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Despite persistent claims of its demise, PHP continues to power a significant portion of the web.

 

PHP code

For some people, it might come as a surprise. After all, you’d never guess it, considering the doom and gloom that regularly surrounds this scripting language!

Nevertheless, having proven itself as an adaptable and versatile language, and boasting a rich history of evolution and adaptation, there’s no reason to think it’s going to disappear anytime soon.

Let’s take a closer look at where PHP stands today and where it might be headed in the future.

Exploring the Roots of PHP

In the distant past – way back in the 90s(!) – PHP originally stood for Personal Homepage. That’s since changed, with the recursive acronym now standing for ‘Hypertext Preprocessor.’

Developed by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1993 but only released in 1995, PHP was initially conceived as a simple tool for managing a personal website’s traffic – hence its very original moniker. Of course, things have shifted considerably since then.

As the decade progressed, the internet exploded in popularity and PHP quickly emerged as a powerful server-side scripting language that was ideal for building dynamic web pages and robust web applications.

The Rapid Rise of PHP

Throughout the late 90s and early 2000s, PHP experienced an unprecedented – and perhaps unexpected – surge in popularity.

Loved for its simplicity, ease of use, and broad compatibility with various web servers, PHP rightly received praise from developers on a worldwide basis.

The fact that it was (and still is) open source certainly contributed to its meteoric rise, too. In truth, this was one of the primary reasons it became a favourite of developers.
In those earlier days, its accessibility and ease of use helped bring about and foster a vibrant community of contributors and enthusiasts that is still present today.

Is PHP Really Dying?

PHP boasts an enduring popularity – so why do many critics continue to proclaim its demise is at hand? Is there any truth to this theory?

Over the years, detractors have cited concerns about security vulnerabilities, inconsistent syntax, and the emergence of newer, trendier languages and frameworks as potential pitfalls for PHP. Yet still it stands.

While PHP has received criticism throughout its history – and still receives criticism – a serious decline in popularity has never really looked on the cards. Even today, PHP continues to power millions of websites and applications, with no signs of slowing down.

PHP is used by WordPress, one of the world’s foremost content management systems. Beyond that, it’s a mainstay for many other prominent and lesser-known CMSs.

Is it any surprise, then, that estimates suggest nearly 80% of websites rely on PHP on some level? PHP “dying” is hardly conceivable when it’s still in use across the vast majority of the web.

What’s Happening With the Latest Version of PHP?

Since PHP’s initial release, back in the mid-90s, there have been several upgrades. The latest iteration of PHP, version 8.3, was released in November 2023 and builds upon the language’s many strengths while addressing some of its alleged historical weaknesses.

We’ve seen improvements in performance, error handling, and type safety that have ushered in a significant leap forward for the language. This can only be positive, especially considering the nagging sceptics that will surely continue to raise doubts.

Specific feature improvements include the explicit typing of class constants, the new override attribute, additions to the randomness functionality, and deep-cloning of readonly properties – and many more.

While it’s continued to fill the role of a reliable performer for traditional web development, frameworks like Laravel and Symfony have also enabled developers to build more sophisticated applications with relative ease.

This gives PHP a well-roundedness that augers well for both the near and distant future.

What’s Next for PHP?

Looking ahead, the future certainly appears bright for PHP and its substantial community of developers. Rather than fading into obscurity – as some doubters have foretold – PHP is poised to maintain and even grow its relevance in the modern technological landscape.

As businesses (and much of the web) continue to rely on PHP for critical web infrastructure, ongoing support and innovation will hold enormous importance. Of course, that’s a given.

What can we expect from PHP 9.0? While it’s hard to make specific predictions, further machine learning integrations and the removal of deprecated features from previous PHP iterations are both expected.
In terms of broader trends, we expect further enhancements to PHP and its ecosystem. This will likely include improvements in performance, security, and interoperability with other emerging technologies.
The rise of serverless architecture and cloud computing presents exciting new opportunities for PHP developers to leverage their skills in the pursuit of innovation. Exactly how that will manifest moving forward isn’t yet clear, but it’s fun to think about.

A Bright Future: PHP Isn’t Done Yet

Considering how fundamental PHP is in the current landscape, it’s hard to imagine it’ll be disappearing anytime soon. This is especially true considering the exciting possibilities that have emerged with the advent of new, versatile technologies.

PHP remains a cornerstone of modern web development, powering millions of websites and applications worldwide. With ongoing advancements and an enormously dedicated community behind it, PHP is poised to thrive well into the future.

As the saying goes, rumours of PHP’s death have been greatly exaggerated.