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February 7, 2020

What Is PHP?

PHP Development
Zend Server

Many development teams use PHP. Here, we break down what PHP is, how PHP is used, what the PHP acronym stands for, and the advantages of PHP (including why it's so popular). 

So first, what is PHP?

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What Is PHP? And Why Is It Used?

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.

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How Is PHP Used?

PHP is used for developing websites and web applications.

However, there are many uses of PHP. 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.

Looking for more info? We give a great overview of how PHP is used, here.

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What Does PHP Stand For?

PHP stands for PHP Hypertext Pre-processor today. The PHP acronym originally 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. 

A Brief History of PHP

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).    

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What Is PHP Development?

PHP development is 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. 

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Is PHP Hard to Learn?

PHP is not hard to learn.

PHP Is Easy to Learn

It's a fairly easy programming language to learn and master. Of course, it's easier to learn PHP when you have some help.

Check out some PHP training options for beginner through advanced users from Zend by Perforce experts. Options include online courses led by a live instructor as well as onsite classes where developers learn how to develop PHP applications.

Get PHP Training


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What Are the Advantages of PHP?

The top advantages of PHP are its:

  • Popularity.
  • Flexibility.
  • Ease of use.

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.

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.  

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There are many reasons why PHP is so popular as a development language, but the three major ones for me are that it's flexible, easy to learn, and has numerous long-term support options.

1. PHP Is Flexible 

You can develop PHP 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.  

2. 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. 

3. PHP Has 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.

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A PHP Example

The following PHP 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!
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PHP Is Better With Zend Server

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 Technologies also created an open source development framework called Zend Framework, which is now Laminas.)

Zend Server includes:

See for yourself how Zend Server will help you. Get started with a free 30-day trial today — and improve PHP app performance, security, and scalability.

Try Zend Server


Additional Resources

This blog was originally published on November 18, 2019 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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