Suppose the only thing Perl 5 ever really needed were a
method keyword. If it were implemented correctly—with
the associated tests and documentation and a discussion period to see how it
fits in with existing code—the cost of adding this feature would be
relatively small: it's not much code, it's a simple feature, and it has very
few possibilities to interfere with existing code.
That's not the only thing Perl 5 needs, for some definition of need.
(I believe Perl 5 lacks a unified and coherent development vision, which makes this entire discussion both more interesting and less useful. Yet even an idealist has to deal with the world as it is sometimes.)
If you accept that Perl 5 needs (or "could use" or "would benefit from" or "really ought to have") a few more features, you have to answer at least two procedural questions in addition to the technical questions of "What is it?", "How should it work?", "How do we build it?", and "How do we know it works correctly?":
- Who will build it?
- Who will maintain it?
By way of analogy, consider the case of an appealing albatross in Parrot, specifically the compiler named IMCC. In Parrot's earliest days, the VM only ran bytecode. An assembler written in Perl 5 turned Parrot's assembly source code PASM into bytecode for Parrot to run.
Melvin Smith wrote an experimental intermediate compiler which added some syntactic sugar to PASM and produced Parrot bytecode either as output or directly in memory for Parrot to run. Parrot needed something like this.
It wasn't long before Melvin's IMCC found itself grafted onto the side of Parrot and used as the primary invocation and compilation mechanism. I hope I'm not mischaracterizing Melvin's opinion as including dismay that his code was a proof of concept which made assumptions and took shortcuts and wasn't exactly what he would have submitted for a shipping product. (I don't blame him one bit for writing prototype code—that's exactly what I would have done.)
Melvin stopped contributing to Parrot shortly after that point, but IMCC
lives on to this day. (Again, this was prototype code which needed at least
another round or two of severe refactoring before it was suitable for the sort
of duties Parrot expected. As an example, I found a register use analysis
algorithm which looked to have O(n
The problem is simple: someone (not Melvin!) dumped a big wad of code into the wrong directory in version control and now everyone has to maintain that code.
Perhaps marking this code as experimental would have helped, but other people (including me) added features and built onto it. (Dan's apologia for leaving Parrot mentions that his strategy of checking in messy code and hoping that would lure new people to help clean it up didn't work out as well in practice as he had hoped.)
In terms of Perl 5, it's important (as many people point out) to consider the question "Who will maintain this code?" That task shouldn't have to fall to the pumpking or a Nick Clark or Dave Mitchell by default, but it does.
The deeper question that Perl 5 needs to answer is "How can p5p make the whole of Perl 5 easier to maintain?"—not just to make it easier to add and support new features but to reduce the maintenance burden of existing features and to attract new contributors to help maintain code.
You can see this for yourself; open up almost any core module and see if you want to do the work to find and fix a bug. If that's not technical friction, I don't know what is.