TL;DR: PHP is one of the most popular and oldest web programming languages available. Programming in PHP is simple, flexible, effective, and highly useful when working with multidisciplinary projects. 

It’s tough to talk about web programming without mentioning PHP. This well-known programming language began as a small open source project that evolved as people realized how simple it was to use. As a result, PHP is incredibly flexible and efficient, from easily integrating MySQL, Oracle, and other popular databases to supporting many major protocols. 

As someone who has been programming in PHP for a long time, I’ve seen many technologies and languages come and go. However, there are still plenty of projects available for PHP. Moreover, its popularity is far from over: businesses, institutions, startups, and open-source projects continue to request PHP programmers.

Let’s explore why PHP still reigns as one of the most important web languages. 

What is PHP?

PHP, an acronym for “Hypertext Processor,” was one of the earliest web programming languages. Initially created in 1994 as an intuitive server-side scripting language, PHP took elements from C to allow programmers to integrate logic into webpage content. The number of people using it has evolved and adapted new functionalities.

Despite what I’ve just mentioned, some programmers believe PHP is ancient history. When thousands of organizations are using sophisticated tech stacks globally, why insist on learning PHP? For starters, many Fortune 500 tech companies use this programming language for their end-to-end computing infrastructure. 

Several PHP organizations and collectives decided to steer away from its foundations and original uses and evolved into something else a couple of years ago. Javascript’s syntax is similar to what PHP offers. That’s because they both use a similar foundation. It’s simple, easy to connect, and has extensive documentation. However, PHP followed a very different path and became an entirely different creature.

1. Programming in PHP is simple

In many programming languages, you work under a logical system that assigns properties to different constructs. For example, you can set a text chain or an object as a variable. PHP doesn’t work like that. It only has two moving parts: a scripting language and an interpreter that allows the programmer to retrieve relevant information.

That’s one of the reasons why I began programming in PHP. Back when I was starting college (around 17 years ago?), I was very interested in creating a video game website about emulators for old consoles. After a bit of research, PHP seemed like one of the most accessible options for creating my projects. I didn’t even own a computer at that time. I remember printing the PHP manual at work and writing the code on paper. 

Although I learned technologies such as .Net and Python later on in my career, I always returned to PHP. One of the reasons I keep coming back is its simplicity.

2. A universe made with PHP

Because there are so many technologies and platforms available to create a website, selecting the most appropriate one is more challenging than many people think. Some of the most popular ones, such as Drupal or WordPress, were built on PHP. Likewise, platforms such as Facebook, Wikipedia, or Spotify used PHP when they first began or, in some cases, scaled the PHP JIT (just-in-time compiler)  to continue using it. 

Why have so many companies built their websites on PHP? For starters, it’s an open-source technology with a dedicated community that supports it. Many developers constantly work to bring new improvements, from continuous edits and discussions to new versions. Also, and contrary to what most people think, PHP is scalable and can easily handle needs for increasing traffic.

3. Create whatever you like

If you Google “Why is PHP so…”, the first response you’ll see would be “popular” next to “bad.” Yikes. Its reputation dates back to its early years when the first versions used very convoluted code, and websites were difficult to maintain. Still today, some programmers grimace when you talk about it. 

PHP needs to run on the proper hardware to perform appropriately. In addition, because we’re talking about an interpreted language, if the interpreter realizes the code is not in caché, it must first transform it. This is the reason why initial processes may seem a bit slow. However, once a programmer learns how to optimize code, PHP becomes one of the more accessible languages to create sophisticated projects. 

When building complex pages, programmers can easily combine PHP and HTML. Because PHP was designed to interact with HTML, developers can insert PHP scripts without significant complications. However, PHP primarily focuses on backend projects. Its main purpose is to create the business logic, also known as the custom set of rules that handle the data exchange between the interface and the database. 

I’ve had the opportunity to create headless apps at Blankfactor. These back-end-only projects are built from the ground up as content repositories that use APIs to retrieve content. Headless projects don’t require any UI. Instead, I deliver connections for other applications to read. 

4. Programming in PHP is never going out of style

Despite what its critics say, PHP is an essential part of any interdisciplinary tech stack. It’s very good at solving specific problems, such as data management or report creation. So if you’re looking to adapt to your customer’s needs, you need to offer PHP as part of your repertoire.

At Blankfactor,  we’ve created applications using technologies like nodeJS, Go, Python, or .netCore — which are in popular demand. However, since every project is different and depends on budget and time allocations, developers can’t ensure that using the same technologies will work every time. That’s where PHP comes in.

PHP by itself is capable of great things. However, it can achieve truly unbelievable results when combined with different technologies. 

How do we use PHP at Blankfactor?

At Blankfactor, PHP has been used to create the payment processor or data storage. In one particular project we’re focusing on, we’re using PHP as a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Basically, it’s an application built on PHP with a frontend made with React. In this case, PHP is only responsible for capturing the data, communicating with MongoDB, and storing the information.

The different applications of PHP depend on the project, of course. Through the years I’ve specialized in PHP and have accrued extensive experience – and you could say I’m a fan of this language! But also I am the first one to admit that while this technology may not be the most suitable for every project, having these capabilities is a must for every software development company.