February 7, 2020

What Is PHP?

PHP Development
Zend Server

What Is PHP?

PHP is a highly flexible, open source language for writing web-based applications, including websites, and services that can run on virtually any platform, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, and even proprietary platforms such as IBM i. Developers can use the language to write in both procedural and object-oriented styles.

PHP Stands for What?

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

In 1995, the language became an open source project. Over the next few years, it evolved, thanks to community contributions. In 1997, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski spearheaded the creation of a new (forked) version of the open source language, which they called PHP Hypertext Processor, or PHP 3.0. In less than a year, the PHP 3.0 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 Is PHP Used for?

PHP is most commonly used to develop websites and web applications. However, developers also use PHP to build backend APIs to systems to enable communication — including data sharing — with frontend web applications, mobile apps, and IoT devices including wearables.

What Is PHP Development?

Basic PHP development involves writing server-side scripts that will display information in browsers in a variety of formats including HTML, JSON, XML, or even PDF.

Developing and running web apps with this language require a server that has the language’s runtime installed. This requirement is easy to meet by using ZendPHP Enterprise, Zend Server, or the community runtime. 

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:

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 evolution into what is now called the Laminas Project, read this blog. 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.

There are a lot of server-side languages such as Python and Ruby, so why choose PHP? The short answer is that it 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? 

It 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.  

It 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. 

Long-Term Support Options

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  

Additional Resources

This blog was originally published on November 18, 2019. This new version includes updated content about ZendPHP Enterprise.