Every web programmer has different opinions in what they think is the best web programming language for certain tasks. Speed, ease of use, flexibility, learning curve, popularity and feature list are a few criteria you can use in “judging” a programming language.
Take a look at the positives and negatives that I see with the PHP language.
PHP is a relatively new programming language. It showed up on the scene when the internet was just taking off. People have always had choices in different programming languages to use to produce websites.
You’ve got Microsoft (that uses different languages), Java, Python, Ruby on Rails and many others. But what makes PHP different is that unlike the others, it focuses on website development. It was made to easily integrate with HTML. It is free and very simple to install. It supports many different operating systems. All these factors contributed to what made PHP standout, and this is why it took off as fast as it did. To see how popular PHP is, take a look at how it compares to all of the other programming langues with the TIOBE Community Index. Keep in mind that this chart isn’t based on languages specific to web programming…which makes it very impress that PHP is #4.
Is PHP the best programming language to build websites with? I can’t answer that, and I don’t think there is a concrete answer that covers every scenario. Also, the definition of what is “best” changes depending on who you talk to. Some people think code development speed is the best factor. Others would consider the size of the open source community. Others are looking for more defined frameworks integrated into the system.
I think PHP is a good investment because it is not going to go anywhere. Unlike some of the other options, PHP has a huge open source community and is used by more than just a small group of niche programmers who come out with amazing websites with other technologies. If I am looking at investing into my future as a company, I am going to look for something where it will be the easiest to find a replacement programmer. If I pay for an awesome site created in a very niche programming language, and my programmers leave, it could up a major issue or expensive in finding a replacement.
I’ve programmed with other systems such as C# and ASP .Net, and none of these compare with where I think PHP is going. I’ve used a little bit of Ruby on Rails and Python (can you say Django). All these have different advantages, and there are a few that I believe improve the productivity and code development speed in producing websites. But I don’t know if these are going to be around 10-20 years from now. This isn’t to say that as a web programmer you shouldn’t learn these languages. In fact, you might find in learning these languages that you can double your salary at other companies. I wouldn’t limit myself to knowing only how to work with one language (even PHP) over a long period of time.
PHP does have weaknesses that are not present in some of the other web programming options. The flexibility that PHP offers, also means that the possibility for someone to write nasty code that works (for now) goes up greatly. Bugs that you would never have to debug for in other programming languages can come up and be a major pain to figure out.
Be educated in how you are investing your time. If you are paying someone to produce a website, make sure you know what languages they are using and be comfortable with what they are using in producing your website. If you are PHP programmer, great! Keep getting better, but don’t think that even PHP is 100% guaranteed to be hear in the long haul. You never know what might end up happening!