PHP is a recursive acronym for ‘Hypertext Preprocessor’ although the origin of the name is disputed (see below). It was one of the first web scripting languages with code that could be easily embedded into a web page’s HTML, enabling the addition of functionality without recourse to external data files. It is an all-purpose programming language used to create interactive, dynamic websites.

PHP was created in 1994 as a set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) binaries by Rasmus Lerdorf who used it to monitor traffic to his online CV and named it ‘Personal Home Page Tools’, or PHP Tools. For a time it was renamed ‘Forms Interpreter’ to reflect its core function but over the years it developed into the major web scripting language it is today.

How Does it Work?

PHP is a server-side language, which means it interprets scripts on the server, not the client device. This allows it to create customised interfaces for all users and its functionality is more sophisticated than that of HTML. It is an interpreted language, unlike C# and Javascript. When a user requests access to a web page, the page forwards that request to the PHP interpreter, which loads the PHP code, parses it and then executes it, delivering the page as instructed.

The death of PHP has long been predicted, but it has been in existence for over 25 years and although web technology has evolved significantly in that time, PHP is still used on over 70% of websites that have a server-side programming language. Neither has it stood still. PHP’s latest versions are faster than ever and it performs extremely well with platforms such as WordPress and ecommerce plugins. In addition, PHP remains very popular with developers, which should guarantee its future.

PHP not only functions on various platforms including Windows, Linux and Unix but also works with major databases including Oracle, PostgreSQL and MySQL. It is open source, therefore free to use, and relatively easy to learn. 

Because it can be inserted directly into HTML code it is an ideal tool for web creation. Furthermore, because it operates on the server side it need only be installed on the server, which means client devices can access services with nothing but a standard web browser, with no requirement to have PHP installed.