25 Years of PHP, and Why It Will Continue to Be Crucial to WordPress

PHP is celebrating its 25th birthday this week, or 25 years since its creator Rasmus Lerdorf released version 1.0 of the “Personal Home Page Tools”.

Currently known as PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, the language is used by nearly 80% of all the websites for which W3Techs can detect the server-side programming language. WordPress, in particular, makes for 37.3% of these websites. Websites such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Yahoo, however, also use it in some forms.

The language has been on a small decline recently, with its peak being registered in January 2015 at 80.6%. Nonetheless, the language is constantly being improved, with new versions released regularly. The latest version of PHP is 7.3.

Why is PHP so popular and important?

One of the reasons for PHP’s popularity is how easy it is how find good web hosting for PHP-based websites. This is perhaps the main reason for its large marketshare, WP Tavern explains.

It is noteworthy that Matt Mullenweg, the American entrepreneur known for developing the free and open-source web software WordPress, shared in a 2017 interview that he appreciated how PHP and MySQL provided a user-friendly platform for users to run WordPress anywhere in the world:

PHP is amazing in its ubiquity. Part of the reason I switched to it from Perl and Python and other things that I wrote early on, is just, it was so; it’s integration with Apache web servers, which is so darn easy. You didn’t have to mess with file permissions and everything else in the same way, and then every web host supporting it also make distribution easy, Mullenweg said.

Last year, during a Q&A session at WordCamp Europe, Mullenweg said that he believed that “PHP is going to be crucial to us for many years to come.”

Keep PHP up-to-date

In many cases, WordPress bloggers and site owners have been slow to upgrade to the latest versions, but fortunately Site Health was introduced last year to improve this process.

As pointed out by WordPress.org, it is crucial to keep the language up-to-date all-year-round. The two main reasons for keeping up with the update hygiene are the following:

  • Running the latest version will make your website more efficient and faster in its performance. The current latest version is 7.3, so make sure to check if you’re running it. It is much faster than older versions.
  • Running the latest version will also make your website more secure. “PHP, like WordPress, is maintained by its community. Because PHP is so popular, it is a target for hackers – but the latest version will have the latest security features. Older versions of PHP do not have this, so updating is essential to keep your WordPress site secure,” says WordPress.org.

So, double check the version of your PHP – it should be 7.3. And happy 25!

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