calm and good faith.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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