Disruptive Technology

By Harry Fuecks

Via Simon, Why MySQL grew so fast. Makes alot of interesting points while skirting round actually answering the question (which is very hard to answer).

Anyone who’s really thought about MySQL relative to other database engines, in particular PostgreSQL, knows it’s pretty much “The Thing that Should not Be”.

Personally think PHP is also a disruptive technology.

Anyone who knows PHP well can probably tell a thing or two about monsters in the closet, and that’s before you open up the debate to others.

But when it comes to ease of use, it’s extremely hard to beat PHP. Not only is it a great language for beginners, there’s a strong business case for a technology that’s focused on a solving small set of problems and is as easy to deploy as a PHP script (Java take note). PHP attracts developers who “should know better”.

In these days of J2EE and .NET, by all rights, PHP should be condemned to obscurity. Instead it continues to grow and, with PHP5 almost there, seems to be attracting ever more “Enterprise” attention.

Why? The best arguments I’ve seen came up in Is PHP Ugly? by Jeff and Markus: “worse is better”.

  • Richard Cyganiak

    PHP’s #1 feature is cheap hosting.

    I’m a student. I know some PHP and some Java. I have to use Java for university projects. But all the web stuff I do in my free time for fun, the stuff I really care about, is done in PHP. Simply because I don’t know where to get Java hosting for $10 a month. For the same reason I didn’t even bother to look at .net.

    And in the future, I’m probably going to use PHP for any project where I can get away with it, simply because I know it so well.

    Back to my J2EE coursework :-/

  • Anonymous

    saying that php is #1 for ease of use is being *very* short sighted.
    this may be true just if you consider that there is just one other opponent, J2EE.

    Perl,python and ruby can all be embedded in html, if you wish.

    The reason php is succesfull is that it was the first, not the best.

  • HarryF

    Perl,python and ruby can all be embedded in html, if you wish.

    I’ve never looked at what Ruby can do web-wise but while it’s true both Perl and Python have means for “HTML preprocessing” (embedded in HTML), when it comes to ease of use PHP still has the edge from where I stand.

    Perl suffers from it’s syntax (subjective point I know) while setting up mod_perl + an HTML preprocessor (which one?) is not trivial compared to a PHP install.

    Python is a great language but has only just got an HTML preprocessor everyone can agree on (blogged here). In principle Python is now easier to use than PHP but in practice this platform still needs to be “discovered”. There’s also issues like Python being strongly typed and it’s DB API being a little too generalistic for web apps right now. Otherwise, if you check out some of the responses to what people were saying in How do you learn how to use a library?, the main source was online articles. You stuggle to find any web related subject that someone hasn’t published their thoughts on in PHP.

    Note I’m not arguing that an HTML preprocessor is the best solution from a software design point of view but just that it makes life very easy in the short term, and that attracts users.

    The reason php is succesfull is that it was the first, not the best.

    That’s very true. But I think there’s more to it than that – the worse is better notion. PHP was in the right place at the right time and doing the right things. But if it had, for example, imposed Java-like rigours on the programmer, it wouldn’t have been popular. There’s an interesting take on the history of PHP here (PDF) which considers where Perl was at the time PHP started.



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