Nobody kicks sand in the face of PHP anymore

Alastair Aitken 9 May 2013 0

You must have heard of PHP? It’s that crappy programming language that muppets use to produce babyish websites that are full of drivel. PHP used to be an acronym for Personal Home Pages, which clearly reveals its origins, and that’s where it should stay.

Do these statements hold up nowadays?

Many hard-core developers still believe that being a PHP programmer is something of an oxymoron but rather than be taken in by geeks and their prejudices we must consider the fact that PHP is pervasive on the web: Facebook was built on PHP and the world’s most popular blogging platform, WordPress, is written in PHP. Even big corporate player IBM has invested heavily in the Zend Framework and you can run PHP on Microsoft’s Internet Information Server.

In fact, more sites run on PHP than any other language, which means that when it comes to sourcing developers, you’re going to find it a lot easier to get hold of PHP developers than, say, Grails developers.

PHP is free software and runs on pretty much any web server. When selecting a web host, the LAMP stack is ubiquitous; you try finding a good selection of Erlang hosts to chose from when you’re deploying your next Nitrogen project.

Performance is sometimes cited as a reason not to use PHP. But if your web site is built in PHP and it ever gets to the point where it’s starts to groan under the weight of visitors then only at that point do you really need to worry about performance. If you really need to increase performance then you could do worse than follow Facebook’s lead and use HipHop for PHP, their open-sourced virtual machine for executing PHP. But let us not forget that premature optimisation is the root of all evil.

PHP has been object-oriented for years and recently it has seen other features being implemented in it that borrow heavily from other languages, such as traits and closures. Frameworks such as Symfony and Laravel are bringing concepts into the PHP world that have been standard in other frameworks, such as Ruby on Rails, for many years. Concepts such as Inversion of Control and migrations and now becoming common parlance for PHP developers. Even dependency management is being effectively addressed by an off-shoot of Symfony, Composer.

There are issues with PHP, and they mainly seem to be rooted in its attempts to maintain compatibility with its previous versions, which can lead to the language being confusing, quirky and inconsistent. But that’s tends to be the nature of an eco-system that has grown organically to become large and well-established.

Plus, it’s actually fun being able to put together a small script and and deploy it onto a full-stack within minutes without having to wrestle with configuration control and build management. No, it’s not yet hip to be a PHP developer, but it’s becoming less of a stigma and who knows, one day PHP developers may be kicking sand in your face.

Alastair Aitken (124 Posts)

As a contract developer and manager I’ve worked in a wide range of enterprises in a variety of countries where I’ve encountered everything from great work, awful work, bizarre work, all the way down to quasi-legal work. If you think that you recognise your own organisation within my articles then you’re undoubtedly wrong, where you work isn’t that unique.

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