New languages always have to prove themselves. Listen to some old
programmers, and there was never a need to go further than MUMPS. (But
luckily, no one listens.) Others claim that no text processing
language can outdo Icon or Snobol. I never thought I’d be editing
material on Forth for an O’Reilly book, but danged if author John
Catsoulis didn’t decide it was just the ticket for an embedded systems
designer in his new edition of
Designing Embedded Hardware.
Stop it, Andy! You’re not here to sell books today. You’re
here because your buddy Zak Greant let you know that PHP is seeing
its tenth anniversary today, and is coordinating a worldwide movement
honor and thank
its creator, Rasmus Lerdorf.
Anyway, new languages have to prove themselves, particularly because
they usually borrow from the past and represent incremental
improvements. Was Java a necessary improvement over C++, and was C# a
necessary improvement over either of those? Did Python build on the
best of Perl or was it blind to Perl’s charms, and is Ruby the final
installment in this succession of scripting languages?
The old folks always feel resentment at the success of the new
platform, and this certainly goes for me and many Perl programmers
since the advent of PHP. But evolution means a change in both the
organism and the environment: the organism that thrives is the one
that adapts to its environment. And since the major forum for
exercising a scripting language in the 1990s became the CGI Web
interface, PHP represented a near-ideal evolutionary adaptation to
that environment. (SOAP has not challenged CGI’s dominance as the
paradigm for interactive Web programming.) Use the Web and CGI, and
you’ll want PHP.
(Hint: it integrates with Web pages very much like all the other
frameworks for embedding dynamically executed code in a Web page.)
That’s why .php is one of the most common suffixes now in
URLs, and why PHP’s PEAR repository of useful packages has in a short
time grown to enormous dimensions.
The experts say Java or .NET is a more robust framework. If you’ve got
the time, go right ahead and use them. PHP is the disruptive cousin in
the technology family. It makes it easy for ordinary folks to set up
Web pages the way users want them these days: interactive, responsive,
and customized. PHP helps keep the Web democratic.
We are still benefitting from grass-roots Web innovation–scruffy,
unpretentious, and just plain fun–thanks to Rasmus’s modest but
highly insightful scripting innovations. And he even wrote a
book for O’Reilly. (Stop it, Andy!)