What Is PHP?


If you have researched anything about building websites you will surely have come across ‘PHP’. As with many terms that have anything to do with technology, PHP is an acronym, but that in itself often confuses people. The reason for that confusion is that PHP does not stand for the same terminology as it once did. PHP once meant ‘Personal Home Page’ but in today’s world of website languages PHP is now an acronym for the words ‘PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor’.

Admittedly it could be argued that is not much clearer, but what we say to that is it is less important to know what the individual letters of PHP mean than to know what it is, what it can do, and what benefits it has for website designers, so let us explore those in more detail.

What Can Be Done With PHP

PHP is an open-source scripting language, that is widely used by those creating websites, and more to the point, it is extremely popular amongst those that use it. It was first introduced in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf who gave it the previously mentioned name of Personal Home Page.

The main function of PHP is the creation of website pages, which are dynamically generated on the server upon which they are being hosted. An indication of the power of PHP is that it provides the basis for WordPress. WordPress just happens to be the most popular website platform in the world with a market share that stands at over 42% and dwarfs any of its rivals.

PHP can be used in conjunction with other server databases including Microsoft SQL Server, PostgreSQL, Sybase, MySQL, and Oracle. There is an impressive list of what can be done with PHP as you can see below.

  • Send email to website visitors
  • Data encryption of data you send online
  • Create and generate dynamic website pages
  • File creation, opening, closing, reading, writing, and closing on servers
  • Collect data from website visitors e.g. name, telephone number, email address
  • Create cookies for visitors to your website
  • Block unauthorised website access

That is not an exhaustive list so there are many other ways PHP can be used.

Latest Version Of PHP

A with many systems, software, and applications that relate to the internet, PHP has gone through many updates since it was first launched in 1994. At the time of writing the current incarnation is Version 7. Some of the changes from previous versions provide users with the following benefits.

  • Version 7 is faster than all previous versions
  • Version 7 has improved error handling
  • Version 7 supports a wider range of and newer operators
  • Version 7 can accommodate stricter ‘Type Declarations’ with function arguments

Benefits Of Using PHP

It is true to say that PHP is not the only server-side scripting language that is available to website creators and designers. Others include Java, Asp.Net, Perl, Python and Ruby. Nevertheless, PHP doers offer those using it advantages over those using the alternative languages as you can see below.

PHP Is Open Source: As we have mentioned above, PHP is an open-source programming language which means that not only is it completely free to use, but also that advancements and improvements are introduced by a global community of software developers.

PHP Is Beginner-Friendly: Certain programs, coding and scripting languages can have even the most experienced of software experts struggling, but that is not the case with PHP. It is extremely easy to learn and use, making it the ideal language for beginner programmers and those switching to PHP as an alternative to the others.

PHP Is Fast: One of the reasons PHP is so popular, especially for end-users of websites, such as business owners and those visiting websites, is that it is fast. PHP scripts execute and run faster than most of the other available languages that are used.

PHP Is Portable: PHP offers portability meaning it can be used in a wide range of environments. These include operating systems such as Windows. Mac OS and Linux, as well as a range of servers including  IIS, Apache, and Nginx.