By Hagen Rode
In a single sentence, PHP is a highly popular, Open-Source, general-purpose scripting language with a particular affinity for web development. That single sentence is a bit of a mouthful though, so let's break it up and deal with each aspect of that description in turn in order to arrive at something a bit more understandable.
PHP is an extremely popular programming language. The statistics provided by LangPop (http://langpop.com) illustrate PHP to be roughly the third most popular programming language in existence. However, it is safe to say that more than 90% of websites gracing the Internet today are backed by a PHP application that produces the actual output that is processed by your Web Browser application in order to display the final web page.
The PHP language is an Open Source project.
This means that the actual programming behind the PHP language itself is publicly available to be viewed, understood and commented on. This has the effect of ensuring that problems and issues with the PHP language itself can be discussed and solved by a large body of people across the world collaborating over the Internet in order to produce a better language. In short, the development of PHP itself is distributed and community driven.
PHP is a general-purpose scripting language.
However, it is an especially strong web development language. It is quite possible to use PHP to produce traditional, GUI-driven desktop applications, just as it is possible to produce batch processing programs using the PHP language. Where PHP really shines, though, is in the development of Web Applications. Thanks to its simplicity and the large body of web development related features built directly into it, PHP is an extremely strong contender in the web application development realm.
Traditionally, PHP has suffered from the perception of being seen as a simple, messy language developed and used primarily by hobbyists. This may have once been true but today this perception is so far from the truth as to be a dangerous misconception. Companies that approach PHP development with a reckless attitude inevitably suffer for their approach and Programmers who write poor quality PHP code do themselves and the language a great disservice.
PHP's importance as a programming language can not be overstated.
It's popularity as a means of developing web applications means that most, if not all, web developers will work on a PHP web application at some point in their careers and many of them will do so on a day-to-day basis. For this reason alone it is important that PHP be taken seriously and approached with the same diligence and care as programming in any other language.
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