Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) is a programming language used by web developers that gives the user more control over the HTML that makes up a webpage. PHP works alongside HTML within the same document, allowing users to easily organize and display information within a browser and create vibrant sites. It has been the dominant server-side scripting language for websites for nearly 20 years, and still has significant staying power. According to recent stats from W3Techs, PHP is used by more than 80 percent of websites, easily outdistancing competitors such as ASP.net, Java and ColdFusion.
So what makes PHP so attractive to website developers? The following characteristics of PHP boost its usefulness:
- It’s open source, which means anyone can access and edit the source code, and contribute to future development. There is a wealth of plug-in programs available in the language. In addition, an extensive online resource of all of PHP's functions is available, including examples of how to use them. There are also are a number of online support groups to help speed up the learning process.
- It works well on a variety of operating systems, such as Linux, Unix and Windows. It even interfaces with Apache/MySQL without any hassle. This means a web hosting server can be set up with no software costs. It's also pre-installed by the majority of hosting companies on all of their servers, often complete with a library of scripts ready to install with just a few clicks.
- It offers more control over web browsers than other programming languages, doing many of the same things with fewer lines of code. It allows the user to focus less on programming and more on designing their website to their exact specifications. It can even be used alongside other programming languages to perform a wider variety of tasks.
- It’s a server-side script rather than client-side, meaning the processing is done on the host’s server rather than on the user's computer. This allows information to be stored across browsing sessions without relying on cookies, letting users access sites such as Facebook from any computer, enter their username and password, and access their account.
- Is easy to read and edit. While many programming languages are complex and intimidating to new users, PHP is organized, clean and fluid. PHP is also easy to edit, as users can quickly scan a PHP document for code and change it to meet their needs.
One of the main disadvantages, however, is that PHP is not usually suitable for creating desktop applications. That's why it is essential to weigh the pros and cons of PHP in relation to a particular project before deciding whether to use it. Also, compared to other languages, PHP applications tend to run slowly. Finally, PHP error handling is traditionally considered poor when compared with competitors, mainly because of PHP’s development history and its support for older functions.
Do you use PHP for website development? Tell us your favorite benefit in the comments section below.