The new web is exciting, engaging, agile, and smart. The fact is today’s Internet is beginning to look very little like it did in the early days of the World Wide Web of the mid-90s. Web servers are exponentially smarter, serving up powerful business applications and rich dynamic content which changes in almost real time. We’ve come a long way from the days of static pages with hyper links to yet other static pages with hyperlinks. Part of that evolution (make that a BIG part of that evolution) was the introduction of server-side scripting and PHP is a major player.

Really since 2004 (when PHP version 4 was released) PHP has been on a steady climb towards market dominance in the realm of server-side processing. As a web developer (and if you’re purely an application developer . . . you’re still a web developer) you can’t ignore it. You simply have to be aware of PHP. In fact, be VERY aware. The more you know the better you’ll be as a developer and the more marketable your skills.

PHP Is Everywhere!

The driving force behind the popular CMS (Content Management System) driven website today is PHP. Look around at just about any of the hot new web development trends and you’ll find PHP at its core! The list is staggering: Drupal, WordPress, Magento, Joomla, PHPCake, SilverStripe, OpenCart, OSCommerce, BootStrap, CodeIgniter, Zend, PEAR, and on it goes. Look under the hood of these systems and you see pages of PHP code. PHP is the glue that holds these technologies together. It is ubiquitous all over the web and we’re finding that it even serves as a catalyst to tie together other key modern frameworks such as SOAP, Ajax, Jquery, and XML. Due to its builtin support of MySQL, PHP is a common tool for building robust databases big enough and powerful enough for just about any application. A prime example, Wikipedia — built entirely on PHP and MySQL. According to NetCraft, as of January 2013, PHP was being used by over 240 Million sites!

PHP Is Here To Stay

The future of PHP is bright. With more emphasis being placed on server-side applications and richer, more engaging content, the need for intelligent content management will only intensify over the next several years. Not only does PHP excel at content management, but with its native support for MySQL it has become widely adopted by developers the world over as a platform for building powerful web applications. PHP has evolved so much in scope over the past 9 years that it is now the heart and soul of most of the new web development strategies creating the future of the web.

Diving In

The best way to get started with PHP (if you haven’t already) is to setup your own PHP server and MySQL database and start writing some code. This is easy to do and there are lots of resources out there to help you. First, you’ll need some tools to build your own PHP server. You’re in luck – there’s a great resource out there called WampServer! WampServer is an extremely useful Open Source project designed to get you well on your way to building a production PHP server with all the tools you need to get right to work. As a web developer, WampServer is an absolute must! If you don’t have it — go get it! Yes, it’s free.

WAMP stands for Windows Apache MySQL and PHP. The WampServer project carefully packages everything you need as a developer to build a fully function web development server running Apache, MySQL, and PHP. This can be installed on any Windows computer (does not have to be a server). Head on over to the WampServer website and download the latest package. If you’re using a Mac there’s an equivalent project called Mamp and that package can be installed from the Mamp website. It’s not too late, jump in and join the frenzy. If you get stuck, there’s good news. There’s lots of help out there.

Oh The Resources!

It turns out there are TONS of resources to help both the PHP beginner and expert alike. This is one of the things that makes PHP so irresistible in the developer community. If you want more information just jump online and look around. There are resources everywhere! If you don’t find what you’re looking for try again in a few months because new information and tools are popping up constantly.

After a quick search, I put together a few of my favorite links below:

Learning PHP


Some History


PHP News


The Future

One thing is certain . . . the demands for server-side processing for web development in the coming years will only grow. When it comes to server-side scripting and creating the building blocks for web applications — PHP is king. Will that always be the case? Let’s look at the alternatives to PHP.

There are many other choices. There are a handful of older technologies which have been around for a long time such as Perl, CGI, C++, etc. These continue to exist in one form or another, but the trend for growth is definitely not there. Other languages include Ruby, Python, ColdFusion, etc. Unlike PHP, these are losing traction as the web evolves. Some languages have the backing of large corporations such as ASP, JSP (Java Server-Side), etc. These remain strong, yet the trend for growth is sketchy and even these strong corporate backers are allowing room for PHP in their server space due to its sheer reach and popularity. There are lots of other options, but it’s clear PHP remains vibrantly poised to be the server-side platform of the foreseeable future.

NetCraft Article: PHP just grows and grows
PHP Revision History
Server-Side Scripting Languages
WampServer Download Package – for Windows
Mamp Download Package – for Mac