PHP is a server-side coding language designed for web development but can be used for a range of general programming purposes. This scripting language was originally created by Greenlander Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994 and its main function is interpreting and organizing data from web applications. PHP code, like CSS or JavaScript, can be embedded in HTML or linked within the code and also, works in conjunction with web templates and content managers. PHP works through interpreters, such as the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) or the Zend Engine, in order to collect data and send or receive cookies.

PHP was developed in 1994 and introduced in 1995 by Rasmus Lerdorf who wrote several CGI programs. Lerdorf wrote the code in order to maintain his own personal home page which is where PHP gets its name. He later expanded his work to forms interpretation and introduced PHP/FI to represent both sides of the program. PHP/FI was simple and allowed users to build simple applications to process data and accelerate bug reporting in order to improve the code. Lerdorf never intended for his PHP to become a new programming language and because of that, it grew organically with different structures and names for the same thing. PHP 2.0 was released in November of 1997.

In 1997 two students of the Israel Institute of Technology, Gutmans and Suraski, wrote a new parser for PHP which is a software component that takes data and builds structures from it. This new parser became the basis of PHP 3.0 which was developed by Gutmans and Suraski and was released in June of 1998. This time, the Israelis changed the meaning of the acronym from Personal Home Page to the recursive acronym “PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor.”

Gutmans and Suraski didn’t stop there. They began to rewrite the core of PHP and created the PHP interpreter Zend Engine in 1999, the name Zend was a combination of their first names- Andi and Zeev. A year later, in 2000, they founded Zend Technologies with a handful of other graduates from the Israel Institute of Technology.

In July of 2004 PHP, 5.0 was released, powered by Zend Engine II. PHP 5.0 included improved support for object-oriented programming which worked on the idea of ‘objects’ that may contain data in the form of fields. 5.0 also brought a large variety of performance enhancements to PHP. Because PHP 4.0 was so widely adopted it was significantly more difficult to make the move from 4.0 to 5.0 then it was to go from 3.0 to 4.0 so many high profile users of PHP 4.0 simply stopped supporting it.

When development for PHP 6.0 was underway the want for PHP compatibility with Unicode was universal. Unicode was a standard for processing and representing text expressed in writing, however, the problem with making the two compatible was a shortage of programmers that fully understood what changes needed to be made. For this reason, the project was abandoned in 2009. Six years later PHP 7.0 was released even though a version 6.0 was never officially published. This latest standard of PHP was run with Zend Engine III and showed nearly a 100% increase in productivity and was able to handle much more complex strands of data.

Over the past twenty-one years, PHP has gone from a minor scripting language developed by one man to a massive coding standard that has become a staple in web design. The development of PHP has grown significantly over the past few years leaving nothing but a hope for its bright future.  Written by Joseph Stevenson

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