Perl Foundation Announces Availability of Perl 5.8 HOLLAND, Michigan, 26 July 2002

The Perl Foundation today announced the release of Perl 5.8, the latest version of the Perl programming language. It features better support for cutting-edge computing platforms, unrivaled ability to deal with international character sets and numerous new modules and performance enhancements.

In addition, the Perl community's new QA systems enhance Perl's existing reputation as a world-beating development tool with enterprise-class robustness, a reputation that has seen it included in the default installs of Apple's Mac OS X and Sun's Solaris 9. This release is the culmination of over 2 years of work with input from some 700 developers. It can be downloaded for free from

This release adds new functionality based on recent trends and developments in the computing world. Improvements include overhauled 64 bit support, enhanced Unicode awareness, better large number support, improved threading, regular expressions and IO and some 3000 uploads to the CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, the repository of Perl extensions). More details of these improvements are included in the fact sheet below.

Jarkko Hietaniemi, release manager for Perl 5.8, said, "Perl 5.8 is not only the most feature-rich version of Perl yet, but thanks to our extensive testing it is also the most robust and widely available Perl release to date. Personally, I'm most excited about the enhanced Unicode support because that gives us both better backward compatibility with legacy data and an unprecedented opportunity to promote Perl in Asian and other markets that use non-Latin character sets."

Larry Wall, creator of Perl, said "Perl 5.8 has all the hallmarks of a release that will go down in history as one of the 'great' releases. We've waited a long time for it, but now we're reaping the benefits of that wait. I've been delighted that I could leave Perl in such good hands while I dream about Perl 6. But while Perl 6 is still only a dream, release 5.8 is here today, and it seems to me that 5.8 will turn out to be not only the most solid release of Perl to date, but perhaps the most solid release of any such large project in history."

Perl, the Practical Extraction and Report Language, was first released by Larry Wall, a linguist and programmer, in 1987. Since then it has become the automation tool of choice for systems administrators and programmers around the world.

It is available for a bewildering number of platforms: virtually all known and current UNIX derivatives are supported as are other systems like Windows, Mac OS, VMS, MS-DOS, OS/2, QNX, BeOS, and the Amiga. Perl is now included in the default installs of Apple's Mac OS X and Sun Solaris version 9.

Perl is most commonly associated with web programming, being the development tool of choice for many people serving dynamic, data driven web pages. Several methods are available for running Perl on the web, such as the ever-popular CGI and mod_perl, the enterprise-class application module. According to Security Space, mod_perl is deployed on over 1.6 million Apache web servers, a constantly-rising figure that does not include the millions of servers running Perl through CGI.

Sites making use of Perl include, Wired,, Alexa and the Internet Wayback machine, a hundred terabyte archive which is five times larger than the the Library of Congress.

"Perl makes our lives at Slashdot tremendously simpler than they would be otherwise. Whether it is running our internal ticket system with RT, or handling millions of page views a day with mod_perl, or writing tools for maintenance and administration, Perl is the glue that holds everything together."

    • Chris Nandor, Senior Programmer, OSDN

Furthermore, Perl is used to run the critical systems of a huge and varied set of people and corporations. Examples include:

  • The U.S. Census Department
  • The Swedish pension system
  • A database containing seven centuries of Scottish Land rights
  • The 300 plus gigabyte enterprise relationship management system of UniCredito Italiano bank
  • The document management system of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency
  • The famous Netcraft Internet survey
  • MessageLabs' SkyScan Anti Virus system, which protects email sent by the British government (and 7 million other messages)

"Perl is our language of choice here at MessageLabs for the majority our infrastructure components. It has definitely contributed to our success - being able to rapidly bring solutions to the table gives us a competitive edge. I think we would find it very difficult as a company to live without both Perl and the CPAN."

    • Matt Sergeant, MessageLabs

On top of everything else, Perl is free, both in monetary terms (the latest version is always available for download from and because it is dually licensed under the GNU General Public Licence and the Artistic Licence, which provide users with the right to access and modify the source code.

Perl is backed by a huge community that voluntarily runs bug tracking, testing, support groups, free lectures, grass roots conferences and mailing lists aimed at users ranging from complete beginners through to experts in obscure fields.


Larry Wall :
Larry Wall originally created Perl while a programmer at Unisys. He now works full time guiding the future development of the language as a researcher and developer at O'Reilly & Associates. Larry is known for his idiosyncratic and thought-provoking approach to programming, as well as for his groundbreaking contributions to the culture of free software programming. He is the principal author of the bestselling Programming Perl, known colloquially as "the Camel book." Larry received the Dr. Dobbs Journal Excellence in Programming Award in March 1993 and the first Free Software Foundation Award for the Advancement of Free Software in October 1998.

