PHP is one of the most popular server side scripting languages running today. It is used for creating dynamic webpages that interact with the user offering customized information. PHP offers many advantages; it is fast, stable, secure, easy to use and open source (free).
Rasmus Lerdorf wrote the first PHP (first called Personal Home Page) scripts as a series of Perl scripts that he used to track visitors to his webpage and to see who was viewing his resume. He eventually rewrote PHP as a scripting engine and added support for forms. PHP has been evolving since 1994 as an open source code. A community of followers and developers formed and began using and further developing PHP. Over the years the Personal Home Page acronym was dropped and it evolved into the PHP Hypertext Preprocessor.
PHP code is inserted directly into the HTML that makes up a website. When a visitor comes to the website, the code is executed. Because PHP is a server side technology, the user does not need any special browser or plug-ins to see the PHP in action.
PHP doesn’t use a lot of the system’s resources so it runs fast and doesn’t tend to slow other processes down. It is typically used as an Apache module, written in C, so it loads and executes quickly. It works well with other software and can be quite fast. PHP is also fairly stable and since it is open source, the PHP community works together to fix any bugs. The community offers technical support and continuously updates the code further expanding PHP’s capabilities.
PHP offers many levels of security to prevent malicious attacks. These security levels can be adjusted in the .ini file.
Another key advantage of PHP is its connective abilities. PHP uses a modular system of extensions to interface with a variety of libraries such as graphics, XML, encryption, etc. In addition, programmers can extend PHP by writing their own extensions and compiling them into the executable or they can create their own executable and load it using PHP’s dynamic loading mechanism.
In addition to extensions, PHP has tons of server interfaces, database interfaces and other modules available. Of the server interfaces, PHP can load into Apache, IIS, Roxen, THTTPD and AOLserver. It can also be run as a CGI module. Database interfaces are available for MySQL, MS SQL, Informix, Oracle and plenty of others. If a database is not supported, ODBC is an option.
The main PHP source repository is loaded with modules and interfaces that users have written and contributed. There you can find modules for flash movies, PDF files, calendars and more.
A huge advantage that PHP offers is its community. Since PHP is an open source project, the PHP community is willing to share. If you’re looking for a particular script, chances are another user has already created something similar. Check within the PHP community for availability. Likewise, if you have created a function that others might enjoy, be sure to post the code for others.
If you’re ready to add dynamic content to your webpages, consider the use of PHP. It’s free, easy to learn (especially if you have some programming background) and integrates well across many platforms and with various software programs.