Is PHP Still Relevant? It’s Complicated. Here’s Why
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Is PHP Still Relevant in 2023? Advantages and Criticisms

Web developer demonstrating the relevance of PHP by coding on a desktop

There’s a question that keeps popping up in tech company break rooms and startup coffee chats alike: ‘Is PHP still relevant?’ This isn’t just tech gossip or idle chit-chat. It’s a seriously important question, one that developers, entrepreneurs, and tech strategists grapple with as they navigate the shifting sands of the industry.

Is PHP Still Relevant?

It’s a remarkable fact that, as of 2023, PHP is the backbone of about 77% of all websites using a server-side language, including Facebook and Wikipedia. This is a dynamic indication of PHP’s adaptability and resilience. The reasons for this widespread adoption are manifold:

  • Ease of Learning and Use: PHP’s syntax is friendly for beginners, making it an accessible entry point for new developers. This accessibility contributes to a large pool of PHP developers, ensuring that companies can easily find skilled personnel.
  • Compatibility and Flexibility: PHP is highly compatible with various platforms and servers, making it a versatile choice for different types of web applications. This flexibility extends to its seamless integration with a range of databases, like MySQL, which is crucial for web development.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Since PHP is open-source, it reduces the cost of web development, making it an attractive option for businesses of all sizes. This economic efficiency is a significant factor in PHP’s continued popularity.

Top 15 Reasons PHP is Still Relevant in 2024

Let’s dive into why PHP is still rocking the web world in 2024. Here are the top 15 reasons that showcase PHP’s staying power.

  1. Dominant Market Presence: PHP is widely employed amongst websites using server-side programming, a testament to its widespread adoption and trust in the industry.
  2. Integral to WordPress: Powering over 40% of the web, WordPress’s reliance on PHP makes it indispensable in content management and website development, influencing a huge swath of the internet’s infrastructure.
  3. Advancements in PHP 8: The introduction of JIT compilation in PHP 8 marked a significant leap in performance, reducing execution times and enhancing resource efficiency, making PHP more competitive with newer languages.
  4. Robust Community Support: PHP’s extensive community, with millions of developers worldwide, contributes to a rich pool of resources, forums, and documentation, ensuring quick problem-solving and knowledge sharing.
  5. Diverse Frameworks and Tools: PHP offers a variety of powerful frameworks like Laravel, which is known for its elegant syntax and features, and Symfony, celebrated for its flexibility. These frameworks streamline the development process, catering to both simple and complex project requirements.
  6. Beginner-Friendly Nature: PHP’s straightforward and forgiving syntax makes it an ideal starting point for beginners in programming, contributing to a continuous influx of new talent into the PHP developer pool.
  7. High Flexibility and Compatibility: PHP’s compatibility with all major operating systems and its ability to integrate seamlessly with various databases (like MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB) make it a highly versatile tool for web developers.
  8. Open-Source and Cost-Effective: As an open-source language, PHP is free to use, reducing software development costs, which is particularly beneficial for small businesses and startups.
  9. Optimized Web Performance: PHP’s design, optimized for web application development, ensures quick response times and efficient processing, which is crucial for user experience and search engine rankings.
  10. Universal Hosting Support: The vast majority of web hosting providers offer PHP support, often as a standard feature, ensuring easy deployment of PHP-based applications with minimal compatibility issues.
  11. Proactive Security Measures: Regular updates and a large community contribute to PHP’s robust security features, helping developers safeguard web applications against common security threats.
  12. Legacy in Big Tech: Big tech companies like Facebook and Yahoo started with PHP. This legacy has left a lasting impact on web development practices and the evolution of PHP itself.
  13. Consistent Demand in the Job Market: The consistent demand for PHP developers in the job market is a clear indicator of its relevance, with opportunities ranging from freelance projects to roles in large enterprises.
  14. E-commerce Capability: PHP’s strong presence in e-commerce is marked by its use in platforms like WooCommerce and Magento, which power a significant portion of online stores, offering scalability and flexibility for online merchants.
  15. Scalability for Traffic Handling: PHP’s ability to efficiently handle large volumes of traffic makes it suitable for websites of varying sizes, proving its scalability from small personal blogs to high-traffic enterprise websites.

From its foundational role in web development to its continuous evolution and adoption in various sectors, PHP demonstrates a unique blend of versatility, reliability, and innovation. Whether for new developers or established tech giants, PHP continues to be pivotal.

PHP Compared to Other Major Programming Languages

Web developer comparing PHP to another programming language on multiple monitors

Understanding how PHP stacks up against its contemporaries is key to grasping its ongoing relevance. Let’s compare PHP with other major languages with similar functions and highlight PHP’s advantages.

PHP vs. JavaScript (Node.js)

  • Ease of Server-Side Development: PHP was specifically designed for web development, making server-side scripting straightforward. Node.js, while powerful, requires a deeper understanding of JavaScript’s asynchronous programming model.
  • Built-in Web Development Features: PHP comes with a vast array of built-in functions specifically for web development, which can be more intuitive than the modular approach Node.js takes, where dependencies are managed through packages.
  • Shared Hosting Environments: PHP has broader support in shared hosting environments, making it a more cost-effective and accessible option for small to medium-sized websites compared to Node.js.

