PHP is not a new programming language so it’s good to know some background information about it, to see how it has become so popular and why a lot of software companies today want to hire PHP developers.
The sources of PHP are in the old product which was called PHP/FI. PHP/FI was created in 1995 by Rasmus Lerdorf and it was a set Perl-scripts for tracking statistics about the visit of his online CV. It was the dawn of web development and there were no specialists who would solve such problems. Thus, the author received a great feedback on how he managed such a thing. Lerdorf released his instrument for free and called it “Personal Homepage Tools” (PHP). Very soon new functionality was needed and Rasmus wrote a new version which was much more functional than the first one. Also, Lerdorf reveals the source code for public use, which was another very important step in the development of the language.
It should be noted that at that moment PHP had a lot in common with Pearl, as it used a lot of variables from Pearl and it was able to wrap it into HTML.
PHP 3.0 was the first version which was close to the PHP we used to see today. In 1997, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski rewrote the code from scratch as it didn’t fit their purposes of developing apps for ecommerce. They announced PHP 3.0 an official successor of PHP/IP.
One of the main advantages of PHP 3 was the possibility of core extension. Later on, the interface for writing extensions attracted a lot of third-party developers which allowed PHP to work with huge amount of databases. Another key factor of PHP success was the development of new more powerful syntax with OOP support.
This practically new programming language also got a new name. The developers stripped the FI part and left only PHP, but at the same time the abbreviation got a new meaning: HyperText Preprocessor.
Right after the official release of PHP 3.0, its developers began working on the next version. The main purposes were better efficiency and improvement of module basis of PHP code. In order to achieve these goals the developers released a new engine called “Zend Engine”. PHP 4 was based on this engine. Apart from the above-mentioned improvements, PHP 4 could boast of session support, output buffering, some new language constructions, etc.
Today, hundreds of thousands of developers use PHP in their work. Millions of sites report using PHP. These and other factors allow saying that PHP is still the most popular programming language, though there’re a lot of new ones.
At the moment, PHP 5 is the latest official version of PHP language. It also uses a new version of Zend engine – Zend Engine 2.
PHP 5 features re-developed OOP model which allowed increasing the speed of the language up to 40%.