news.com.com is reporting:
«When it comes to programming skills, .NET is hot but Perl is not, according to the report. .NET requests rose 52 percent, HTML postings climbed 38 percent and XML demand increased 37 percent, Dice said, but the demand for tech professionals with Perl experience has declined 12 percent since the beginning of the year.»
Ouch! HTML and XML are in more demand than Perl. That can’t be good. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say Perl is exactly dead either. It’s still part of the very popular LAMP paradigm and is a wonderful language for business logic code (where PHP isn’t). What I think this article suggests is that there are a lot of corporate infrastructure gigs popping up (hence the .NET spike) and not so much start-up activity. Start-ups, being sensitive to cost, will likely gravitate towards open source tools. I predict that the more the business climate favors start-ups, the more open source jobs will become available.
Of course, what Dice doesn’t show are those start-ups that aren’t advertising, but may be making a great deal of hay with Perl and other OSS tools. This might be called the “dark job market”, after the fashion of unused internet capacity (“dark net”) or the hypothetical mass in the universe that we can’t directly detect (“dark matter”).
I’ve had somewhat what morbid thoughts about the state of Perl for some time now. I don’t think Perl is addressing business needs as directly as it did in 1995, which isn’t surprising considering how different things are today. I feel that we’re in some crazy retread of the late eighties, but instead of the sluggishness of PC hardware development, we’re in a malaise of software stagnation. I’m unclear to exactly what the bottleneck is, but it is likely to be removed soon. No one can really know if Perl will be able to compete for a niche when the flood comes.
I don’t have much hope for Perl’s competitors either. Python and Ruby have no significant advantage over Perl (which isn’t to say they have no advantage). PHP is a great domain-specific solution; java is far more bed-ridden than Perl; .NET is today’s snakeoil. Maybe, as Cringley suggests, Flash will swoop-in, transformed into the all-singing, all-dancing solution to all our computer needs. But, I sort of doubt Flash has all that much longer to live.