8 Reasons Why PHP Is Still So Important For Web Development
PHP, a server-side language that has been around for more than 25 years, tends to evoke some strong opinions among developers today. Whenever a new programming language or tool emerges, you’ll probably find a discussion over where PHP is ‘dead’. It is true that PHP has slipped down the rankings of the most popular programming languages, from 5th in 2017 to 8th in 2020 as per the Stack Overflow annual developer survey. And yet, PHP continues to be used by nearly 80% of all websites, powering some major platforms like Wordpress and Facebook. So what gives?
Why is PHP Still So Widely Used?
PHP (Hypertext Preprocessor) is known as a general-purpose scripting language that can be used to develop dynamic and interactive websites. It was among the first server-side languages that could be embedded into HTML, making it easier to add functionality to web pages without needing to call external files for data. Its use has evolved over the years, with regular upgrades (version 8.0 was released in November 2020) adding features and unlocking new capabilities.
<!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <title>Example</title> </head> <body>
<!--?php echo "Hi, I'm a PHP script!"; ?--> </body>
Though these days it is not considered the sexiest of languages, here are some key PHP benefits that help explain why it is still so important in web development.
- It’s easy to learn and use: One of the main reasons PHP became so commonplace is that it is relatively simple to get started with. Even without extensive knowledge or experience in web development, most people could create a web page with a single PHP file in a relatively short period of time. The syntax is simple and command functions are easy to learn, meaning the barriers to entry with PHP are lower than with many other languages.
- It’s open source (and therefore free!): This also helps developers get started with PHP - it can be installed quickly and at zero cost. There is also open access to a wide range of PHP frameworks, such as Laravel and Symfony. This feature is also appealing to companies as it helps control the costs of web development.
- It’s versatile: One of the major benefits of PHP is that it is platform independent, meaning it can be used on Mac OS, Windows, Linux and supports most web browsers. It also supports all the major web servers, making it easy to deploy on different systems and platforms at minimal additional cost.
- It enjoys strong community support: As a veteran scripting language that is widely used, PHP now has a large and loyal community base to support it. There are tons of tutorials, FAQs, and tips to help new PHP developers and to continue pushing the boundaries of what the language can achieve through regular updates.
- It’s fast and secure: Two things that every organization wants their website or application to be are fast and secure. PHP uses its own memory and competes well on speed, especially when using the newer versions. There have been questions in the past about PHP security, though it is important to note that it is not inherently more or less secure than other programming languages. One important benefit is that because of its widespread use and community support there are now many tools, frameworks and best practices to help fix vulnerabilities and protect against cyberattacks.
- It is well connected with databases: PHP makes it easy to connect securely with almost any kind of database. This gives developers more freedom when choosing which database is best suited for the application being built.
- It is tried and tested: One major benefit of being around for a quarter century is that PHP code has been put to the test in all kinds of real-life environments. The main bugs have been found and fixed, making the language more stable and trusted by developers. Moreover, many frameworks and tools have been built over time, helping to make PHP web development more secure, efficient and effective.
- There’s a lot of legacy code: OK, this isn’t really a benefit of using PHP in itself, but when so many existing websites have been written with PHP it becomes an important consideration. Put simply, it is usually easier to make updates in the same language rather than try to rewrite everything in another. This helps PHP endure even when some younger developers may have a personal preference for another language. This legacy effect also means it is usually easier to find a PHP developer for your organization, though as we have written before on this blog you want to make sure they have the right skills.
PHP vs. Others
Of course, some of the points we’ve listed above could be applied to other programming languages. So here are just a few of the main alternatives to PHP to help you choose which is best suited to your project or organization.
- Python: This is one of the most popular languages around today, loved for its simplicity and flexibility. It has emerged as the number one choice for data science and AI, though still trails far behind PHP in use for web development. Python has a fast-growing community and an increasing number of frameworks and libraries - it is flexible, though does not yet provide the same level of database connectivity and support as PHP.
- Ruby: Ruby is another open-source language that has been around since the 90s, and is used in the popular web development framework ‘Ruby on Rails’. It is praised for its elegant syntax and robust performance, though it is considered more complicated to learn than PHP and doesn’t have the same extensive community support.
Ultimately, the language you choose will depend on what you’re trying to build and what features you wish to prioritize. Here at Jobsity, our network of developers have a wide range of skills in different programming languages, so if you want to see how they can benefit your organization please get in touch!
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