Love Letter to PHP
I created my first dynamic website when I was 14 years old using PHP4. It was my first programming language (besides HTML4) and I remember the feeling that I could do anything I wanted.
At this time we were still calling it Personal Home Page, and alike me, tons of people interested in the web began to create their own projects using PHP and were publishing onto their providers free homepage space.
We created our own PhpBB forums and felt good! We learnt user sessions by creating our member spaces on our sites! However this was probably the start of the bad image that followed the language in the next years as an “amateur language”, but you know what, even if it might have been true, at this time everybody was a web amateur. Still PHP was the first experience for many of us and brought us so much joy and in my case played a major part in what would become my career path.
Later on as I pursued my cursus in computer science, the language unfortunately was still labeled “dirty” and snobbed by many developers, in the hype of Java, Ruby and object programming. In 2006 PHP5 was released along with Object Programming paradigm and PDO for database access.
In my sense this was the seed to bring back professional programmers into the game and renew the appeal for the language. Part of the hype was stolen with Ruby On Rails and Python Django released in 2005 and PHP was still missing a major frameworks to make life simpler and cleaner for web developers.
But fortunately some people took the matter very seriously (WordPress, Sensio Labs and Zend Technologies to my sense) and boosted the whole community around this new version of the language. In the next couple of years frameworks (Zend, Symfony1.0) popped out with serious features and a common base developers could use and contribute to. I cannot forget to mention how WordPress also contributed to the hype and the community to bring people to PHP, most of them would contribute back to the ecosystem!
This was for me a major turning point in the language and myself for the first time went back to PHP professionally and wrote a web application in Symfony1.4 ! Haters are going to say that all the good ideas have been copied from other ecosystems such as Ruby but actually it doesn’t matter. Bringing good ideas into your language is a strong point and it shows that the PHP community is willing to change to improve and strive to enhance the ecosystem they love.
From there PHP build itself a new identity, looking for good ideas and implementing it the PHP way ! As the community grew, the ecosystem did too and the pace of innovations did too.
We soon got our renewed package system Composer to renew PEAR(which honestly was quite a pain). New frameworks (Symfony2.0, Zend2.0, Phalcon, Laravel, Cake, Yii, CodeIgniter) and solutions (Drupal, Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, BaseCamp, Facebook) got out!
Man ! The hype was back !
We were not ashamed anymore to say we were professional PHP developers!!!
And from there nothing could stop the community anymore, package repositories grew stronger and stronger, Cloud actors (AWS, Heroku) embedded PHP , test frameworks was created too and the problems and needs were tackled one by one. The last and biggest in date was the performance issue raised several years ago by Facebook and its HHVM alternative.
In response last year PHP7 was released with huge performance increase equivalent to all alternatives proposed without any retro-compatibility problem! What other language can boast of a 100% retro-compatibility ? Of course it also brings problems and complaints because the old ways are still allowed, which minimized the refactor, that sometimes would be much needed!
So yes I will say it , PHP I LOVE YOU. I love the community, I love the energy that brings us good ideas from other ecosystem, I love the fact that if we face a problem we face it and build a solution. I love the package system composer that leaves you free to create your own repository and brings you only solutions rather than problems. I love all the frameworks, solutions, test frameworks that brings their stones to the arch of a better PHP. I know you’re not perfect PHP but I’m proud that over the years we didn’t stop the effort to step up as a modern language with all it means !