You’ve probably heard people talking about scripting languages and programming languages. They have existed for a while now but the sheer expansion that the internet has seen over the past decade has really brought them to the fore.
Many might find the subject to be daunting but what’s more important to realize is that they’re the building blocks of a lot of services that we use on a daily basis.
A scripting language is simply a language that provides written instructions for a run time environment. These instructions don't require compilation as they're interpreted. All scripting languages can be called programming languages.
The biggest benefit of scripting languages is that they're relatively easy to learn even for those who don't have pre-existing knowledge of web technology.
What is PHP?
PHP stands for Hypertext Preprocessor. It's one of the most widely used open-source scripting languages. A Danish-Canadian programmer called Rasmus Lerdorf originally created it in 1994.
It's often used for web development as it can be embedded into HTML. This server-side scripting language can be used to create both static and dynamic websites as well as web applications. These scripts can only be interpreted on a server on which PHP has been installed while users that access the scripts only require a web browser.
So why do so many people use PHP? One of the biggest reasons for its popularity is that it's open-source and free. It also has a much shorter learning curve which means that it's a great starting point for beginners. PHP is also a very cost-effective option for developers as most web hosting servers have default support for PHP.
- Support for multiple platforms
PHP has support for multiple platforms. This cross-platform support is one of its biggest advantages. Applications based on PHP can be executed on several different platforms and most operating systems also support this scripting language. These operating systems can not only be used to write PHP code but also to view pages or applications created with PHP.
- A large community of specialists
Given that it’s widely used, there’s a massive community of PHP specialists that actively engages to provide support and guidance. Companies looking for PHP developers can easily find highly skilled candidates at competitive rates.
- Faster load times
Many website developers prefer PHP because it makes the pages load faster compared to other technologies used for web development. For example, PHP is almost three times faster than Python for most use cases. Faster load times aren't just great for the user experience but are also believed to help the website achieve a higher rank in search engine results.
- Fewer dedicated libraries
PHP does come with its own set of libraries but they can often feel insufficient, particularly with regards to modern technologies. For example, artificial intelligence in undoubtedly the future, and while Python is a great option for web apps that need machine learning, the same can't be said for PHP.
- Poor Error Handling
Many developers are of the view that the error handling quality of PHP is quite poor. It doesn't have robust debugging tools that are required to search for these errors and any associated warnings. There are nearly not as many debugging tools for PHP as there are available for other programming languages.
- Security weaknesses
There's no denying that the open-source nature of PHP is great but over the years, this has led to some security concerns, particularly revolving around code vulnerabilities. Since it is open-source, code vulnerabilities can be widely reported soon after they're found. That means that in the time that they have been revealed and subsequently fixed, any programmer can exploit those vulnerabilities.
- Familiar Syntax
There's an abundance of resources available to developers who want to learn this scripting language. It's backed by a thriving community as well, further driving a sense of familiarity for developers.
It's also possible to create rich interfaces with the language. This can include drag and drop features, interface components like buttons, sliders, and more to enhance the look and feel of a web page.
- Security concerns
- Browser support issues
Therefore problems can arise with certain browsers, particularly older browsers, that don't have support for some new functions. The best way to go about this is to test across all major browsers just to ensure that there would be no problems for the user.
- Keeping track of libraries
For developers, this can result in additional work since they will need to put in additional work on their project just so that it can adapt to the changes that were made to the libraries.
Which should you use?
If only web pages need to be made, then consider PHP. Even though it’s a general-purpose programming language, PHP is now mostly used for developing dynamic web pages because some of the most popular content management systems like WordPress use it as well.
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