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brian d foy is the author of Mastering Perl, now available in its second edition, as well as several other Perl books.
I've collected some voices from parts of the large and diverse Perl community to highlight a small fraction of everything going on, from community development, hard core coding, the job market, and various problem domains.
Although not definitive, their combination makes a good summary.
Perl started as a Unix shell replacement to help sysadmins get more productive with less risk and a flatter learning curve (you didn't have to learn the quirks of dozens of small utilities, just the quirks of One Larry Wall).
But then along came the web, and "scripts" could be used to provide interactive web pages, and Perl became the darling language of the web, first with "cgi-lib.pl", and then with CGI.pm, and later with larger frameworks like Mason and Catalyst.
Of course, Perl's scripting abilities also matured, and the ability to scale Perl programs with modern testing and OO frameworks (like Moose) empowered programmers to write 10-line scripts and 100,000-line applications using the same core language features: a distinctive advantage.