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PHP 5 Pushes Forward

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Software

Started just over ten years ago, the PHP programming language has become the most popular programming language for web application development. PHP 5, the most recent release, adds even more features — all the while remaining approachable to novices. But don’t let the friendly facade fool you — Fortune 500 companies are taking notice, too. Here’s a look at the life of PHP 5 so far.

A little over ten years ago this past June, Rasmus Lerdorf posted a message to Usenet group comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi titled “Announce: Personal Home Page Tools (PHP Tools). ” His message, announcing the release of PHP 1.0, highlighted a number of language features that, for the time, were in great demand: the ability to log traffic, process form data, and display “last access” timestamps on web pages, all of which were nothing short of black magic to web developers that were enthusiatic but plagued with a lack of tools to turn their ideas into reality. Rasmus concluded his post with a note that PHP was being released under the GNU Public License, further punctuating the point by exclaiming, “Yes, that means[ it’s] free! ” 20,478,788 users later (according to Netcraft.com), the rest is history.

Confirming Rasmus’ suspicion that if he found such tools useful, others might too, his decision to release the software under an open source license prompted a slew of language contributions, and a team of developers soon assembled to spearhead the language’s further evolution and maturation. The outcome is a model example of how an open source project can truly thrive. For what started out as a personal project by a software development contractor interested in monitoring access to his online resume, PHP has since become the most popular web scripting language in the world, used by hobbyists and Fortune 500 corporations alike.

As PHP’s user community has grown, so has its capabilities, with the latest release, PHP 5.0, offering over 140 libraries totalling well over 1,000 functions capable of handling an impressive array of tasks, including database and e-commerce integration, complex date, string, and file manipulation, and XML parsing and transformation. Another 117 extensions are available in the PECL PHP Extensions repository (http://pecl.php.net/), and still several hundred more packages that extend the language available at the PHP Extension and Application Repository (better known as PEAR, located online at http://pear.php.net/). Of course, this doesn’t take into account the countless third-party applications made available through disparate web sites, nor the 11,122 PHP-driven projects managed through Sourceforge.net (http://www.sourceforge.net/).

Even ten years after the 1.0 release, community activity is nothing short of extraordinary. The most recent telling evidence of the language’s continued success is the July 2004 release of PHP 5.0.

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