Perl is a scripting language that attempts to combine the perceived convenience of bash with the power of Awk.
It is known for its powerful handling of regular expressions, and its philosophy of 'more than one way to do it'.
Some have criticized it for its very flexibility, pointing out that it is too easy to write code that is unreadable and does not do what one would expect. Some claim that this is its strange beauty - indeed there exists such a thing as Perl poetry, in which working programs are made to resemble English text.
Perl was created by Larry Wall (an evangelical Christian) to help him get his work done, and has been improved by many people across the internet. Perl when combined with other free software can be used to create large web sites with software that is free. Perl has a powerful user created library of software called CPAN. Programs for science, math, online advertising, and almost any purpose can be downloaded for free from CPAN. Perl can be learned at home and competent programmers can make $50/hr and up. However, there are very few jobs today that call for perl programming as a sole or even main skill; it is more common to find jobs were perl is used as an addition to other skills, such as system administration.
One complaint about Perl is that programs done in Perl are hard to read when they are revisited later. This is a symptom of the flexibility of Perl since there are many shortcuts and ways to do things. Perl can be easily written to be simple to read. Perl frameworks are now becoming popular. A Framework is a set of companion programs to LAMP that add more abilities and provide solutions to other common problems of building websites. Catalyst, Gantry, Jifty, and BOP are examples of frameworks. Perl users chat on the free IRC chat on the Freenode server. If you are nice they will answer a question live.
Perl is frequently used for applications in genomics, bioinformatics, and other areas of computational biology. It is especially suited to these purposes due to its efficient handling of strings and regular expressions. An open-source series of Perl modules known as BioPerl is frequently used by biologists.
print 'hello world\n'