PHP was released by Rasmus Lerdorf on June 8, 1995. His original usenet post is still available online if you want to examine a computing artefact from the dawn of the web. Many of us owe our careers to the language, so here’s a brief history of PHP…PHP originally stood for “Personal Home Page” and Rasmus started the project in 1994. PHP was written in C and was intended to replace several Perl scripts he was using on his homepage. Few people will be ancient enough to remember CGI programming in Perl, but it wasn’t much fun. You could not embed code within HTML and development was slow and clunky.Rasmus added his own Form Interpreter and other C libraries including database connectivity engines. PHP 2.0 was born on this day 15 years ago. PHP had a modest following until the launch of version 3.0 in June 1998. The parser was completely re-written by Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski; they also changed the name to the recursive “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor”. Critics argue that PHP 3.0 was insecure, had a messy syntax, and didn’t offer standard coding conventions such as object-orientated programming. Some will quote the same arguments today. However, while PHP lacked elegance it made web development significantly easier. Programming novices could add snippets of code to their HTML pages and experts could develop full web applications using an open source technology which became widely installed by web hosts.PHP 4.0 was released on May 22, 2000. It provided rudimentary object-orientation and addressed several security issues such as disabling register_globals. Scripts broke, but it was relatively easy to adapt applications for the new platform. PHP 4.0 was an instant success and you’ll still find it offered by web hosts today. Popular systems such as WordPress and Drupal still run on PHP 4.0 even though platform development has ceased.Finally, we come to PHP 5.0 which was released on July 13, 2004. The language featured more robust object-orientated programming plus security and performance enhancements. The uptake has been more sedate owing to the success of PHP 4.0 and the introduction of competing frameworks such as ASP.NET, Ruby and Python.PHP has its inconsistencies and syntactical messiness, but it’s rare you’ll encounter a language which can be installed on almost any OS, is provided by the majority of web hosts, and offers a similar level of productivity and community assistance. Whatever your opinion of the language, PHP has provided a solid foundation for server-side programming and web application development for the past 15 years. Long may it continue.
If you’re new to PHP or need a refresher, why not sign up for SitePoint’s PHP Live with Kevin Yank? It’s a 3-week interactive course which will help you learn PHP from experts and your fellow students.
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.
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