Perl is Open Source software and is licensed under an Artistic License of General Public License. As a whole, Perl is in fact a family of smaller languages. It is comprised mainly of Perl 5 and Perl 6, both of which are part of the family, though the latter is separate and has its own development team, and its progress does not in any way impact how Perl 5 is developed. This means that each system or family has its own individual features that make it unique.
Perl 5 is over 29 years old and continues to grow. It is currently being run on more than one hundred different platforms, from mobiles to actual mainframe systems. It is excellent for fast prototypes as well as for large scale projects such as development. Perl 5 has a multitude of excellent features that make it tremendously useful for a wide variety of functions. For example, it is often used for highly critical mission projects in both the private and public sectors. It supports a lot of functional programming in its make-up and can easily be extended as there are in excess of 25,000 open source sections within the Perl Network or CPAN.
Perl also contains strong tools that can process text, making it easy to work with HTML and other mark-up and programming languages. The system can also support a database integration interface of DBI that will even support databases from third-party companies. Some of these include Oracle, Postgres, MySQL and Sybase to name a few. Perl also can interface with C/C++ libraries through other methods such as SWIG and XS. Perl can also be embedded into alternative systems that include servers for both databases and web servers.
The Perl 5 platform is also excellent in conjunction with the web; it is exceptional for programming due its ability to do text manipulations and its quick development process. Many web frameworks are also written in Perl, with the most well-known of these being Catalyst. The aforementioned DBI system makes all web to database integrations very easy and simple. The CPAN aspect of Perl also provides over a thousand different modules, allowing almost any conceivable task to be completed. This can range from a URL to manipulating an image, APIs and much more.
Universally coined as the ‘duct tape of the Internet’, Perl is used in many large web-based applications, many of which are solely written in Perl. It can also use encrypted web data such as e-commerce transactions within its functions. It is also possible to embed Perl into a variety of web servers, and doing so can speed up the process by almost 2000%. Embedding Perl into an Apache web server allows Perl to act as an interpreter for the system as a whole.
This may seem like an extensive list of things that Perl can do, but in fact it barely scratches the surface of all the different functions that the program is capable of.