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TIOBE Index for September 2019

PHP in decline: The rise and fall of a programming language

Sarah Schlothauer
php
© Shutterstock / 360b

Once upon a time, PHP was one of the most popular programming languages. Now it’s slowly fading in popularity, especially with the rise of languages such as Python. According to the TIOBE Index for September 2019, PHP is struggling to keep its spot in the top 10 programming languages. Is it time to lower the casket, or does this language have some kick left in it?

PHP continues its ‘five year slump‘ as it slowly continues dropping down the TIOBE Index. The TIOBE Index for September 2019 shows that in the past year, PHP dropped two spots down the list, from number 7 to number 9.

PHP

TIOBE Index for September 2019. Source.

As for rising languages, this month Apache Groovy comes in at spot number 11.

Compared to last year when it was at modest spot number 34, this is a large amount of growth for the language. Groovy shares some similarities with Java, making it easy for Java devs to learn and integrate with Java and third-party libraries.

SEE ALSO: Long live PHP!

Why is PHP declining in use?

When the Internet was younger, PHP was very common.  Back in 2004, it was even the TIOBE Index programming language of the year, a far cry from where it sits now on the charts.

What factors led to its fall from grace?

According to the Index:

Till the end of 2009 everything went fine, but soon after that PHP was going downhill from 10% to 5% market share in 2 years’ time. In 2014 it halved again to 2.5%. So what happened to PHP? From its start PHP was the Visual Basic for web design: easy to learn, easy to deploy, but mainly used by web designers with a limited software engineering background. The downside of PHP’s simplicity was that it was relatively easy to shoot security holes in it. PHP has been struggling with this for a long time. In 2014 PHP’s biggest supporter Facebook launched Hack as an alternative for PHP because it was not scalable. And after that, JavaScript, TypeScript and Python became the linguas franca for web development.

Rise and fall

A recent video on Reddit shared from Global App Testing shows the rise and fall of programming languages over ten years. It documents the most popular programming languages on StackOverflow since September 2008, and besides being mesmerizing to watch, it offers some insights to the ebb and flow of language usage.

More specifically, it tracks which languages received the most questions on StackOverflow.

This video shows the most popular programming languages on Stack Overflow since September 2008 from r/programming

According to the video, PHP was even higher than Java at some points in time. Like watching a close race, at times it looks like PHP will edge out and win. However, Python surges ahead around September 2016. After that, it’s all downhill.

Don’t fear the reaper

Don’t lower the casket so soon though. PHP may have taken a dip in popularity, but its community is still kicking.

Did you know this year there were PHP conferences held in Japan, Brazil, Ukraine, Germany, China, the United States, and Taiwan?

The official Twitter account for php.net currently has 67.7 thousand followers. The latest release candidate of v7.4 arrived September 5, 2019. The PHP subreddit currently has 105 thousand members, with plenty of active threads about frameworks, IDEs, and other relevant news and topics.

It’s also worth taking a look at other metrics documenting language popularity and usage. A recent IEEE Spectrum report ranked PHP at spot number 13. It’s in good company, just above Assembly and just under HTML/CSS.

If you’re still worried about PHP’s health, here’s some good news. The RedMonk Programming Language Ranking for June 2019 places the language in 4th place.

php

RedMonk Q3 2019 Programming Language Rankings. Source.

This ranking system uses the amount of GitHub repositories for its sources. So, maybe PHP programmers are asking fewer questions on StackOverflow, but they sure are programming.

Plus, have you seen its mascot? This language is too cute to go extinct.

Author
Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer

All Posts by Sarah Schlothauer

Sarah Schlothauer is an assistant editor for JAXenter.com. She received her Bachelor's degree from Monmouth University and is currently enrolled at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany where she is working on her Masters. She lives in Frankfurt with her husband and cat.

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27 Comments on "PHP in decline: The rise and fall of a programming language"

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startagl
Guest

I’ve seen this article and argument about a million times. Other than the nick at scalability what are the other issues. Not saying scalability isn’t important. But so is ease of use, and a good IDE, and debugging tools. So instead of spitting out the exact same crap how about comparing information programmers need to know.

