Google Timeline is a wonderful tool! Here is a Google Timeline for the search “Perl” showing an exceptionally interesting trend:

The great Perl comeback?

It may seem like the recent efforts to market Perl, as well as the Perl Ironman blogging drive, is paying off big time in terms of online attention! The graph certainly sends a clear message that Perl is alive and kicking as never before.

Note: I tried to create comparative graphs for Ruby, Python and Java, but was left with enough noise from fake gems, snake attacks and earthquakes to fill several Hollywood movies. Any suggestions for good searches for comparison are welcome.

Note 2: Maybe this is just caused by some Google indexing algorithm gone bad, but a quick visual inspection of the first 100 hits indicated that the August and September hits are real Perl mentions. Is this a real empirical indication that the recent efforts are really paying off?

9 thoughts on “The Great Perl Comeback?

  1. Tim Bunce says:

    Just to be clear, the timeline isn’t a graph of the frequency of _searches_ for perl. It’s a graph of the number of indexed pages that mention perl in a way that can be linked to a date.

    (Sadly the trend graph of searches for ‘perl’ isn’t so impressive:

    Stiil, I think it’s fair to say that it’s showing an (impressive) effect of the Iron Man Blogging challenge.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I wouldn’t be too worried about the search trend – it shows the search volume relative to all searches and seems to be the same for any computer term you try. The downwards trend is probably more a reflection of the increase of non-technical users taking up Google the last years.

  3. brunov says:

    @admin: I hadn’t thought of that, but look at this: Clearly the slope for perl is more negative than that for other popular dynamic languages. Although in absolute numbers of searches, there really isn’t that much of a difference.

  4. Interesting. The terms “perl5” and “perl6” don’t follow the similar pattern, but “cpan” and “rakudo” do. Go figure 🙂

  5. admin says:

    @brunov: Look at the example pages Google suggests for Python and Ruby: “23-foot python found basking in sun”, “Former Olympic champion Ruby dies in climbing fall”. I think the other dynamic language graphs are too full of non-programming searches to be useful for comparison.

  6. brunov says:

    @admin you are right, I hadn’t looked… I wonder whether one could suppose that the rate of change of the false-positive is constant, so that one could still look at language trends. Probably not!

    On another note, I noticed that most of the locations from where the ‘perl’ searches are from are India and Japan. Outsourcing much?

  7. I’m not sure if the Japan originated searches are related to outsourcing. Perl is really big in Japan it seems. Quite a few Ironman blogs are Japanese for example. The India trend is a tough one to figure. Could be outsourcing, but that’s not necessarily an indication of new development.

  8. I would not call it comeback – Perl was never on decline. Relatively to other languages – yes, but absolutely – never. Absolute numbers raise every year (except from late 2008, where all languages started to decline).

  9. steve says:

    I would like to interview some of the Perl programmers from the 1800’s from the graph! Since that’s quite improbable, it’s quite probable that they’re immortal hackers with PDP-11 beards!

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