PHP in 2007: Serious Business
December 31st, 2007 by Ivo
Unfortunately, Derick Rethans just announced that this year he will do no more PHP lookback. Derick: thanks for the years that you wrote them, and let's hope someone else will take over.
When I look back at 2007, what strikes me most is how strong a foothold PHP has gained in business environments. Sure, overall PHP usage has been steadily growing as always, but PHP is seen more and more in large corporations. Sometimes next to java (a common scenario is a java J2EE backend with a PHP frontend), but sometimes it's just PHP. I have encountered publishing agencies, retailers, manufacturers and even large insurance companies. They are running internal applications on PHP, and although often their external websites are pretty plain, their internal systems are very critical systems, with cashflows that are depending entirely on applications written in PHP.
I think what we see happening here is very similar to what happened to Linux a few years ago. Started as someone's hobby, adopted by enthousiasts, then for a while growing in popularity as an important OS in internet environments, and finally making its way into the enterprise. It has happened to Linux, to Apache (and its spin-off projects), it is now happening to PHP and I predict for 2008 that we will also see MySQL moving more and more into that direction (it's ubiquitous on the internet already, it just needs to take the leap to the enterprise).
Some say that Ruby was a big threat to PHP in 2007 (thanks to the Ruby on Rails framework). I have flirted a bit with Ruby myself, and language-wise, it's much cleaner and consistent. However, selecting a programming language is not just about the language. It's about factors such as community support, learning curve, installed base, companies supporting it and many more factors, and I think PHP has proven to be pretty strong in that area.
A fact supporting the statement that PHP has become 'serious business' in 2007 is the availability and adoption of 'enterprise' tools. Zend, for example, has always catered to the developer with tools such as their Zend Studio IDE and projects such as Zend Framework, but now they also have tools that the managers of those developers will like, such as Zend Core and Zend Platform; tools focusing on things like productivity, scalability, reliability and several other business-friendly *ity words. This is in line with other components of the LAMP stack: there's already 'Enterprise Linux' and 'Enterprise MySQL'. Zend positions Zend Platform as 'Enterprise PHP' (they're just not calling it that yet ). It's natural for a company like Zend to move into this direction. I hope that more PHP companies will follow suit and release professional products around PHP, there's definitely a market for tools.
I think however that still the biggest driving force behind PHP aren't the companies, but the community. It's the community that leads; businesses just follow. With many conferences in 2007, it's clear that there's a big PHP community. The community is not just the 'celebrities' that write the language or that speak at conferences, it's everybody working with PHP. I've met many people from the community this year, and hope to meet even more next year.
It's great to be a part of this community!
P.S. It would also be nice to have another PHP Throwdown competition next year, and it would be nice if someone would actually win this time (hi Elizabeth! ).