November 18, 2019

PHP Development Basics: What Is PHP, Why Is It So Popular, and What Are the Advantages of PHP?

PHP Development
Zend Server

What Is PHP?

PHP is a highly flexible language for writing server-side scripts that can run on virtually any platform, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, and even proprietary platforms such as IBM i. Developers can also use the language to write in both procedural and object-oriented styles.

Uses of PHP

PHP is most commonly used to develop websites and web applications. More and more, however, developers use it to build backend APIs that are consumed by frontend web applications, mobile apps, and IoT devices including wearables.

What Is PHP Development?

Basic PHP development involves writing scripts that run on a server. The PHP scripts generate files in a variety of formats — such as HTML, JSON, XML, or even PDF — that are sent to users’ browsers or devices. 

To run your PHP apps on a server, it needs to have a PHP runtime installed. This requirement is easy to meet by running a PHP server platform, such as Zend Server  or the free runtime that is available from the community. 

PHP Stands for What?

Originally, PHP stood for Personal Home Page Tools. That’s because the creator of PHP, Rasmus Lerdorf, first developed PHP and used it to track visits to his online resume.  However, today, the acronym stands for PHP Hypertext Pre-processor. Why the change?

In 1995, PHP Tools became an open source project. Over the next few years, PHP Tools evolved, thanks to community contributions. In 1997, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski spearheaded the creation of a new (forked) version of PHP Tools, which they called PHP Hypertext Processor, or PHP 3.0. In less than a year, PHP 3.0 — which is also open source — was installed on 70,000 global domains. Because it was so widely adopted, by 1998, PHP 3.0 became the official successor of PHP Tools, which some now call PHP/FI (Personal Home Page tools/Forms Interpreter).   

What’s the Connection Between PHP, Zend Server, Zend Framework, and Laminas?

To further streamline PHP development, Gutmans and Zeev developed an open source runtime for PHP, which they called Zend Engine. Over the next few years, Gutmans and Zeev founded Zend Technologies, a commercial entity offering PHP-related products and services. 
Zend Technologies launched Zend Core and the Zend platform, which later became Zend Server.

Zend Server includes:

  • A PHP runtime.
  • A variety of performance-optimizing and monitoring tools.
  • A real-time debugger (Z-Ray).
  • Long-term support for PHP versions no longer supported by the community. 

Zend Technologies also created an open source development framework called Zend Framework, which evolved thanks to the contributions of a vibrant community.

For more information about Zend Framework, including its recent transition to an open source project called Laminas, read the blog, What Is the Status of the Zend Framework Transition to Laminas? And for more information about the evolution of PHP and Zend Server, read the About Zend by Perforce page.

The Advantages of PHP

Choosing a server-side scripting language such as PHP can help ensure more consistent performance for end users, compared with pure client-side apps, because servers typically deliver more performance than clients’ devices. However, potential latency introduced by network connections is important to consider when choosing between client-side and server-side app architectures.

Why choose PHP over other server-side languages such as Python and Ruby? The short answer is that PHP is extremely popular, flexible, and easy to use. 

Popularity of PHP Development: 79% of Website Servers Are Written in PHP

A 2019 survey by W3Techs finds that 79% of website servers are written in PHP, including global site giants WordPress, Wikipedia, and Etsy. What’s the translation in terms of server numbers? That data is hard to collect. The open source organization that manages PHP, The PHP Group, estimates the language is installed on at least tens of millions of domains but that number could be as high as hundreds of millions of global domains.  

Why is PHP so popular? 

PHP Is Flexible 

You can use PHP to build applications for diverse use cases and design requirements. The language can interoperate with databases via a multitude of extensions covering all major databases, as well as the Open Database Connection (ODBC) standard. And with it, you can consume information from other data sources using popular protocols such as LDAP, IMAP, SNMP, and COM.  

Because the language is free and open source, anyone can use it on-demand. PHP also provides 75 plugins for products such as Drupal, Magento, Joomla, and MariaDB. These ready-to-use, thoroughly tested connectors can dramatically speed time to market of new apps and services by minimizing coding and testing requirements. 

Top PHP platforms such as Zend Server also provide tools that you can use to further boost response times for users, such as real-time insight into performance bottlenecks, page caching, and other optimizations. And if a plugin does not exist for your needed integration, you can use API extensions in Zend Server to create your own.  

PHP Is Easy to Learn 

As far as programming languages, PHP is considered relatively easy to learn especially for C and Perl developers because they are so similar in structure. It’s also easy to use the language to write applications that deliver fast user response times. 

There Are PHP Support Options — Including Long-Term Support

The ongoing popularity of the language has resulted in a thriving open source community. As a result, anyone can take advantage of its ready-to-use packages and plugins. Plus, you can get support for your PHP applications. The community provides free support for PHP releases for three years after they are released. And Zend Server users can get long-term support for PHP releases for five years after a version’s release date, including bug and security fixes.

A PHP Example

The following code snippet illustrates the language’s simplicity:


class Greeter
     * @var string

    private $greeting;

     * Greeter constructor.
     * @param string $greeting

    public function __construct($greeting = 'Hello')
        $this->greeting = $greeting;

     * @param $name
     * @return string

    public function greet($name) : string
        return "{$this->greeting} $name!";

$greeter = new Greeter('Hi there');
echo $greeter->greet('Zend'); //Will output: Hi there Zend!

Want to Learn PHP or Earn Your PHP Certification?

Zend by Perforce provides global PHP training options for beginning through advanced users. Options include online courses led by a live instructor as well as onsite classes.

Zend by Perforce is also the only company that provides PHP and Zend Framework certifications that are globally accepted as the standard.

See PHP Training and PHP Certification Options