What is PHP?

In its most basic form, PHP is a programming language. Developers can use this open-source, server-side language to create various websites, whether they are web applications, dynamic websites or static websites. 

It’s a widely-used general-purpose language and can be embedded into HTML. Because of its relationship with HTML, it is a big draw for anyone interested in web development. Often, HTML code can be long, and it holds lots of commands. PHP helps because its pages contain HTML with embedded code, making a project much easier to manage.

What does PHP stand for?

PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. While the abbreviation may seem incorrect, it is not actually as complicated as it seems. The original name was Personal Home Page – which makes more sense of the abbreviation. 


The great news is that if you have a basic understanding of HTML, PHP will be relatively easy to learn. This is because it allows you to collect, process and utilise data to create output – basically, it allows you to interact with all your pages.

Difference between PHP and JavaScript

The main difference between the two is that JavaScript runs on the client (e.g. your browser), whereas PHP runs on your server, generating HTML, which is then sent to the client.

What can PHP do? 

PHP programming can be used to create most things that a software developer needs. However, there are three main areas in which it thrives. 

  • Server-side scripting
    Server-side Script is its main field. If you are an amateur practising at home, this is the way to do it.
  • Command-line scripting 
    Command-line scripting is ideal for scripts made using cron or Task Scheduler. It is also great for simple text processing.
  • Writing desktop applications
    It is probably not the best language to use to create desktop applications but for the advanced web developer, it provides you with many more options than its competitors.

Of course, it can do many other things. For example, it is excellent at collecting form data, encrypting user data and sending and receiving cookies. 

What do I need for PHP?

What you need will generally be on your desktop. It can be used on all major operating systems (Linux, Windows and Mac OS X, to name a few). It also supports many of the most widely-used servers, meaning you’ll have the luxury of choice if you decide to use it.

Declining in popularity

As a language, it is still relatively popular among software developers. However, it is a language in decline with so much choice now available. According to PYPL (PopularitY of Programming Language), it is ranked as the sixth most popular coding language in the world. Following is the order based on popularity. This list is created based on how often language tutorials are searched for on Google. 


  1. Python
  2. Java
  3. JavaScript
  4. C#
  5. C/C+
  6. PHP
  7. R
  8. Objective-C
  9. Swift
  10. TypeScript


The TIOBE Index ranks it in tenth place. 

  1. Python
  2. C
  3. Java
  4. C++
  5. C#
  6. Visual Basic
  7. JavaScript
  8. Assembly language
  9. SQL
  10. PHP

Stack Overflow

According to Stack Overflow, which surveyed more than 80,000 developers, they reckon it is the 11th most popular language, as follows. 

  1. JavaScript
  3. Python
  4. SQL
  5. Java
  6. Node.JS
  7. TypeScript
  8. C#
  9. Bash/Shell
  10. C++
  11. PHP

Who uses PHP?

PHP was created by a Danish-Canadian called Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994. Even though it has been around for quite some time, it is still used among some well-known companies. Below are some of the companies that use it. 

  • Facebook
  • Wikipedia
  • WordPress
  • Etsy
  • Slack

Advantages of PHP

First and foremost, PHP is open-source, which means it is free to use. Apart from it being open source, there are other advantages.

  • It is cross-platform.
  • Many developers understand it – an easy-to-reach community.
  • It works brilliantly with HTML.
  • As a language, it is relatively easy to learn. 
  • It is compatible with modern servers.
  • There are plenty of tools available.
  • It offers great load times for websites. 

Learning PHP

Undoubtedly, the best thing about PHP is that it’s easy to pick up for novices while having all of the advanced features that a seasoned professional could ask for. Its abilities are not restricted to HTML either – you can produce anything from an image to flash movies.

Learn HTML

Before you learn PHP, it is hugely beneficial to learn HTML first. As part of Code Institute’s Full-Stack Development programme, it teaches HTML. Code Institute also offers a free course that teaches the basics of HTML called the 5 Day Coding Challenge. Register for the free challenge now through the form below.

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