Debunking the rumors

PHP is very much alive and doesn’t plan on dying

Yaroslav Kuflinski
© Shutterstock / Stephanie Periquet

The reports about the death of PHP are greatly exaggerated. Learn the current PHP status quo and why it is here to stay. Backed by PHP developers from Iflexion, this article will give answers to all the burning questions and help you make up your mind about PHP’s wellbeing once and for all.

PHP was released back in 1994 and dubbed “a dying language” 17 years later when respective publications started popping up on the internet. The year is 2020, and PHP is still in place and stirring up controversy. Some claim it grew obsolete and irrelevant and therefore must be thrown overboard, while others believe it is to be eclipsed by fresher languages, like JavaScript and .NET.

With such agitation around PHP, not only entry-level coders may become confused, but even seasoned developers and long-standing PHP website owners may start having second thoughts about the language’s present and future.

So, should you trust predictions? Why did it get its death sentence in the first place and why wasn’t it carried out yet? What future lies ahead for it? Backed by PHP developers from Iflexion, this article will give answers to all the burning questions and help you make up your mind about PHP’s wellbeing once and for all.

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What do the stats say?

According to major authoritative programming language analysts, PHP remains in the position of a solid front-runner. For instance, the bi-annual Programming Language Rankings by RedMonk has been putting PHP in the top five for several consecutive years; in June 2019, it scored the fourth place. Another valid rating, The PopularitY of Programming Language index (PYPL), ranked PHP the fifth in October 2019.

As for usage, W3Techs reports that PHP powers 79% of all websites. To be fair, the number has slightly dwindled in the last two years; the percentage was 80.1% in 2017 and dropped to 79.6% in 2018. Still, with the annual decrease of just 0.6, the losses can be attributed to a statistical error or the natural die-off of ancient websites.

If you find it hard to visualize 79% of all the internet, BuiltWith offers more tangible data — this is over thirty-nine million websites, all running on PHP. Around a third of them hail from the US, followed by significantly smaller shares of websites from Russia, the UK, Iran, and Canada.

Facts are stubborn things, and those few we cited above demonstrate that PHP has never been at a low ebb and, more importantly, no such negative tendency is clearly in evidence.

Myths about PHP, debunked

The whole “PHP is a dead horse” rhetoric rests upon several myths that circulate on the internet. Below, you will see the most popular of them proven false.

PHP is outdated

This claim might have been true five years ago, but since the PHP 7 version release in 2015, it is more than ill-grounded. PHP 7 was a breakthrough in technology, capabilities, and features, and due to the regular and valid version updates, it remains on an equal footing with the most cutting-edge programming languages.

PHP is ugly

It may not be as handsome as its brothers C and Python, but on closer inspection, it was not aimed to win beauty contests in the first place. The prettiness of syntaxis is the matter of taste, but what makes the difference is how functional and practical a programming language is, and in this regard, it is unmatched.

PHP is insecure

Let’s face it — a programming language is only as secure as the code written in it. The myth about its insecurity is a downright blame-shifting coming from the developers who, due to inexperience, lack of knowledge, or other reasons, fail to make their projects impregnable.

PHP is hard to scale

The W3Techs statistics also show that the majority of PHP-powered websites are low-traffic, so perhaps this is how the misconception about its inflexibility was born. All it takes is to remember that such juggernauts as Wikipedia, Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr were built on PHP to momentarily dispel doubts about its scalability.

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5 reasons why PHP is here to stay

A relevant set of features

The fundamental qualities that were either baked into PHP initially or developed over time — easy HTML rendering, extensive database, operating system compatibility, object orientation with package management, free and open source libraries — prove indispensable in the modern web development environment. And, as the example of the sophisticated PHP 7 shows, with each new version, it is only growing harder, faster, better, stronger.

Open-source architecture

A surefire way to get flexible and easily-scalable websites and web tools is to build them as open-source, and PHP implements this model like nothing else. Although some may have grave concerns about the security of open source software with the code literally available for anyone to view, in reality, this openness only increases the chances of detecting a bug.

A shallow learning curve

PHP is widely acknowledged among the most intuitive languages, friendly even to complete beginners in programming. What is more, if a developer has a web programming background, they are highly likely to pick it up on the fly. Still, let’s not brush off the fact that mastering development, just like any other craft, demands practice and dedication.

A potent community

Just like any natural language is kept alive by the speakers who preserve and advance it, a programming language would fall into oblivion without its developers. Fortunately, PHP has a huge, lively and supportive community. Developers all over the world are eager to share their experience online and at live events, distribute learning materials, and promote the technology they work with and love.

A wide selection of developers

As a business owner who needs their web project done, you will never face a shortage of developers to choose from. The global job market is well-stocked with PHP developers of all stripes and colors: juniors and seniors, freelancers and dedicated teams, those working with different frameworks and specializing in a variety of niches. So, no matter how intricate the task, an employer is guaranteed to find the one to get the job done, and for a fair price.

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Should you be worried about PHP?

On the whole, it is a solid programming language that carries much weight with web developers in all fields. Despite the persisting rumors about its irrelevance and upcoming demise, PHP hasn’t ceded grounds and its community hasn’t waned. It still powers about 80% of websites and is evolving further, with the PHP 8 version release scheduled for the end of 2020.

Is there anything to knock the ground from under PHP? If the concepts of the internet, e-commerce, social networks, and websites in general are redefined to fit the emerging Internet of Everything concept, this programming language may slip into irrelevance. Until then, PHP will remain alive and kicking.


Yaroslav Kuflinski

Yaroslav Kuflinski is AI/ML Observer at Iflexion. He has profound experience in IT and keeps up to date on the latest AI/ML research. Yaroslav focuses on AI and ML as tools to solve complex business problems and maximize operations.

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