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A brief history of PHP

What is PHP?

PHP is a programming language used by web developers to build dynamic websites that are able to interact with the database. It is mostly used to develop web-based software. There are a lot of dynamic web pages present on the internet. As PHP is the fundamental of a dynamic webpage, it is a widely known technology in the IT Industry.

PHP began as a small open source project. It became popular as more and more people came to know its usefulness. The very first version of PHP was formulated by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994.

The Origin

Rasmus Lerdorf started developing PHP in 1994. A lot of CGI programs were written by him which were used for maintenance of his personal website. He modified these programs to make them work with web forms and to interact with databases. The implementation of this modification was termed as “Personal Home Page/Forms Interpreter” (PHP/FI). The first version of PHP/FI was made available to the world by Lerdorf in June 1995 for Bug Reporting and Code Improvement. Features like Form Handling, Variables similar to Perl and HTML embedding were present in this first version.


After the first version of PHP/FI, a development team formed which worked for months to finally release official version 2 of PHP/FI in late 1997 after a lot of beta testing. As PHP was developed organically, there was a lot of inconsistency in function names and parameter order. While in early versions of PHP, functions were named to enhance the distribution of hash values, in later versions function names were selected to match lower-level libraries that were being wrapped by PHP.


The parser was rewritten in 1997 by Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans which led to the formation of PHP 3 base. After changing its name to PHP which meant Hypertext Preprocessor, its public testing was started. PHP 3 was officially launched in June 1998. A fresh rewriting of the PHP core was again started by Zeev and Andi. In 1999, they produced the Zend Engine and also established Zend Technologies in Israel.


Zend Engine 1.0 powered PHP 4 was released in May 2000. PHP 4 reached its version 4.4.9 in August 2008.


Powered by Zend Engine 2, PHP 5 was launched in July 2004. It had features like PDO Extension, improved support for OOPS and many other performance improvements. PHP was able to become the only stable version by 2008. A consortium of PHP developers started the GoPHP5 initiative which promoted the transition from PHP 4 to PHP 5. As a result of this, many open-source projects stopped the PHP 4 support in their new code.

PHP 6 (Never Released)

Due to the lack of support for native Unicode, PHP received mixed reviews. A project was initiated in 2005 to introduce native Unicode support through PHP. This project was headed by Andrei Zmievski. As it would require major changes, it was decided to launch this update as a new version naming it PHP 6.0. But the shortage of developers who understood the necessary changes resulted in the delay of the project. Considering this delay, PHP 5.3 was released in 2009 which included many features from the PHP 6 project. The project development was stopped in March 2010.


Another major version of PHP was developed in 2014 and 2015. This version was termed as PHP 7 which caused some confusion as PHP 6 was never released. PHP 7 was also known as PHP next generation(phpng). The aim of this version was to optimize the performance by refactoring the Zend Engine and preserving the near-complete language compatibility. In July 2014, benchmarks showed a nearly 100% increase in performance. The reworked Zend Engine is called Zend Engine 3 due to some notable changes.

PHP is a very useful tool to tackle any number of projects. At present, it is used by many popular software products to run blogs or forums. Most commonly, it is used to make web pages that need to interact with the database for their functioning.

If you have skills in PHP programming and you want to enhance your career in this field, a PHP certification from StudySection can help you reach your desired goals. Both beginner level and expert level PHP certification exams are offered by StudySection along with other programming certification exams.

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