How the future for PHP looks like
Is PHP dying, or does it have a bright future ahead? Here is what we think the future of PHP looks like.
What is PHP
PHP is a server-side scripting language that is primarily used for web development. PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor, and it is designed to be embedded into HTML pages and run on a web server to generate dynamic content. PHP can be used to build a wide range of web applications, from simple web pages to complex web applications like content management systems, e-commerce platforms, and social networks.
PHP is an open-source language, which means that its source code is freely available and can be modified and distributed by anyone. It has a large and active community of developers who contribute to its development, create libraries and frameworks, and provide support and resources for PHP development.
PHP is designed to be easy to learn and use, and it has a wide range of features and capabilities, including support for object-oriented programming, database access, session management, and more. Overall, PHP is a powerful and versatile tool for web development, and it remains a popular and widely used language for building web applications today.
Brief history of PHP
PHP (which originally stood for "Personal Home Page") was created in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf, a Danish-Canadian programmer. Lerdorf developed PHP as a set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) scripts to help him manage his personal website.
Over time, other developers began to contribute to the development of PHP, and the language grew in popularity as a tool for web development. In 1997, two Israeli developers, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski, created the PHP parser, which enabled PHP to be used as a server-side scripting language.
The release of PHP 3 in 1998 marked a significant milestone in the language's development, as it introduced support for object-oriented programming and the ability to interact with databases. PHP 4, released in 2000, added support for session management, better error handling, and improved performance.
PHP 5, released in 2004, introduced several major changes to the language, including support for object-oriented programming, improved error handling, and a more powerful standard library. PHP 5 also introduced the Zend Engine, which significantly improved the language's performance.
In 2015, PHP 7 was released, which saw significant performance improvements and reduced memory usage. PHP 7 also introduced new language features, such as anonymous classes and scalar type hints.
PHP 8 was released on November 26, 2020, and introduced several new features and improvements. One of the most significant changes in PHP 8 is the introduction of JIT (Just-In-Time) compilation, which can improve performance for certain types of code. Other new features in PHP 8 include union types, named arguments, and attributes. The release also includes various improvements and updates to the language, including better error handling, improved consistency and accuracy of type errors, and improved support for the null-safe operator. Overall, PHP 8 represents a significant step forward for the language and is expected to continue to be widely used for web development.
Is PHP dying?
Despite not being the most trendy server-side programming language for web, there are no data suggesting that PHP is going to disapoear anytime soon. W3Techs, a widely cited source for web technology usage statistics, provides estimates of the usage of various web technologies based on the analysis of website traffic data. According to W3Techs, PHP is currently (April 2023) used by over 77.5% of all websites that use a server-side programming language, making it the most popular language for web development.
W3Techs also provides historical usage data for PHP, which shows that PHP has remained consistently popular over time. For example, in 2005, PHP was used by around 25% of all websites that used a server-side language, and this figure had increased to around 75% by 2010. Since then, PHP's usage has remained relatively stable, with a slight decrease in usage from 2018 to 2023.
Another source of data on PHP usage is the Stack Overflow Developer Survey, which provides insights into the tools and technologies used by developers worldwide. The 2020 survey found that PHP was the sixth most popular programming language among professional developers, with over 20% of respondents reporting that they used PHP.
There have been some criticisms of PHP in the past, such as concerns over security vulnerabilities and messy code. However, these issues have largely been addressed through improvements to the language, better coding practices, and the development of frameworks such as Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter.
Overall, while there may be some variations in estimates of PHP's usage over time, it is clear that PHP has remained a popular and widely used language for web development over the past two decades.
PHP's bad reputation
PHP has had a bad reputation in the past, but many of the issues that led to this reputation have been addressed through improvements to the language, better coding practices, and the development of frameworks and tools. Here are some of the reasons why PHP has had a bad reputation:
In the past, PHP had a reputation for being prone to security vulnerabilities, particularly with regards to remote code execution and SQL injection attacks. However, many of these vulnerabilities were due to poor coding practices or outdated code, and improvements to the language and coding practices have helped to address these issues.
PHP code has also been criticized for being difficult to read and maintain, particularly in older PHP codebases. However, this was often due to poor coding practices or lack of understanding of PHP best practices, rather than inherent flaws in the language itself.
Inconsistent naming conventions
In the past, PHP had inconsistent naming conventions for functions and variables, which could make it difficult to write and read code. However, more recent versions of PHP have adopted more consistent naming conventions.
PHP has been criticized for its performance in the past, particularly compared to other languages like Java and C++. However, recent versions of PHP have seen significant performance improvements, particularly with the introduction of the JIT (Just-In-Time) compiler in PHP 8.
Finally, PHP has suffered from negative stereotypes and perceptions, particularly among developers who prefer other programming languages or who have had negative experiences with poorly written PHP code. However, these perceptions are often based on outdated information or lack of understanding of PHP's capabilities and best practices.
What's the future of PHP looks like
The future for PHP looks promising, as the language continues to evolve and improve, and remains a popular and widely used tool for web development. Here are some of the reasons why the future for PHP looks bright:
Ongoing development and improvement
PHP continues to be actively developed and improved, with regular updates and new releases that introduce new features and improvements to the language. This ensures that PHP remains a modern and up-to-date language for web development.
Large and active community
PHP has a large and active community of developers who contribute to its development, create libraries and frameworks, and provide support and resources for PHP development. This community ensures that PHP remains relevant and widely used, and helps to ensure that the language continues to evolve and improve.
PHP is a versatile language that can be used for a wide range of applications, from simple websites to complex web applications. It can also integrate with various databases and other web technologies, making it a flexible and powerful tool for web development.
PHP has a strong ecosystem of tools, frameworks, libraries, and extensions that make it easier to develop and deploy PHP applications. This includes popular PHP frameworks like Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter, which offer pre-built functionality and best practices for developing web applications.
PHP has seen significant performance improvements in recent years, with PHP 8 offering up to 3x faster performance than PHP 7.4. These performance improvements make PHP a more efficient and powerful tool for web development.
Overall, the ongoing development and improvement of PHP, along with its large and active community, versatility, strong ecosystem, and performance improvements, suggest that PHP will continue to be a popular and widely used language for web development in the future.
PHP 9 - What we know
By April 2023, the last version of PHP is 8.2.4 (released March 2023), and there is no certain information about an upcoming PHP 9 version. However, the 7.x version series lasted for about 7 years, and the last minor version ended at 4 (7.4.33). PHP 8.0.0.was released November 2020, which seems to short of a time for a new major version to be released anytime soon.
Also, based on the past trends with major releases such as PHP 7.0 and PHP 8.0, significant changes or new features are typically the catalyst for a new major version of the language. Hence, it is only when such changes require a new version that developers decide to create one.
An effective way to check if a new major version of PHP is planned is to monitor the RFC (Request for Comments). Typically, the RFCs targetting the new version will be announced once the new version is confirmed. However, the current Wiki page does not contain any specific RFCs targeting PHP 9.0, indicating that there is no imminent release scheduled at present.