Apr 21

I’m pleased to announce Poet, a modern Perl web framework designed especially for Mason developers.

Features include:

Poet was designed and developed over the past six years at Hearst Digital Media. Today it is used to generate Hearst’s magazine websites (including Cosmopolitan, Esquire, and Good Housekeeping) as well as associated content management, subscription management and ad rotation systems. I’m very grateful to Hearst for agreeing to this open source release (though they bear no responsibility for its support or maintenance).

Why another Perl web framework?

To answer this requires a bit of history.

HTML::Mason was one of the early Perl “web frameworks”. Like its JSP/ASP/PHP contemporaries, its main trick was embedding code in HTML, but it contained enough web-specific goodies to serve as a one-stop solution. It relied heavily on mod_perl and had mailing lists filled with web-related discussions having nothing to do with templating.

Over time, a new breed of web framework emerged – Catalyst and Jifty and Mojolicious and Dancer in the Perl world, Rails and Sinatra and Django elsewhere. In these frameworks the templates moved from center stage to become just one piece of a large system.

HTML::Mason faced an identity dilemma; should it be a pure templating framework, or try to expand and better serve its traditional web development audience? In the end, and with coaxing from co-author Dave Rolsky, Mason 2 shifted decisively towards the former. It shed most of its web-specific code, thanks in large part to Plack/PSGI, and became more of a generic templating system (albeit still destined to spend much of its time generating HTML).

There’s two ways to use Mason

So one legitimate way to use Mason is as a dedicated View component in a larger MVC framework like Catalyst or Dancer. Hence Catalyst::View::Mason2 and Dancer::Template::Mason2. (This is how Dave prefers to roll.)

But for me, and for some others, Mason remains a great way to handle the whole web request – to dispatch URLs to components and process HTTP arguments and implement common behaviors for sets of pages. I prefer my page logic right next to my page view, rather than flipping between a controller and view that are often annoyingly coupled.

Moreover, fifteen+ years had left me with a pile of useful ideas, techniques, and conventions for web development. Mason wasn’t the appropriate place for them any more (if it ever was) but I need to collect them somewhere.

This is where Poet comes in. Poet doesn’t need a controller layer; it turns web requests into Mason requests, and happily lets Mason handle the rest of the work. Poet doesn’t have Mason’s identity crisis; it is proudly web-centric, the place to put all the web-related goodness that Mason developers want nearby.

There’s much more to come than I could put in this initial release, and I’m looking forward to pressing on with it! I hope it makes at least a few of your lives’ easier, and as always I welcome the feedback.

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