Chrs
Guest

This is maybe quite true, I my self use php,c#,javascript, etc but never post questions on stackoverflow or don’t use github for every project. Perhaps other languages are the same.

I believe, the ranking of popularity should be based per categories. For instance sql is not intended for create app, so the competitor perhaps the nosql language or similar.

John
Guest

Hi Sarah,

First of all it’s nice blog.
I am working in PHP from last 9 years but my salary is almost half compare to other programming engineers with same experience. Can you please tell me some other languages which are easy to learn for php guy or any tool which I should learn.

Thanks in advance

Sebastiaan
Guest

HI John, based on my own experience with PHP I would say Python would be the most likely one to transfer to as it allows the same approach.

Cristian
Guest

What are you thoughts about the top framework projects on Github? The second most popular is Laravel—a PHP framework. https://github.com/topics/framework

TIOBE is dumb
Guest

Please read and research before you propagate misleading info like this! The TIOBE Index “study” is based on Google search result counts, not actual usage stats off any kind. This ranking places PHP at 5: http://pypl.github.io/PYPL.html, ranked 4th on GitHub https://octoverse.github.com/projects.html, 4th quora https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-programming-languages-most-popular-in-2019

Tommy
Guest

Oh boy. You just don’t know what you’re saying wih your fancy charts and all. Have you been on the side of developers or just watch the charts and compares? Go to github.com and watch the reality there. Tell me the numbers for Laravel. See you then.

Peter Kionga-Kamau
Guest

Java? Java is on the top of this ridiculous list that nobody has ever heard of? LOL!

Maka
Guest

Its hilarious that a language that supports more than 80% of the web is not popular enough. Thats a good one.

david heffernan
Guest

This is rubbish.
The stack overflow questions only highlights new questions, from when languages are in their infancy. I’ve never once posted a question myself.
Also, all real programmers use gitlab, tagging in GitHub is for hobbyists or job seekers.

Harrison
Guest

Times come and go, other programming languages will appear at the market, but PHP still the best one.

simon
Guest

yes i agree

Mike
Guest

PHP since 7.0 is now hot again :)

JAMES UBEE
Guest
Gavin
Guest

In the context of building websites, I think PHP’s rank would be much higher, more like 3 or 4, whereas you quote languages that are used in all areas of computing especially Java, C and python. PHP isn’t used for writing native mobile apps where’s java is. Therefore I don’t believe PHP is loosing popularity especially with the advances in PHP 7.

Holabasappa
Guest

Which lunguage better for bigginer

Peter Cockerell
Guest

“Is it too soon to lower the casket, or does this language have some kick left in it?” You know these two clauses have the same meaning, right? Given that, “or” is not the appropriate conjunction to use. Maybe you meant “Is it time to…”

It bugs the hell out of me that so much writing online is so bad. What incentive do I have to read past an illiterate subheading?

Bill Chinook
Guest

Not to mention the rise and fall video is mesmerizing, not memorizing.

Vert Tete
Guest

My girlfriend is a professor of computer science. And she’s hot. And yet no mention of her in this article.

Harald
Guest

PHP dropped during the last year from serving 80% of all global, dynamic websites down to 79%. Clearly a decline which makes PHP irrelevant:
https://w3techs.com/technologies/details/pl-php/all/all

Jahanzaib
Guest

Can i learn php now?

James
Guest

Laravel is good

Bilall Rhouch
Guest

fake info.
php have 79% of websites in the world

Trust Mutemasango
Guest

Very misleading article. It exposes the flaws in Tiobe index. PHP will be a top 5 language for the next 10 years. VB.Net died about 5 years ago but is ranked higher than PHP by Tiobe. If there are high searches about it pushing it up the index its developers migrating VB.NET projects. Name 1 big VB.Net project you cant but there is millions of PHP projects like WordPress.

Peter
Guest

The report of my death was an exaggeration…
PHP is doing well. Even people who should never write a program are using it to write some, giving it a bad name.

Guest
Guest

Heheheh, non sense this post, php never pertence to this analogy, newbie.

daniel wu
Guest

Sigh. If we read the FAQs, TIOBE clearly explained that their ranking is based on search queries. This is a good method to find out a language’s survival at all. I have never searched C# and PHP because I have known almost everything about them.