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96black Blog

Fresh Laundry

Why we love PHP, or not

PHP is the server-side language that powers most of 96black’s websites. It first appeared in the early days of the web and enjoyed phenomenal growth in popularity since 2000, though this popularity is declining, and in recent years, PHP has become the language many developers love to hate.

Some of the most commonly cited problems relate to PHP’s inconsistent naming, its lack of thread safety, weak support for exception handling, counterintuitive values of expressions, memory leaks and annoying features such as magic quotes and register globals. For a really detailed if not typical whinge about the language, see here.

PHP is certainly flawed, but it’s worth remembering that it is used for serving web pages, not controlling nuclear reactors or missions to Mars, and it performs this function well. Some of the busiest sites in the world, like Flickr, Wikipedia and Facebook are built with it.

PHP is still the most popular server-side scripting language. Contributing to this are some excellent content management systems, such as WordPress, Joomla, ExpressionEngine and Drupal, as well as some excellent frameworks including CodeIgniter, Symfony, Cake and Zend.

PHP is also being improved on.¬†Recent features include¬†traits, function array dereferencing, Javscript-style closures and short array syntax. If you’re a developer, these are good things.

In an ideal world, we’d probably all be coding in Ruby or Python and have engineering degrees, but I strongly suspect that like Internet Explorer, skinny jeans and the internal combustion engine, PHP is here to stay, for the next little while at least, whether you like it or not.

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