This is the fourth of five predictions for 2008, expanded from the short form generated on short notice as described here.
Prediction · The short version:
PHP will remain popular but its growth will slow, as people get nervous about its maintainability and security stories.
Ambivalent, that’s me; I totally have a love/hate relationship with PHP.
Yes, ... · It’s enabled huge numbers of people to create decent Web sites without having to learn too much or try too hard; a very good thing. Also, it runs pretty fast. Plus, it’s been used to build some of the most instructive and useful apps out there, like MediaWiki and WordPress.
So I totally think PHP has earned its huge community and thriving ecosystem fair and square; good on it.
... and No · On the other hand, speaking as an actual computer programmer, I really dislike PHP. I find it ugly and un-modular and there’s something about it that encourages people to write horrible code. We’re talking serious maintainability pain.
Also, I observe a certain amount of tension involving the community and Zend. Symptoms may be observed, among other places, at hardened-php.net. I was going to drop in a wry comment about the elusiveness of “The PHP Group” who own all the copyrights and so on, and just now failed to find a pointer to the page which lists them (I know it exists, I’ve seen it), so I guess that’s self-referentially wry enough. And you have to raise your eyebrows over the course of the transition from PHP4 to PHP5.
Finally, some recent hands-on experience: a big project I’m peripherally involved with needed to include an outward-facing Wiki, and I suggested that MediaWiki was damn good stuff. They put in quite a bit of work and failed to get MW to integrate with the rest of the system. Yes, it’s a good wiki, but it shouldn’t have been that hard to make it play nice with others, and I got the impression that the PHP-ness of it was a big part of the problem.
I Could Be Wrong · At the 2006 Zend conference, Andi or Zeev (I forget which) took a question about Rails and said “Ruby is appropriate for computer-science-loving people who have a puristic attitude.” Maybe that’s all there is to it.
Under My Sun Hat · I think we need to do a much better job of supporting PHP natively in Solaris and NetBeans and so on up and down the stack. But at the same time, I can’t honestly encourage people to use it for building anything new.
And I think I’m far from alone in that impression.