The Perl world has evolved over the years. Once upon a time, it was a simple glue language that made life easier for system administrators. It’s grown up a lot since then, and now powers much of the Internet. The language has added new features, and the CPAN has made a dizzying number of libraries available.
Yet in a way, Perl was stuck. Developers had to be careful about adding new features, for fear of breaking those scripts that power much of the Internet. The idea of a new Perl was announced in 2000, and the next few years were full of good intentions and bad arguments. People debated about what Perl 6 would be, how it would be written, or even whether or not Perl 6 was needed. Eventually, the bickering died down and the real work began. Rakudo, which runs on the Parrot virtual machine, has been available as the main Perl 6 implementation for some time now. Rakudo Star is a full distribution of Rakudo for early adopters like you and me. If you hear me talk about Perl 6, I’m probably talking about Rakudo. If you hear me talk about the Rakudo distribution, I’m probably talking about Rakudo Star.
There’s still some bickering out there. There always will be. Some people thrive on conflict. Meanwhile, Rakudo runs and it’s pretty darn cool.
There is a lot of material to get you started with Rakudo. The Perl 6 Book is included with Rakudo Star. Moritz Lenz has written an amazing series of blog posts helping Perl 5 programmers transition to Perl 6. There is also a Perl 6 wikibook. If you want to learn more about the guts of Rakudo, take a look at Parrot.
I may start writing some Perl 6 Babysteps eventually, but it looks like that ground is pretty well covered for now.