Reflecting on PHP at 20

Nashville PHP members with PHP cake

InfoWorld Article Published

Today, my article “PHP at 20: From pet project to powerhouse” was published in InfoWorld. The article discusses the origins of PHP, how it and its community pride themselves in pragmatic approaches to solving problems, and how it is relevant and evolving today. It even got linked to from Slashdot, which is exciting. Just don’t bother reading the comments. ;-)

I had a great time putting together this article, and the research I did jogged more than a few memories, allowing me to indulge in a bit of nostalgia.

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.”


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.

You may read the rest in InfoWorld. I hope you like it.

A Timeline Spanning Twenty Years

Last weekend, an idea occurred to me to use the @phpc Twitter account to celebrate PHP’s twentieth birthday in a unique way: by posting a timeline of events in the PHP community spanning the past twenty years. It was a lofty goal, and as I was wrapping up my InfoWorld article, I pieced together a timeline of events and scheduled them to be posted about every half hour.

I regard each event in this timeline as important to the history of PHP, having shaped the language and community into what they are today. These events, however, are by no means the only important events. It was impossible to put together a complete list that included every project and every person who has made significant contributions to PHP and its community. I’m sorry if you and your project were left out, but please understand I do not intend any ill will.

Cal Evans was kind enough to capture the timeline in a Storify and post it on Zend Developer Zone. From there, you may read all the posts in the timeline.

#20yearsofphp Hashtag

I also advocated the use of the #20yearsofphp hashtag to help everyone follow along the conversation throughout the day.

A Birthday Cake for PHP

For the June 2015 Nashville PHP user group meeting this past Tuesday, I had some fun and got a cake so that our user group could join in the 20th birthday celebration. That’s our group in the cover photo for this post.

The Community Reflects

On Monday, I called for PHP developers to reflect on their first experiences discovering PHP and the PHP community and tag it with #20yearsofphp. Many responded, and I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s posts. Thank you to everyone who posted.

Chris Cornutt has already captured most of these posts on’s list of 20 Years of PHP posts. I’m maintaining my own list here as a way for me to keep track of them. If I’m missing a link to your post, let me know.