Skip to content

Contact sales

By filling out this form and clicking submit, you acknowledge our privacy policy.

What is the PHP programming language?

PHP excels at almost any web project you’re building—whether it's a website, CMS, online store, or an image processing or data collection application.

Jun 08, 2023 • 5 Minute Read

Please set an alt value for this image...
  • Software Development
  • Cloud

Say hello to one of the most polarizing programming languages out there, PHP. Revered by some and despised by others, platform-independent PHP powers some of the world’s biggest websites. In this post from our Programming Languages for the Cloud series, we’ll explore PHP’s advantages, pitfalls, and many powerful use cases. Let’s begin!

Accelerate your career

Get started with ACG and transform your career with courses and real hands-on labs in AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and beyond.

History of PHP

The year was 1994, the early days of the public internet. Animated gifs were still three years away, cat videos on YouTube were 10 years out, and Danish-Canadian programmer Rasmus Lerdorf was writing common Gateway Interface Programs in C to power his personal homepage. 

Extending this work to run web forms and connect to databases, Rasmus coined the term “Personal Home Page/Forms Interpreter,” or PHP/FI (which later became just PHP). The first major implementations of the language were rather accidental. To quote the originator himself, “I don’t know how to stop it. There was never any intent to write a programming language. I have absolutely no idea how to write a programming language.” PHP was never conceived to be a language on its own. However, over the past three decades it has come to power some of the largest websites in the world, including Facebook, WordPress, Etsy, Wikipedia, and Flickr.

What can I use PHP for?

PHP is optimized and tuned for web development, which is why cloud platforms love it. In PHP, you can build secure, high-performing, and scalable web applications. There are many programming frameworks, such as Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter, to help you get started with your PHP application. These Frameworks help with securing your application, reusing templates for common tasks and features, and enforcing architecture patents. It doesn't matter what kind of web project you’re building—a website, CMS, online store, or an image processing or data collection application—PHP excels at all of them.

There are also lots of integrated development environments or IDEs to help you develop amazing PHP applications. The most popular are PhpStorm, Sublime Text, and Atom, but there are many others to choose from.

PHP is a scripting language like JavaScript, Python, or Ruby, which means the PHP code runs on any server that has a PHP interpreter installed. 

Why is PHP so popular?

  • General-purpose flexibility 

While many languages are designed for specific purposes, PHP is known as general-purpose. With PHP, you can build almost any type of web application, the process is quick, and it will run anywhere. 

  • Tons of frameworks, libraries, and pre-made code

PHP comes with vast numbers of frameworks, libraries, and pre-made code segments that you can use at your own will... or sometimes peril. It’s easy to get started with PHP and create your World Wide Web domination, but it’s just as easy to make a real mess! Code segments that would typically throw warnings and errors in other languages can be valid in PHP, and may generate some unexpected results. However, this polarizing feature of PHP is also one of the language’s great strengths, creating some of the best-performing web applications on the internet. 

  • Cloud compatibility

All major cloud platforms support PHP as a primary language. PHP is used in millions of cloud applications worldwide.

Cloud Dictionary

Get the Cloud Dictionary of Pain
Speaking cloud doesn’t have to be hard. We analyzed millions of responses to ID the top concepts that trip people up. Grab this cloud guide for succinct definitions of some of the most painful cloud terms.

Why should I learn PHP?

PHP is a very mature and popular language. It’s also:

  • Widely used and open source

The 2021 Stack Overflow Developer Survey showed that 22% of professional developers use PHP in their day jobs. PHP is free to use and open source. Most of the tools you’ll use with it are also free. 

  • Platform-independent

PHP is platform-independent, working on Unix, Linux, Windows, and Mac. You can use PHP for any modern web application.

  • Super fast

PHP is considered to be one of the fastest web languages around. I mean, why else would the social media behemoth Facebook and Wikipedia (our favorite open encyclopedia) use PHP?

That’s all the PHP that’s fit to print… for now. Keep an eye out for more tasty morsels from our Programming Languages for the Cloud series. In the meantime, start your ACG free trial or check out this month’s free cloud training. You can also subscribe to A Cloud Guru on YouTube for weekly cloud news, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and join the conversation on Discord.