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Is PHP mainstream?

Kunal Pingalkar Jul 04, 2015

Technology

History of PHP

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. PHP is a server-side scripting language. The invention of PHP started sometime back in 1994 and was started by Rasmus Lerdorf. In 1997, Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans rewrote the parser from scratch to create PHP version 3.

PHP Application Development  Services

PHP is essentially a server-side programming language designed for web development. It is also used as a general purpose programming language.

Since every programming language comes with its own goods and bad, we have categorised the PHP story based on ‘Why PHP’ and ‘Why Not PHP’.

All said, the disadvantages of PHP are easily overpowered by the advantages. However, like with most technologies, there are different school of thoughts that prevail. There are people who consider PHP to have direct disadvantages while some consider it as language with a few indirect disadvantages.

Current stage of PHP

Today, PHP is installed on millions of servers worldwide. W3Tech- which provides technology analysis and surveys - claims that PHP is used by 81.9% of all the websites among all the server-side programming languages.

PHP has a very wide presence which can be seen almost everywhere globally. A highly recommended language, it has powered many well-known applications.

The current version of PHP is 5.6. PHP will also release the next version PHP 7 very soon. Most of the PHP functions are criticized due to security reasons. However, in most of the releases PHP fixes security related issues. This means that PHP is working on improving the internal security of code.

Why PHP?

PHP is an open-source language, which means there are no usage charges on using PHP and its features. PHP is very easy and quick to learn making it a programmer’s delight. Anyone who starts using it can quickly become productive at it.

It supports near about 23 different databases. Some of the prominent supported databases include - IBM DB2, Mongo — MongoDB driver (stable and supported), MongoDB — New MongoDB driver (beta), mSQL, Mssql — Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL — MySQL Drivers and Plugins, OCI8 — Oracle OCI8, Paradox — Paradox File Access, PostgreSQL, SQLite, SQLite3, SQLSRV — Microsoft SQL Server Driver for PHP, Sybase

What makes PHP unique?

PHP is uniquely positioned in many ways. You can deploy your PHP script on different server platforms as it supports multiple platforms and is supported by almost all webservers.

In addition, the PHP community has a large number of contributors and users. Many of them help you provide valuable information and support. Also, there are lots of good frameworks and CMS’ that have been built on PHP. The language also has a great number of available extensions and libraries.

PHP has been a natural choice for many as it assists rapid development. Any change in the PHP code is immediately reflected in the browser. You do not need to compile any PHP code before its execution.

For companies which do not want to compromise with security, PHP allows execution of the code in restricted environments to make it more secure.

Why Not PHP?

PHP is extensively used for managing low traffic on the site. PHP has generally not been used for sites with heavy traffic. It is generally difficult to manage the heavy traffic on site with PHP.

As PHP is an open source language, anyone can see the source code. People can view and change its source code and customize it which can lead to code security issues. In such a scenario, chances of your site getting hacked goes up greatly unless you are not taking proper care of the security.

PHP is not suitable for large scale applications as it is very hard to maintain its modules and sources (This is now being extensively looked upon by PHP frameworks which are working hard to remove this disadvantage).

PHP is a ‘Loosely Typed Language’. For example, in PHP, the string “2000” and “2e3” are equal, because they are implicitly cast to a floating point number. In such contexts, PHP code gives you expected results, whereas other languages give you error.

Where can I use PHP?

PHP can be used for most small to large scale and dynamic web application development purposes. PHP can also be used for a quick understanding of programming as it is a simple and easy programming language.

If project time and cost is limited, PHP becomes a natural choice. PHP can be also used in most of the CMS sites.

PHP Roadmap in future

There will be some key changes as a part of the future PHP roadmap that will improve the usability of PHP. These are the proposed PHP versions - PHP 5.7 and then PHP 7 with huge difference between these two releases. Post release, there will be no impact on existing extension and code. It is purely a planning of RFC (Request for comments).

The expected date for PHP 5.7 release is September 2015 and PHP 7 is end of 2015/January 2016. It will remove old PHP 4 support and extension code.

The new PHP release will definitely enhance its extension power. In the future roadmap, PHP will try to keep a clear distinction between Zend extension and PHP extension. There are also plans on ‘Refactor error handlers’ for extensions to be able to stack like zend_execute.

One key change will be that users will be able to use ‘array_* functions’ with array as well as objects.

There will be some changes at engine, design and debugging level, which means you will see a lot of benefits in future versions of PHP.

Conclusion

PHP is the most extensively used server-side programming language. 80% of the webservers use PHP today, which is more than ASP.Net, Perl, Python, Java, Ruby and all other combined languages. You can develop small to very large scale applications in PHP.

With a high number of extensions and growing PHP usage, every new release of PHP will bring improvements in PHP security threads, enhancements, existing features and fixes.

References:

http://php.net/

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