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What is PHP and Why is It So Popular ?

In the following lines, you'll be learning why PHP is being used all over the world and you'll be informed of the numerous features it includes. This article is meant for those who know a little bit about informatics but not that much. If you're an engineer you might already know this. However some vocabulary about web servers and languages is needed in order to understand the whole article.

PHP means Hypertext PreProcessor and is a language that has been created at first for the Web. Nowadays it has become the leading language in this category. Over 9 millions websites have decided to use PHP as their web development platform.

The reasons of its success:

PHP is the fastest scripting language around. It is truly important when you create a website to understand that if the script takes time to "do its work" and being process, the waiting will be long and you know well enough that there's nothing worst than a slow website. This avidity is surely what makes PHP so great but that's not all.

PHP is stable. It is not "bugged" and doesn't have any downtime or shutdowns.

PHP is powerful. If there's 100 or 1,000,000 visitors on your website, PHP will still execute your scripts.

PHP is secure. Indeed, this language is very secure and has rarely code breaches and when it does, they are always fixed on the same day they were found.

PHP is free. The PHP project is open source thus making it available to everyone. PHP is a project where loads of students, engineers and others work on everyday all around the world.

The numerous features of PHP:

Thanks to the open source, anyone can modify, add or upgrade some aspects of the language. The development cycle of PHP is, consequently, very active. Each new versions has added content, fixes and upgrades. PHP offers lots of extensions that can for example:

  • Create images or PDF files.
  • Connect to FTP Servers or LDAP or Mailing servers.
  • Access to your databases (MySQL, MS SQL, Oracle, Informix, PostgreSQL).
  • Manipulate XML files.
  • Interact with Web services.
  • And much more !

If you wish to see the evolution of PHP, you may want to go here: click me.

PHP is a very flexible language. Whatever the complexity of the software or script you developt, you will almost never be limited by PHP. Just like C, PHP is a true swiss knife that will help you do everything but unlike C, does everything much faster. This resemblance between PHP and C doesn't end here. Indeed, PHP has numerous syntaxes that are very close to the ones in C. Knowing the Language C is one of the most spread among code writters, it was very wise to make a similar language that would push people to go from C to PHP without much difficulties.

PHP is universal. Nowadays, PHP is available on most operating systems (Mac OS X, Linux, Windows, Unix, etc...) and web servers (Apache, IIS, Nginx, Roxen, ...). Therefore, if you ever change your web hosting server, it will most likely be sure that your scripts will still continue to run.

PHP could be classified as a "free software" in a way where free means open (refering to Open Source) but also in a way where free means an exemption of payment. Even though PHP is a great reference in its category, it is, unlike some of its rivals (ASP, ColdFusion,...) entirely free. 

And those are the main reasons why PHP is so successful. If you wish to learn more you can go to the official PHP website (www.php.net), download the lastest version of PHP (www.snaps.php.net) or check out addons for PHP such as Zend (www.zend.com).

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