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08 June 2010, 16:15

15 years of PHP

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PHP Logo Fifteen years ago today, on the 8th of June, 1995, Rasmus Lerdorf launched PHP with a post to the comp.infosystems.www.authoring.cgi Usenet news group. He announced version 1.0 of his "Personal Home Page Tools", software that was originally intended for managing job applications on a web site. As Lerdorf made the tools available as open source code (originally under the GPL, since version 4.0 under the PHP Licence) his PHP software, written in C, was bound to find a wide audience.

Current PHP software no longer has much in common with the original 1.0 release. "Serious" applications only became possible with PHP/FI (FI is for "Form Interpreter"), which was released as version 2.0 in November 1997. However, even then only seasoned hardcore developers used this scripting language that allowed the addition of dynamic content to otherwise static HTML pages.

The big breakthrough of PHP came with the arrival of version 3.0, which was released on the 6th of June, 1998. With this version, PHP development became the task of not just one, but several developers. Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, the founders of Zend Technologies, had rewritten the code base for this version, bringing it up-to-date and making it even faster.

It would still be some time before modern concepts like object-oriented programming would be integrated into the language but when version 4.0 was released on the 22nd of May, 2000, PHP offered not only object-oriented programming, but also the Zend Engine, a combined interpreter and compiler which uses a two-step approach to interpret and compile the program code and then execute the resulting opcodes via a bytecode-like mechanism. This discernibly improved the performance of the language.

PHP didn't just want to conquer the web, a CLI (command line interface) was integrated into the language with the 4.30 release in December 2002. This allowed PHP to be executed on the command line without bulky CGI overheads, parameters to be parsed with ease and many other advancements to be implemented. Developers who previously had to write additional shell scripts for such tasks as software deployment were now able to use PHP, which gave them easy access to already existing components.

The language's most important turning point was likely the release of PHP 5.0 in 2004. The new Zend Engine II was given an enhanced object model and many extensions as well as modern language constructs, such as namespaces, closures and Late Static Bindings and native PHP archives, were included in subsequent versions, particularly in version 5.3.0, released in June 2009.

The development of PHP 6.0 has been on the agenda for the past two years. It is expected to offer full unicode support that allows even method names to be written in other languages such as Chinese. However, the developers have repeatedly encountered difficulties, which has caused various related functions to "remigrate" to version 5.3. What great features version 6 will offer and whether it will be the planned "unicode release" has been left open by the developers. (Björn Schotte)

See also:

(Björn Schotte / crve)

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