From Humble Beginnings: Tracing the Evolution of PHP

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PHP is one of the most famous general-purpose scripting language suited for web development, it is flexible, pragmatic and fast, PHP powers almost everything including blogs and many renowned websites.PHP is a powerful tool and a server-side scripting language that is essential in making of interactive and dynamic web pages.PHP is free, widely used and an alternative to competitors like Microsoft ASP. This paper is going to look at the history of PHP, the type system, control flow, language conventions and a comparison summary with specific languages.

PHP is the successor to a product named PHP/FI and was created in 1994 by Lerdorf Rasmus, the initial incarnation of PHP was a set of the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) binaries and was written in C programming language. Initially, PHP was utilized by the founder in tracking visits to his resume online and named the suite of scripts as “personal home page tools “and was normally referenced as “PHP Tools” and more functionality was added by rewriting PHP Tools coming up with a more productive and broader implementation. The latest model was capable of interacting with a database and more giving a framework that users could develop dynamic and simple web applications like Guestbook (Arnold, Gosling and Holmes 2015, p.112). In 1995 June Rasmus allowed access to the source code for the PHP Tools to the general public making other developers to use it as they wanted to permit users to give fixes for bugs to improve and fix bugs in codes. In 1995 Rasmus expanded on PHP and dropped the PHP name and referred to the tools as FI (Forms Interpreter) and the latest implementation had some general functionalities as PHP as we know it (Kernighan and Ritchie 2016).

Forms Interpreter had Perl-like variables, HTML embedded syntax, automatic interpretation of the form variables with the syntax being comparable to Perl, albeit but simple, limited and inconsistent. According to Kowalski (2014, pp 569-544) for one to integrate the code into HTML one had to use HTML comments and though this method was not well-received FI still grew as a CGI Tool though not as a language. In October 1995 Rasmus published a complete code rewrite and bringing the PHP name again and was briefly named “Personal Home Page Construction Kit” as a boast at that time and was considered advanced scripting I/O. The language was intentionally designed to look like C in its structure hence was easy to adopt for programmers that were familiar with C, Perl and other similar languages. The language having been limited to POSIX compliant systems and UNIX the possibility for the Windows NT implementation was looked at and explored. In 1996 the code got another makeup and even combined the names of the pasts releases hence Rasmus introduced PHP/FI.

The second generation implementation started to transform PHP to a programming language from a suite of tools and included inbuilt support for MSQL, Postgres95 databases, msql, cookies, user-defined function support, and others. In June 1995 PHP/FI got the version 2.0 status, and when it was upgraded from beta status in 1997 November, the underlying parsing engine was already entirely rewritten. Between 1997 and 1998 PHP/FI had several users across the globe and a Netcraft survey that was conducted in may, 1998 showed that close to 60000 domains had headers starting with php showing that the host server had it installed indicating  1% of all the domains on the net at the time. Though PHP had an impressive figure the growth of PHP/FI had several limitations with a lot of other several minor contributors and was mainly developed by a single person (Madsen, Moller, and Nygaard 2018).

PHP is suited for web-based applications by using it in the front end while developing the backend with a better language. Madsen, Moller, and Nygaard (2018) suggest that by thinking on ways of developing a platform exposing an API that communicate via PHP is essential since its fast to iterate PHP applications compared with other languages except Python.PHP is very useful in writing of desktop applications though its not the best in writing desktop applications with graphical user interface but if one knows PHP well one can use PHP-GTK to write programmes with advanced client –side. PHP is essential in command line scripting without using any browser by having PHP parser using cron (on Linux or *nix) or task scheduler. It can also be used for simple tasks that process texts. PHP is vital in server-side scripting one needs a web browser, web server and CGI or server module (PHP Parser).php can be used in almost all OS like Linux, Microsoft Windows, macOS, RISC OS, and others, support several databases, has advantageous text processing features and other advantages.

PHP has grown since it was developed due to its power; profitability and stability; several frameworks are built on PHP and websites. Sanner (2016) suggests that several global firms have vouched on the language with several sites developed on PHP and are very successful and registering a considerable number of visits daily from Yahoo and Facebook, and others PHP remains a reason for most successful businesses. Yahoo is one of the busiest websites with more than 600 million visitors in a month; its mainly developed using PHP, Facebook, Wikipedia, Flickr, and others are just some websites developed using PHP. Friendster was founded in 2003 and is considered as one of the most successful sites and has gotten more than 50 million users making use of PHP. Some of the typical commercial applications developed using PHP include MordernBill, WHMCS, vBulletin, and others. Though several small scripts sell well, good examples of software that are commercial that rely on PHP include activecollab, cms, predator cms, interspire email marketer and many more (Borning 2013).

