Circumstance leading up to removal of perl from base?

Jonathan McKeown jonathan+freebsd-questions at
Sat Jun 21 06:29:22 UTC 2008

On Saturday 21 June 2008 01:02, Dan Mahoney, System Admin wrote:
> Hello all,
> I know it was a long time ago, but I was talking with a co-worker about
> why perl was removed from the base in v5 -- I seem to recall a discussion
> on some mailing list about either the number of arguments or the format of
> the arguments and/or output of a base perl function having changed between
> 5.005 and 5.6.1.
> Thing is, that's a very vague thing to try to google for, and I can't seem
> to find it.  Are there any old-timers who remember the system call in
> question?

As I remember it, the debate revolved around the regression testing and 
porting effort of updating the (then very outdated) system Perl, and the 
large space requirements, especially as more and more CPAN modules were 
absorbed into the Perl core: there was some discussion about producing a 
lightweight version by leaving out core modules not used in the base system - 
at which the Perl people, not unreasonably in my view, invoked the Principle 
of Least Astonishment, saying that being available in every installation was 
rather the point of core modules.

The conclusion, which made an awful lot of sense, was that the FreeBSD 
developers would replace the last few scripts in the base system that 
required Perl, so that Perl could be removed from the base system. This meant 
that Perl users could use the port, which tracks the current release of Perl 
more closely than the (properly) rather conservative update cycle Perl had 
had as part of the FreeBSD base.

At the time, the discussion generated controversy among people not directly 
involved, although the discussion itself was amicable and rational, from what 
I remember of it.

The release notes for FreeBSD 5.0 seem to be dated Jan 2003, so I would 
imagine digging through mailing lists for 2002 would shed more light - 
certainly googling for perl removed freebsd gave me a number of links to (for the Perl community's view), Slashdot and various other 


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