There have been several discussions around renaming Perl 6. Earlier this month, another such discussion started when Elizabeth Mattijsen, one of the Perl 6 core developers submitted the “Perl” in the name “Perl 6” is confusing and irritating issue. She suggested changing its name to Camelia, which is also the name of Perl’s mascot.
In the year 2000, the Perl team basically decided to break everything and came up with a whole new set of design principles. Their goal was to remove the “historical warts” from the language including the confusion surrounding sigil usage for containers, the ambiguity between the select functions, and more. Based on these principles Perl was redesigned into Perl 6. For Perl 6, Wall and his team envisioned to make it a better object-oriented as well as a better functional programming language.
There are many differences between Perl 5 and Perl 6. For instance, in Perl 5 you need to choose things like concurrency system and processing utilities, but in Perl 6 these features are part of the language itself. In an interview with the I Programmer website, when asked about how the two languages differ, Moritz Lenz, a Perl and Python developer, said, “They are distinct languages from the same family of languages. On the surface, they look quite similar and they are designed using the same principles.”
Why developers want to rename Perl 6
Because of the aforementioned differences, many developers find the “Perl 6” name very confusing. This name does not convey the fact that it is a brand new language. Developers may instead think that it is the next version of the Perl language. Some others may believe that it is faster, more stable, or better compared to the earlier Perl language. Also, many search engines will sometimes show results for Perl 5 instead of Perl 6.
“Having two programming languages that are sufficiently different to not be source compatible, but only differ in what many perceive to be a version number, is hurting the image of both Perl 5 and Perl 6 in the world. Since the word “Perl” is still perceived as “Perl 5” in the world, it only seems fair that “Perl 6” changes its name,” Mattijsen wrote in the submitted issue.
To avoid this confusion Mattijsen suggests an alternative name: Camelia. Many developers agreed with her suggestion. A developer commented on the issue, “The choice of Camelia is simple: search for camelia and language already takes us to Perl 6 pages. We can also keep the logo. And it’s 7 characters long, 6-ish. So while ofun and all the others have their merits, I prefer Camelia.”
In addition to Camelia, Raku is also a strong contender for the new name for Perl 6, which was suggested by Larry Wall, the creator of Perl. A developer supporting Raku said, “In particular, I think we need to discuss whether “Raku”, the alternative name Larry proposed, is a viable possibility. It is substantially shorter than “Camelia” (and hits the 4-character sweet spot), it’s slightly more searchable, has pleasant associations of “comfort” or “ease” in its original Japanese, in which language it even looks a little like our butterfly mascot.”
Some developers were not much convinced with the idea of renaming the language and think that this rather adds more to the confusion. A developer added, “I don’t see how Perl 5 is going to benefit from this. We’re freeing the name, yes. They’re free to reuse the versions now in however way they like, yes. Are they going to name the successor to 5.30 “Perl 6”? Of course not – that would cause more confusion, make them look stupid and make whatever spiritual successor of Perl 6 we could think of look obsolete. Would they go up to Perl 7 with the next major change? Perhaps, but they can do that anyway: they’re another grown-up language that can make its own decisions 🙂
I’m not convinced it would do anything to improve Perl 6’s image either. Being Perl 6 is “standing on the shoulders of giants”. Perl is a strong brand. Many people have left it because of the version confusion, yes. But I don’t imagine these people coming back to check out some new Camelia language that came out. They might, however, decide to give Perl 6 a shot if they start seeing some news about it – “oh, I was using Perl 15 years ago… is this still a thing? Is that new famous version finally being out and useful? I should check it out!”
You can read the submitted issue and discussion on GitHub for more details.