PHP, which is a recursive acronym for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, is a scripting language specifically applied to the server-side in the creation of dynamic web pages. Though its main application is in website development, it can also find use as a general-purpose programming language.  A basis for many web applications, PHP can be easily incorporated into HTML codes, and aids connection to MySQL and PgSQL databases.


The development of PHP, originally called Personal Homepage Page, began in 1995 with Rasmus Lerdorf writing several Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programs in C, which he utilised for the maintenance of his personal homepage. Proceeding to make them work with web forms and to interact with databases, Lerdorf named his ingenious technique “Personal Home Page” and “Forms Interpreter”.

PHP/FI was able to build simple, dynamic web applications, and hasten the process of bug reporting while also improving the code. On June 8, 1995, Lerdorf announced the release of PHP/FI as “Personal Home Page Tools version 1.0” on the Usenet discussion group ‘comp .infosystems.www.authoring.cgi’.

Its basic functionality that included form handling, HTML linking, and Perl-like variables was similar to the conventional PHP released for mainstream use later. In fact its syntax was quite identical to that of Perl, except simpler and more restrained.

Though Lerdorf didn’t expect the primitive PHP to become a new programming language, the raves it received continued to grow, leading to its popularity among developers. A development team soon began work on the potentially leading-edge scripting language, and months later, released PHP/FI 2 in November 1997.


PHP code can be embedded into most versions of HTML, and may also combine with different web template systems, content management systems, and frameworks. It is processed by a PHP Interpreter planted on the web-server or as a CGI executable, which then combines the result of the interpreted and executed code. Any kind of data can be manipulated with a PHP code including images and videos.

Zend Engine produced the standard PHP code interpreter, a free software released under the PHP License. PHP code has become a vastly utilised server-side programming language, and is widely deployed across most web servers and on every operating system and platform.


PHP can help create dynamic contents on a website

It can create, open, read, delete, and close files on the server-side

It is principally effective in collecting form data from a webpage

It can add, delete, and modify data on the database in the server-side

It can essentially be used as a tool to control user-access

It is also efficient in the encryption of data.



When Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, co-founders of Zend Technologies, rewrote the parser in 1997 and formed the base of PHP 3, the language name was changed to the recursive acronym PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. After the public testing of their new creation, PHP 3 was officially unveiled to the public in June 1998. The duo would go on to undertake the rewrite of PHP’s core, leading to the production of the Zend Engine.

PHP 3 was a valid improvement on the scripting language, fixing many bugs and entirely redesigning the PHP core. Its last release, the version 3.0.18, was on October 20, 2000.

One of the strengths of the PHP 3.0 was its strong extensibility features. It not only provided end users with quality interface for multiple databases, protocols and APIs; it also fashioned an avenue to extend its scripting language by allowing developers to submit a variety of modules. This flexible feature was vital to the tremendous success of the PHP 3.0. At its highest popularity, PHP 3 was installed on approximately 10% of the servers on the internet.


Released on May 22, 2000, PHP 4 was powered by the Zend Engine 1.0. Shortly after the release of PHP 3.0, Suraski and Gutmans began working on a rewrite of PHP’s core. The main aim of the rewrite was to improve the performance of complicated applications, and maximise the modularity of PHP’s code base. While these applications were actually made possible by PHP 3’s new support features for a variety of third party databases and APIs, PHP 3.0 wasn’t properly designed to handle these complex applications effectively.

The Zend Engine, which was designed based on PHP 4’s new features, met its design goals successfully. In addition to the its improvement from the PHP 3 version, PHP 4.0 included many key features such as support for many more web servers, HTTP sessions, output buffering, more secure ways of handling user input, and several new language constructs.


PHP 5 was released on July 13, 2004, powered by the new Zend Engine II. It included some new features like improved support for object oriented programming, the PHP Data Objects (PDO) extension, and many performance enhancements. Late static binding, which was also missing in all previous versions of the scripting language, was added to the PHP 5.3 version. An aggressive promotional campaign of the new PHP version led many open-source projects to cease their usage of PHP4 in new codes, and transition to the PHP 5 platform.


This version that was conceptualised to solve the issue of Unicode support in previous versions of the scripting language struggled to see the light of the day and was eventually abandoned for newer PHP 5 versions with integrated solutions to the Unicode problem.


Despite the failure to release PHP 6, plans went ahead for the development of a new PHP version, which was eventually released in 2015. The goal of the new version was to optimize the performance of PHP by refactoring the Zend Engine to use more compact data structures with improved cache locality while also retaining the near-complete language. After many disagreements on the naming of this version, the name “PHP 7” was eventually settled for.

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