Who wants to be a PHP Developer?

So PHP is this programming language that's widely used, and often reviled by systems administrators and people who fancy theme selves "real programmers." And yet, I think, while the "real programmers" were busy being "real," PHP got something very fundamental right that explains its success despite the disdain.

I should interject with some context. First, I think this is another in my ongoing series of posts regarding linguistic relativism and computer programming. Second, for those of you who don't spend your days in this space PHP is a programming language designed specifically for use in the context of the web, and it has only comparatively recently emerged as a possibility for "general programming tasks," in contrast to other languages in "the space" (ruby, python, perl, etc.) which started as general purpose languages that have become common for use for web programming. Also as a computer language, there's nothing particularly innovative about PHP, which earns it no small amount of ire.

So here's the thing. PHP is easy. It's designed to be easy. The syntax is familiar to people who are know even a little Perl or other C-like languages. Although the language has had object oriented support for several years, most PHP applications aren't written in an object oriented manner and in a number of contexts that makes things a bit easier to understand.

And here's the thing that I seem to notice in the context of administration: compared to other languages and frameworks, PHP is dead simple to deploy. Sure, everything under big loads becomes complex, and sure PHP applications consume more server resources than perhaps they should, but basically you configure a web-server to process PHP code, and then you write your code, inside of your page, and the web server generates what you need it to, and it just works. You don't have to screw around with writing boilerplate CGI stuff, you don't have to screw around with cgi-bins/ and script aliases which were never intuitive, you don't need special servers, it just works.

And I already know that, someone is going to tell me that there's a Perl module that lets you use perl in the same way, or that Python and Ruby don't make you write CGI boilerplate either (or that there's a Perl module to write the CGI boilerplate). And I know these things, but I'm not sure that it matters anymore. PHP, as a language is written around the needs of web development, and there's merit in that.

I'm not saying, "go forth and write your next application in PHP:" I don't even know if dynamic web applications are worth writing anymore. I am saying that despite all of the dreck in the PHP space, there are some things that are incredibly worthwhile that the current generation of web developers may miss.

That is all. For now. Onward and Upward!

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