Jarkko Hietaniemi :
Jarkko Hietaniemi is the Perl 5.8 Release Manager and was also the creator and Master Librarian of CPAN: Comprehensive Perl Archive Network. After getting his MSc in Computer Science, specialising in the field of parallel computing. He now works for Nokia Research Center.

The Perl Foundation :
The Perl Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of the Perl programming language through open discussion, collaboration, design, and code. The Perl Foundation is a unit of the Yet Another Society (YAS), a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization based in Holland, Michigan.


Improvements in Perl 5.8 over v5.6 include:

  • Overhauled 64 bit support

Although Perl has long supported 64 bit architectures, 5.8 now includes support for the very latest Intel platforms placing it at the cutting edge of language support. In contrast to Java, which runs on only 15 to 20 platforms (source: Sun Microsystems web page) Perl scripts run (in most cases, completely unmodified) on over 60 platforms. These include virtually every flavour of UNIX, most versions of Mac OS (it ships as standard as part of Mac OS X), all versions of Windows and many 'Big Iron' mainframes such as IBM z/OS.

  • Better, faster large number support

Perl has always been popular with the scientific community who enjoyed its easy but powerful data manipulation features and its wealth of free statistics, charting, graphing and output formatting add-ons. In response to feedback, large number support has been extended - valuable in statistical, mathematical and cryptographic applications. Bugs in the numerical support of different platforms have been worked round to ensure that Perl scripts run unmodified on as many platforms as possible.

  • Improved threading

Perl provides multi-platform support for threading and forking, attempting to provide facilities in emulation which aren't available natively. This latest release makes it even easier to build multi-threaded applications in Perl on a wider range of operating systems.

  • Enhanced Unicode awareness

Perl's reputation as the premier text manipulation language available is well deserved. With the formalisation of the Unicode standards for text representation (designed to represent text in a multitude of languages and character sets such as Kanji and Hebrew), Perl has extended its internal string and regular expression functions, providing an unrivalled ability for naturally dealing with internationalisation issues. Because the XML 1.0 specification requires that all XML processors understand Unicode, Perl's improved Unicode support also makes it a natural choice for dealing with the data formats of the future.

  • Regular expression extensions

The regular expression package in Perl has always been one its strongest features and is much envied by other languages. The 1.4 version of the Java programming language has finally received facilities for using so- called 'Perl-compatible Regular Expressions'. Other popular development tools that have incorporated Perl's flavour of regular expressions include Javascript (also known as ECMAscript) and Microsoft's .NET Framework.

  • Stackable IO

The Perl platform agnostic IO (Input/Ouput) layer now allows various operations such as line ending handling, Unicode support and compression silently and transparently.

  • Testing

Because this is the most complete release of Perl ever, a team of volunteers have put in place mechanisms which thoroughly check every aspect of Perl, every night, on computers around the world. This testing, which is unglamourous but invaluable, has helped make Perl the stable, reliable, enterprise-class language that it is.

  • Improvements to the CPAN

One of Perl's major strengths is the CPAN (Comprehensive Perl Archive Network) which serves as a library for Perl extensions and utilities. The envy of many other languages, it hosts an eclectic range of add-ons ranging from Complex number support, to graphics and chart drawers, a superb database abstraction interface and even a few comedy modules. Staggeringly, since the release of Perl 5.6 in March 2000 there have been more than 3000 uploads and updates to the repository, which only serves to highlight how active the Perl community is. An automated bug submission and tracking system has recently been added.


This press release can be found on the web at

Jarkko Hietaniemi's release announcement

Complete list of changes between 5.6 and 5.8

1.6 Million installations

Airforce, Sweden, Scotland, Italy, Canada

Message Labs


Apple and Mac OS are registered trademarks of Apple Computer, Inc. Sun and Solaris are registered trademarks of Sun Microsystems, Inc. Microsoft, Windows, and MS-DOS are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation.
IBM, z/OS and OS/2 are registered trademarks of IBM.
UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group.
VMS is a registered trademark of Hewlett-Packard Company.
BeOS is a registered trademark of Palm, Inc.
QNX is a registered trademark of of QNX Software Systems Ltd.
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Slashdot and OSDN are registered trademarks of the Open Source Development Network, Inc.
All other trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners


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