Hello PHPers. This is my first time back to these forums in a number of years, as I am currently working on starting a business designing and developing web applications.

I've been immersing myself in all the new technologies that have cropped up for the web over the last three to four years (I was stuck doing backend work, and haven't touched a "real" web site in years...all I ever did was write REST APIs with MVC.) My background is in C#, .NET, and ASP.NET MVC. I feel I have a LOT of power in these technologies, especially when combined with newer tools and platforms like HTML5, CSS3 (+Less), Twitter Bootstrap, etc. I am also intimately familiar with all of the .NET platforms libraries, both official and third party, as well as extremely well versed in C#...so it takes little effort to code apps on that platform. Combined with WinHost (which clocks in at $4.11/month), it has become a very cost effective platform for the power it offers.

It seems that the two real giants in web development, however, are PHP (still...its been big since the early 2000's) and Ruby. As someone who aims to offer my services to as many customers as possible, I've begun looking into PHP and possibly Ruby as alternative platforms, just in case a customer insists on hosting on a server other than windows. My question about PHP is, quite simply, why? What draws so many developers to use PHP over something else, such as Java or .NET? What are the benefits over other technologies? What are the drawbacks? In terms of capability, how does it fair? In terms of ease and rapidness of development, how does it fair? Why choose PHP over Ruby? How cheap is hosting for PHP?

These are honest questions. I would particularly like to know in comparison with Ruby as well, as that seems to be the other major alternative (although Node.js seems to be flying high with popularity right now as well...however I am not sure I want to use JavaScript as my primary or sole development language for everything...) Well, thank you for your responses!