Visualizing Perl 5 release cycles

Beginning with Perl 5, version 12, the Perl 5 language began an annual release cycle, with a new stable release around May of each year. Beginning with version 14, the Perl 5 maintainers also announced a formal support policy and ended support for version 10.

This is a significant change from the history of Perl, so I though it would be interesting to see how recent release cycles have compared to historic ones. The chart below shows releases over time since Perl 5, version 4 when releases were more officially split between “stable” and intermediate releases.

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(Note: Starting with version 7, odd numbered versions were reserved for development releases and are omitted above. Versions 13 and 15 moved to a monthly release cycle for easier community testing of incremental development.)

I think the overall change to a shorter development cycle will benefit both users and maintainers of Perl 5. For users, each new release will be a smaller change from the previous, lowering upgrade risk, plus they can have confidence in an ongoing process of improvement. For maintainers, it avoids taking away effort from mainline development to retro-fit patches into a Perl that is many years old and might have substantially different guts.

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