The one-time ‘silly little project’ has transformed into a Web powerhouse, thanks to flexibility, pragmatism, and a vibrant community of Web devs
When Rasmus Lerdorf released “a set of small tight CGI binaries written in C,” he had no idea how much his creation would impact Web development. Delivering the opening keynote at this year’s SunshinePHP conference in Miami, Lerdorf quipped, “In 1995, I thought I had unleashed a C API upon the Web. Obviously, that’s not what happened, or we’d all be C programmers.”
In fact, when Lerdorf released version 1.0 of Personal Home Page Tools—as PHP was then known—the Web was very young. HTML 2.0 would not be published until November of that year, and HTTP/1.0 not until May the following year. NCSA HTTPd was the most widely deployed Web server, and Netscape Navigator was the most popular Web browser, with Internet Explorer 1.0 to arrive in August. In other words, PHP’s beginnings coincided with the eve of the browser wars.
Those early days speak volumes about PHP’s impact on Web development. Back then, our options were limited when it came to server-side processing for Web apps. PHP stepped in to fill our need for a tool that would enable us to do dynamic things on the Web. That practical flexibility captured our imaginations, and PHP has since grown up with the Web. Now powering more than 80 percent of the Web, PHP has matured into a scripting language that is especially suited to solve the Web problem. Its unique pedigree tells a story of pragmatism over theory and problem solving over purity.