PHP vs. Python

  • Web-Specific Features: PHP’s focus on web development gives it an edge in this area over Python, which is a more general-purpose language. Python requires additional frameworks, like Django or Flask, for web development.
  • Performance in Web Applications: While Python excels in many areas, especially in data science and machine learning, PHP often shows better performance in server-side web application scenarios due to its specific optimization for web tasks.

PHP vs. Ruby (Ruby on Rails)

  • Resource Availability: PHP benefits from a larger market share and a vast pool of resources, including frameworks, libraries, and documentation. This abundance makes finding solutions and community support easier compared to Ruby.
  • Hosting and Deployment: PHP’s widespread adoption means more hosting options are readily available, often at lower costs compared to Ruby on Rails applications, which can require more specialized hosting solutions.

10 Criticisms of PHP: Factors Potentially Its Future

While PHP has carved out a significant niche in web development, it’s important to acknowledge and understand the criticisms it faces. Here, we explore some key challenges that PHP encounters:

1. Performance Issues Compared to Newer Languages

While PHP’s performance has seen significant improvements, particularly with the JIT compilation introduced in PHP 8, it still faces stiff competition from languages like Node.js and Go. These languages, especially Node.js, excel in handling more concurrent connections, a critical factor in applications that require heavy I/O operations.

Though PHP has narrowed the gap in general performance, it tends to lag in scenarios that demand real-time data handling or intensive concurrent processing.

2. Security Concerns

Historically, PHP has been vulnerable to various security issues, such as SQL injection and XSS attacks. Despite the enhancements in security in the latest PHP versions and the adoption of more secure coding practices, the shadow of these past vulnerabilities sometimes influences new developers or those considering migrating to PHP, especially when security is a top priority.

3. Modern Language Features

Compared to modern syntax and capabilities offered by languages like JavaScript (with its ES6 features) and Python (known for readability and simplicity), PHP is often perceived as catching up. Although PHP 7 and 8 have introduced features like type declarations and arrow functions, they are seen by some as reactive rather than innovative, which affects PHP’s appeal for certain new projects.

4. Rapid Evolution of Web Technologies

Web development is swiftly changing, with technologies like WebSockets for real-time communication being integrated more seamlessly into environments like Node.js. While PHP can work with these technologies, it often requires additional components or specific workarounds, making it a less efficient choice in some cases.

5. Perception Issues

PHP sometimes struggles with perception issues, not featuring among the top languages developers are keen to continue working with, as per recent surveys like Stack Overflow’s Developer Survey. This perception is influenced by the burgeoning popularity of modern languages and frameworks that are seen as more innovative or ‘trendy.’

6. Complexity in Large-Scale Applications

When it comes to managing large-scale, complex applications, especially those requiring robust microservices architectures, PHP is often not the first choice. Languages like Java and Go, with their inherent support for concurrency and microservices, are more commonly preferred. PHP’s traditional use in monolithic architectures can be a limiting factor for such complex application structures.

7. Talent Pool Shift

There’s a noticeable trend of emerging developers showing a growing interest in languages like Python, attributed to its versatility and applications in rapidly growing fields like data science.

This shift could potentially lead to a smaller pool of new PHP developers in the future, as the new wave of developers often gravitates towards languages that offer a broader range of applications beyond web development.

8. Compatibility and Legacy Code

A considerable number of PHP-based websites still run on outdated versions, posing security and compatibility challenges. The effort and resources required to modernize these legacy PHP applications can be substantial, prompting some organizations to consider transitioning to more modern technologies.

9. Difficulty in Modernizing the Language

PHP’s evolution, while significant, faces the challenge of balancing backward compatibility with new, advanced features. Major version updates in PHP have sometimes led to compatibility issues, necessitating code rewrites or extensive refactoring.

This balancing act can hinder PHP’s pace in adopting new programming paradigms compared to languages built with these paradigms from their inception.

10. Less Attractive for High-Performance, Real-Time Applications

In areas such as IoT and real-time interactive applications, PHP is often not the go-to language. Other technologies, notably Node.js and Python, provide better frameworks and libraries suited for these types of applications, which demand real-time, event-driven capabilities.

By examining these challenges in detail, we gain a comprehensive understanding of the areas where PHP faces competition and the factors that could impact its future relevance in the rapidly evolving world of programming and web development.

As we’ve dissected the various criticisms of PHP, it becomes clear that while PHP remains a robust tool in web development, it’s not without its challenges. Understanding these potential pitfalls is crucial for developers and businesses alike, as it guides informed decisions about using PHP in future projects.

PHP and Oyova’s Tailored Web Solutions

In sum, “Is PHP still relevant?” Yes, more than ever. Its adaptability, widespread use, and the sheer volume of websites and applications it powers speak to its enduring relevance.

At Oyova, we embrace this with a practical, human approach. Our team combines deep PHP expertise with a genuine understanding of your business needs, ensuring that our web development and web application development services are not just technically sound but also strategically aligned with your goals.

With Oyova, you’re getting more than just the benefits of custom PHP development; you’re partnering with a team that values your vision and is committed to bringing it to life. Ready to take your web presence to the next level with PHP? Let’s talk and make it happen.