Is My Perl, CGI, MYSQL Site Obsolete?

    November 22, 2006
    Chris Crum

That is the question that one person asks in the web programming discussion forum at WebProWorld.

Member ericjw says:

I am not a back-end person, but I try my hardest to understand. I have recently been considering a phase 2 design for our site. It’s a match-making style website in a niche industry. I had several programmers actually turn my work down because it was written in Perl. He then was telling me about re-engineering my site.

The site works fine, but it could really be improved with a usability expert and programmer to get the site to peak efficiency.

Do I have a dinoasar on my hands? What are the implications for future growth? Am I trying to try to grow my business on something that will be obsolete in several years?

These are all fair questions to which a few WebProWorld posters seemed eager to answer. Member stymiee replies:

Perl has been passed by PHP in terms of popularity for web-based software. But Perl itself is hardly obsolete. The odds are they just don’t know Perl and are trying to convince you to redo your site so they can get the job and the big payday.

You will find it a little more difficult to find Perl programmers then other more popular languages but you should still be able to do it without it costing you an arm and a leg.

Then came Kgun with a thoughtful answer (or opinion at least):

1. I have not coded a single line in Perl and do not know the language. I know PHP fairly well.

2. I have not coded a single line in C#, but have participated on seminars demonstrating C#. To me it looked like a simplified version of C++, the same as Java IMO.

3. C++, C#, Java, PHP and Perl are all C inspired languages. C++ is the OO language I know best.

My impression:

  • C# and Java are as stated above simplified versions of C++. Was C++ too difficult for mainstream developement?
  • PHP is becoming a fully OO language, has a large user community, a growing number of class libraries and extensions.
  • All languages have their pros and cons. I do not know Ajax. PHP is very flexible, the closest you can come to JavaScript with a server side (scripting) language in creating dynamic behaviour and user interaction on a web site as far as I know. May be Perl is equally flexible. The loose typing of PHP, its inbuild variables has its advantages. Because it is an interpreted (scripting) language it is more flexible (at runt time) than a compiled language. For some dynamic webpages, you need the flexibility that only Java Script can offer and the flexibility that PHP can offer as a serverside language. I would not have written an authentication system in JavaScript. Some people would perhaps not have written it in PHP. What about Perl?

    Subjective facts:

  • If I should develope a number chruncing system for a financial institution today, I would definitely not use Fortran (I know fortran fairly well). But Fortran programs will continue to live for years in large financial institutions.
  • According to what I have skimmed and read about Perl, Perl is comparable to PHP in functionality. I think I have read that somebody mean that Perl is better on security related projects. I am not sure how relevant that argument is today if it is true, since you can improve security in PHP (e.g. session handling) by writing your own classes.
  • Time is sometimes a critical factor and you have to take a decision, I personally choose PHP as a comparable flexible interpreted language to Perl.
  • If the only tool you have is a hammer, soon everything starts to look like a nail. Who can hit the nail on the head?

    Use the language that you master and your company / institution supports. Any better?

    I am not PHP, but a little (Borland C++ Builder) religious :-)

    Regarding security: If you are on an Apache server as many are, learn to tame that server, especially how to use .htaccess to improve security on your site.

    I think the owner of this forum, know .htaccess better than most of us and look at the free downloads. He also knows ASP and the MS IIS web server.

    Final word: The fine thing with OO PHP is that you can write a database connection class (API) that can be used independent of platform, be it MySQL, PostgreSQL … If you do it correct, you need only change a single line in your code to change database platform.

    Please check out the thread and add your two cents to the discussion or at the very least read what other members have added.


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    Chris is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest ebusiness news.