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What is PHP? What is It Used for?

by Pranisha Rai
What is Php? PHP used for
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Over 77.4% of websites use PHP for server-side development. PHP is considered as one of the oldest programming languages that powers websites of all sizes. Despite being one of the old server side scripting language, the adoption rate of PHP is consistent over the years. In this article, we will explore what is PHP and what is it used for. So, without further ado let’s dive in!

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What is PHP?

PHP is a general-purpose server-side scripting language that runs under the Zend engine. During its inception, it was used to build a personal homepage, but the language was recognized for its potential. Thus, Rasmus Lerdorf added more functionalities and later launched it for public use. He named it as Hypertext Preprocessor. Using PHP, developers can create diverse projects, from blogs to e-commerce platforms, content management systems, and image processing.

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Advantages of PHP

Advantages of PHP
  • Open source: It means anyone can access its source code and use or alter it, as well as redistribute it for free.  
  • Beginner-Friendly: PHP is not overwhelming for beginners. If you are familiar with any programming language, you can pick it up quickly.  
  • Community Support: The PHP community is mature and super supportive. Besides that, its documentation can provide great help in fixing errors and providing guides to using its features.  
  • Platform-Independent: PHP can smoothly run on different operating systems, such as Windows, MAC, and Linux.  
  • Easily Connects with All Databases: When working with PHP, developers can connect with all databases, from relational to non-relational, from MYSQL, MongoDB, Postgres, to other popular databases without any extra fuss.
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Disadvantages of PHP

Disadvantages of PHP
  • Fewer Debugging Options: PHP error handling lacks effective features. Debugging tools that are available in PHP do not catch errors properly. Because of this, developers are left to deal with poor error handling management.    
  • Lacks Robust Security: Since PHP is open source, anyone can view and easily access it. This leads to high security concerns and increases the risk of SQL Injection, XSS (Cross-Site Scripting), and session hacking. 
  • Limitations in Modification and Customization: PHP offers limited customization options for working with advanced technologies such as big data and machine learning. Implementing any modifications to the website is quite challenging. 
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What is PHP Used for?

PHP is widely used to build server side of web applications, such as connecting with databases, validating user input, and handling real-time updates. It can also be used along with cron (Linux) and Task Scheduler (Windows) for command-line scripting. But its great strength lies in server-side scripting. The following are the areas that PHP is commonly used for: 

  • User Authentication: PHP is used to implement user authentication while building web applications, such as username and password validations and two-step verifications.
  • Cookie Authentication and Handling: If you’re a web developer, then you must be aware of the significance cookies have in web development. In simple words, cookies let websites remember user’s preferences and stay logged in even if they temporarily close their browser. PHP uses PHP sessions to handle cookie-based login sessions. A perfect example of this is an e-commerce site where users can keep their products in the cart and keep them as long as they want.  
  • Generate Graphics: Developers can even create images in JEPG files in few lines of code. PHP has a standard library called GD Library Functions. Graphics can pretty much be handled by JavaScript and HTML 5 nowadays. But at the same time, the backend image operation is still widely used. A good example of this is a WordPress plugin to compress images to speed up page load time.  
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What are the Benefits of using PHP?

Benefitsof PHP

PHP is well-known for its versatility and extensive capability. The following are its diverse use cases for various domains:  

  1. Web App Development: Like every programming language, PHP also has frameworks such as Laravel, Symphony, and CodeIgniter. By using this framework, developers can create scalable, dynamic, and interactive web applications quickly. On top of that, PHP can easily integrate with any database, so data handling in web applications is super smooth.

  2. Server-side scripting: PHP can integrate with HTML smoothly, so developers can directly embed PHP code into web pages. It supports and interacts well with a wide range of databases. Therefore, apps can efficiently retrieve, store, and manipulate data. Moreover, it can run on any OS and server thanks to its cross-platform nature. 

  3. E-commerce Sites: PHP allows dynamic content management for e-commerce sites that facilitate smooth real-time updates of product prices and promotional content. Its secure payment gateway provides a secure and streamlined online shopping experience for users. Besides, its efficient performance during high traffic and transactions is commendable. 

  4. Dynamic Websites: PHP, being a server-side scripting language, can process user interaction, generate dynamic content on-demand for each site visitor, and seamlessly interact with the database. Thus, through PHP, developers can create highly dynamic websites that can capture user input and provide real-time updates. This way, sites created using PHP will not only be interactive but can also offer their users a personalized experience. 

  5. Data Analytics and Reporting Tools: PHP supports custom reporting solutions, data visualization features, and data processing. By using this feature, users can create impressive graphs, charts, and reports easily. With custom reporting tailored to the user-specific analytical needs. Data processing, on the other hand, aids in managing and manipulating large datasets.  
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Top companies using PHP

Tech giants like Facebook, WordPress, Drupal, and other web hosting platforms use PHP to run their servers. Have a look at the following incredible use cases of PHP:

  • Facebook: A popular social networking site Facebook is built using PHP. Later, to improve the PHP code’s performance, Facebook created a tool called HipHop. This tool helps PHP applications run faster with fewer system resources.
  • Content Management System (CMS): WordPress, Magento, Drupal, and Joomla are built using PHP.
  • Yahoo: It started to use PHP in 2002 for scaling its sites and reduced costs.
  • Web Hosting Platforms: Whogohost, Site Ground, and BlueHost run their hosting server using PHP.
  • MailChimp: It relies on PHP to support more than 12 million customers (about twice the population of Arizona).
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Is PHP relevant in 2024?

There are other languages for server-side scripting, but regardless, PHP stands out as the most popular and widely used scripting language today. When used with other coding languages, PHP executes way more quickly than any other scripting language. On top of that, it uses memory, and the server workload gets automatically reduced. Even though it has critical disadvantages like fewer debugging tools and limitations on modification, PHP as a language is still trendy.  

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PHP is easy to learn, seamlessly integrates with any database, and its supportive community makes the creation of dynamic websites easy.

PHP is used for writing backend code for websites. Whenever the page is requested by the user, the server parses the PHP code, which results in a dynamically created HTML page.

PHP is called a scripting language because it runs on a server and is interpreted by the server during runtime.

The server processes the PHP code, and the browser displays the result received from the server in HTML format.


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