This article was written in 2009 and remains one of our most popular posts. If you’re keen to learn more about PHP and MySQL, you may find this recent collection of articles on PHP of great interest.
PHP and MySQL have changed.
Back in 2001, when I wrote the first edition of this book, readers were astonished to discover that you could create a site full of web pages without having to write a separate HTML file for each page. PHP stood out from the crowd of programming languages, mainly because it was easy enough for almost anyone to learn and free to download and install. The MySQL database, likewise, provided a simple and free solution to a problem that, up until that point, had been solvable only by expert programmers with corporate budgets.
Back then, PHP and MySQL were special – heck, they were downright miraculous! But over the years, they have gained plenty of fast-moving competition. In an age when anyone with a free WordPress account can set up a full-featured blog in 30 seconds flat, it’s no longer enough for a programming language like PHP to be easy to learn; nor is it enough for a database like MySQL to be free.
Indeed, as you sit down to read this book, you probably have ambitions that extend beyond what you can throw together using the free point-and-click tools of the Web. You might even be thinking of building an exciting, new point-and-click tool of your own. WordPress, after all, is built using PHP and MySQL, so why limit your vision to anything less?
To keep up with the competition, and with the needs of more demanding projects, PHP and MySQL have had to evolve. PHP is now a far more intricate and powerful language than it was back in 2001, and MySQL is a vastly more complex and capable database. Learning PHP and MySQL today opens up a lot of doors that would have remained closed to the PHP and MySQL experts of 2001.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that, in the same way that a butter knife is easier to figure out than a Swiss Army knife (and less likely to cause self-injury!), all these dazzling new features and improvements have indisputably made PHP and MySQL more difficult for beginners to learn.
Worse yet, PHP has completely abandoned several of the beginner-friendly features that gave it a competitive advantage in 2001, because they turned out to be oversimplifications, or could lead inexperienced programmers into building web sites with gaping security holes. This is a problem if you’re the author of a beginner’s book about PHP and MySQL.
PHP and MySQL have changed, and those changes have made writing this book a lot more difficult. But they have also made this book a lot more important. The more twisty the path, the more valuable the map, right?
In this book, I’ll provide you with a hands-on look at what’s involved in building a database driven web site using PHP and MySQL. If your web host provides PHP and MySQL support, you’re in great shape. If not, I’ll show you how to install them on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux computers, so don’t sweat it.
This book is your map to the twisty path that every beginner must navigate to learn PHP and MySQL today. Grab your favorite walking stick; let’s go hiking!