April 9, 2010

Why Is PHP so Popular?


Hostway Team

By Gail Seymour

PHP is one of the most popular scripting languages in use on the Internet today. PHP stands for Hypertext Pre Processor. It was originally called Personal Home Pages, which is why the letters appear to be mixed up.

Who Uses PHP?

If you have ever been on the Facebook Web site, or on Wikipedia, or any of the millions of WordPress-powered blogs, you have experienced PHP in action, even if you were not aware of it.

In fact, any time you visit a Web page and the file name ends in the extension .php rather than .html, the source code of the page you are viewing has been run through the pre-processor before being served to your browser. The chances are the page contains dynamically created information that's been tailored for you based on your input.

It's not just social Web sites and blogs that rely heavily on PHP programming. Thanks to programs such as Vbulletin, oscommerce, pMachine, phpBB and many others like them, the majority of forums, shopping carts and article directories you visit on the Internet are likely to be powered by PHP.

Why Is PHP So Popular?

There are several reasons why PHP is probably the closest thing to a de-facto standard scripting language available online.

  • Because it's a server-side script rather than client side, meaning the processing is done on the Web host's server, rather than on your machine, information can be stored across browsing sessions without relying on cookies (snippets of data stored on your machine). This means you can access sites such as Facebook from any computer, enter your username and password, and access your account.
  • It's Open Source, which means anyone can access and edit the source code, and contribute to future development. This is one of the reasons there are so many plug-in programs available already written in the language. Its being Open source has other advantages too.
  • There are no licensing fees to pay to install PHP, meaning the cost of running a server is kept down. PHP also runs on Linux and Unix, meaning a Web hosting server can be set up with no software costs.
  • In fact PHP is platform independent and even runs on a Windows server. In practice, this means it's pre-installed by the majority of Web hosting companies on all their servers, often complete with a library of scripts ready to install on your domain with just a few clicks.
  • Linux operating systems are widely considered more secure than Windows, since the majority of viruses and hacker attacks are aimed at the Windows OS. PHP is also considered more secure than Java, because PHP was designed from the ground up with hosting in mind, and is designed for multi-user environments, where Java, stemming from more traditional programming languages, wasn't.
  • Finally, with such a wealth of viewable source code and no shortage of online tutorials, PHP is easy to learn. This means people can start off with a standard installation of a given program and tweak it to meet their own specific needs.

About the Author

Gail Seymour has been a Web site designer for more than 10 years. During that time she has won three design awards and has provided the content and copy for dozens of Web sites and more than 50,000 Web pages.

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