Research suggests that more than 80% of websites with known server-side language use PHP with version 5 being claimed to be used by close to 80% of sites that use PHP. PHP is very popular when considering its market position concerning its fame and traffic compared to other popular server-side programming language.PHP experienced a very massive surge of popularity when Facebook founder used it in coding with several other sites running it. Tiobe, a software quality firm, generates the index of popular programming languages that is updated monthly after getting data from multiple sources across the globe PHP gained an index of 1.59% in December 2017 behind languages like Java and c that got 13.27% and 10.16% respectively. The data types assigned in PHP variable may be of different data type from the simple string, numeric types or sophisticated types like arrays or objects (Sanner 2016, p.56).

According to Kowalski (2014, pp 569-544) strings are a series of characters; a string can hold special characters, numbers, and letters up to 2GB. Php Boolean only has two possibilities 0 (false or 1(right). Null data type only has one value assigned to it and a variable with an invalid data type is a variable that does not have any value attached to it (Madsen, Moller, and Nygaard 2018, p.67). PHP has a specific primary naming convention, variables stores data and it can be a string, float, integer, array or others when naming one should avoid  ambiguity ($first_name=” john”) is right but ($sn1=”john”) is wrong since one cannot guess what “sn1” means. Constants are intended to store values that are fixed there are two types of constants namely global and class-based constants define (‘DB_HOST’, ‘localhost’), the name of the constants should be in CAPS for class constants if one wants to name a constant class insides its class the self::CONSTANT_NAME should be used, though when using a constant outside the class its called by replacing self with the class name like (circle::PI).

A function is a code that does a particular there are two main conventions when naming functions like using lowercase with underscore separator or using camelcase like function get_name () {.PHP uses certain rules in its codes (Arnold, Gosling and Holmes 2015, p.112). A code must use four spaces and not tabs for indenting, a code must follow a “coding style guide,” the opening braces for the methods must go to the preceding line, and the closing braces must go to the next line after the body. Java was released in 1995 while PHP is the successor to a product named PHP/FI and was created in 1994 by Lerdorf Rasmus. According to a study that showed the 20 most popular languages, Java was ranked first with Tiobe index of 13.27% while php had an index of 1.59%.PHP is better than Java in web application according to studies due to its simplicity. Java uses static type checking while PHP uses dynamic type system (Madsen, Moller, and Nygaard 2018).

PHP is one of the most famous general-purpose scripting language suited for web development, it is flexible, pragmatic and fast PHP powers almost everything including blogs and many renowned websites.PHP is a powerful tool and a server-side scripting language that is essential in making of interactive and dynamic web pages.PHP is free, widely used and an alternative to competitors like Microsoft ASP


Arnold, K., Gosling, J. and Holmes, D., 2015. The Java programming language. Addison Wesley Professional.

Borning, A., 2013. The programming language aspects of ThingLab, a constraint-oriented simulation laboratory. ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems (TOPLAS), 3(4), pp.353-387.

Kernighan, B.W. and Ritchie, D.M., 2016. The C programming language.

Kowalski, R., 2014, June. Predicate logic as programming language. In IFIP congress (Vol. 74, pp. 569-544).

Madsen, O.L., Møller-Pedersen, B. and Nygaard, K., 2018. Object-oriented programming in the BETA programming language. Addison-Wesley.

Sanner, M.F., 2016. Python: a programming language for software integration and development. J Mol Graph Model, 17(1), pp.57-61.



PHP is a an acronym that is recursive standing for hypertext preprocessor and is a commonly used  scripting language  that is open source and  that is general purpose  and is mostly suited for web development and can also be embedded into HTML.PHP  as a scripting language and interpreter is freely available and mainly used on the Linux web servers.PHP though initially gotten from a personal home page tools stands for Hypertext Preprocessor the PHP FAQ describing the name to be recursive acronym.PHP undertakes server side executions if compared to JavaScript that mainly executes on the client side and is an alternative ASP (Active Server Page) a Microsoft technology.PHP script just like ASP is incorporated within the Web page together with HTML and before the page is sent to the user that requests for it the web server requires that PHP interprets and perform the operations called for in the PHP script.HTML pages that have PHP scripts usually are given the suffix “.php” “.phtml” or “.php7”.PHP just like ASP  are “dynamic HTML pages” since the result of interpretation vary amongst different contents.

            PHP is offered under the open source license and is free.

September 11, 2023
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