8 Reasons PHP Remains Popular for Web Development

Published: November 23, 2021Updated: July 07, 2022
9 min to read
8 Reasons PHP Remains Popular for Web Development

We at Aristek Systems are here to tell you PHP is still alive and well and not to be counted out as a modern day web development framework. In fact, PHP continues to be the core technology that our team at Aristek Systems uses to build solutions for our customers. In this article, we will list the top 8 reasons why PHP remains popular for web development and should be considered for your next project.

A Brief History in PHP

When most people think about creating modern day web applications, particularly developers, they tend to lean toward the latest and greatest frameworks, such as React and Angular, that let designers and developers create sexy single page applications that run across multiple platforms from desktop to mobile. Relative to these newer technologies, PHP is a dinosaur, a relic created when the internet was just becoming mainstream back in 1994. If you were to start doing an online search for PHP, you will come across countless articles asking whether PHP is still relevant in 2021 or if it’s dead altogether.

PHP Usage

So let’s be honest with ourselves. PHP’s popularity with developers has been slowly waning over the years in favor of newer technologies, like Rust, Python, and JavaScript. Based on the most recent Stack Overflow survey in 2020, Python was the most used language according to 70% of its respondents, while PHP was chosen by 25%. However, market reports from w3techs.com tell a different story, showing that nearly 78% of all websites today run PHP. Much of PHP’s mainstay can be attributed to WordPress and Shopify, which constitute around 45% of all websites today.

The website w3techs.com has been tracking PHP usage statistics, along with other programming languages since 2010. Based on their data, PHP accounted for 72.5% of all websites in 2010 and has effectively maintained a steady state through 2021, with roughly 78% of all websites running PHP. While its growth may be flat, you must consider how the internet has grown in that time, and the number of websites that exist today in 2021 versus 2010. This is absolutely remarkable when you think about it. Roughly 244 million websites run PHP today!

Usage of server-side programming languages for websites, 23 Nov 2021
Usage of server-side programming languages for websites, 23 Nov 2021, W3Techs.com

What Makes PHP so Popular?

#1. PHP is Free

First and foremost, PHP is licensed as open source software, meaning it is free to use and distribute. Anyone can download, develop, and build a website without having to pay to use PHP, which greatly improves its accessibility to the community.

In addition, many of the popular PHP frameworks, such as Laravel and Symfony, that are built on top of PHP are also free to use.

#2. Jack of all Trades

Another reason why PHP is so popular is due to its versatility. It is a general-purpose server-side language that can be used to create any type of website and solve just about any type of problem. On top of this, the PHP community has developed thousands of PHP modules and plugins that provide specific features or functionality.

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#3. Broad Support for Databases

PHP supports most of the popular databases today, including MySQL, Oracle, MariaDB, MongoDB, and the list goes on. PHP makes it easy to connect a database to your application so you can start focusing on writing code.

#4. Easy to Learn

What makes a language popular with developers is how well it is documented and how easy it is to learn and master. While the official PHP documentation is fantastic and provides a thorough reference of the language and its syntax, a quick web search reveals thousands of books, blogs, tutorials, and online courses on every topic imaginable. Much of this information has been made freely available to the public, making it even easier to get started learning PHP.

#5. Build Apps Quickly Using Frameworks

PHP framework lets a developer create a web application faster and easier by providing libraries that take care of common tasks and functionality, meaning there is less code to write and less re-inventing of the wheel. Given the popularity of PHP and its open-source nature, there are several frameworks to choose from, such as Symfony, Laravel, and Cake to name a few.

#6. Develop Anywhere, Run Everywhere

The beauty of PHP is that it can run virtually anywhere, any modern OS and piece of hardware. PHP applications can run on old or new hardware, on Linux, OSX, and Windows. You can also run your PHP applications in the Cloud.

#7. Security

Occasionally you may hear that PHP is insecure or that exploits are readily found in PHP code that can affect thousands of websites. As with any platform, it is imperative developers create their applications with a security-first mindset following a set of best practices, such as protecting against SQL injection or cross-site script attacks. It is also imperative that security patches are applied as soon as possible to eliminate publicly known vulnerabilities. PHP is no less secure than any other language. In fact, given the ubiquity of PHP and its usage across the world, PHP is continuously evaluated for vulnerabilities, and fixes are quickly developed. What is mentioned here is not specific to PHP, but common to any web application or website.

#8. Performance & Stability

PHP has had the benefit of being in use for the last 25 years to support major websites, like Facebook and Wikipedia. Over that time, PHP has seen continuous improvement to its stability and its performance, specifically with how it manages memory and how well it can scale to support a large number of user requests.

We recently ran a series of performance tests here at Aristek to demonstrate how well PHP performs at scale. Our test involved creating a PHP application that streamed data to a Kafka cluster using one of the more popular Kafka clients for PHP. The diagram below illustrates the throughput we were able to achieve. Over the course of a month, our PHP app pushed over 220 million messages to our Kafka cluster. We averaged publishing over 4 million messages per day without noticing any degradation in our application’s performance.

PHP and Kafka Message Throughput, Aristek Systems
PHP and Kafka Message Throughput

Considering Other Languages?

As you know, PHP is not the only language out there used to build websites, though PHP arguably is the most flexible of the bunch. Here are a few popular alternatives to PHP.

Java

Java has been around for nearly as long as PHP as a server-side language. It has been widely used to build enterprise applications and backend systems for the most demanding websites. While Java is great for the backend, it is not so great on the front end compared with PHP. Java takes a model-view-controller approach to design, while PHP combines these elements all in one.

Javascript

Javascript is the de facto standard for client-side browser-based development. However in recent years, Javascript has transitioned to supporting server-side development platforms such as Node.js. The learning curve for Javascript tends to be higher as the language and its components and available development tooling tend to be more complicated and cumbersome compared with PHP.

Python

Python has been and is currently the number one favored language for developers the world over. Python started out as a language to support data scientists doing analysis and in building AI models, however it has also been used to build web applications. Python is also well documented and has a very strong community of supporters, however when compared with PHP, there are far fewer frameworks top support rapid development.

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Conclusion

For the last two decades PHP has been the leading web development technology that has been used to build millions of sites and applications world over, and it shows very little sign of slowing down. We expect PHP to continue to be the leading technology thanks to its cost (Free!), availability of mature frameworks which speed up development, and of course, the huge worldwide community that supports its ongoing development. These are just a few of the reasons why Aristek Systems chooses PHP first when creating the best web applications for its customers.

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