The Acme of Skill

OK, I know I promised a post on how NULL in Oracle scares me, but I think I’ll save that for another day. For the moment, I’ve had something else on my mind recently. Someone I know is apparently of the opinion that PHP is “on the way out.” I have to vehemently disagree with this, and not just because PHP is my language of preference.

For starters, there are major corporations that are actively using PHP. Yahoo, current employer of Sara Golemon, is a great example. Facebook, a social networking site whose advertising program threatens Google Adsense enough that they created the Open Social initiative and brought in other companies in order to compete, is another.

While usage of PHP took a slight dip about two years ago, probably due in part to hype growing popularity and advances in other technologies like .NET and Ruby as well as the low adoption rate of PHP 5, its use is back on the rise. The performance improvements and addition of new OOP features are only making PHP a better, more well-rounded solution for the enterprise.

Major corporations are finally getting away from fearing competition from the open source community and are starting to embrace it. Oracle has collaborated with Zend to enable them to produce Zend Core for Oracle. The Oracle Technology Network web site has a dedicated section for PHP Developers as well as a manual and a cookbook. Oracle develops the OCI8 PHP PDO driver and have made fairly recent updates to it to support database resident connection pooling, fast application notification, and other notable 11g features. (Check out Chris Jones’ blog for more info on that project.) Oracle is also beginning to release a substantial number of projects, particularly developer tools, as open source software.

Oracle isn’t the only one, either. Microsoft has even started getting into the game. A FastCGI add-on is now available for IIS 6, Microsoft’s web server. FastCGI is frequently used when Apache is not being run or running PHP as an Apache module is not an option for other reasons, such as shared hosting services that want to support both PHP 4 and PHP 5 on the same machine, so this is quite the boon for Microsoft shops. Microsoft is getting involved in the production of a new PHP database driver for SQL Server 2005. I can say on personal authority that multiple Microsoft representatives were present at ZendCon 2007 and made a presentation to the conference attendees on that very subject.

So this all seriously begs this question: why are these corporations, some of which have been specifically shown to be opposed to open source, now trying to play nice? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, anyone? If you can’t beat them, join them? OK, enough cliche anecdotes. I think I’ve made my point here. PHP isn’t going anywhere and it’s certainly not “on the way out.” These companies are putting a significant time and energy into supporting integration with their products by open source software and I don’t think they’d make that investment if PHP’s overall outlook was limited to the short-term.

I don’t believe it was ever the specific intention of the open source movement to compete with large companies and their proprietary products, but merely to fill a gap in software needs perceived by the consumer. As such, I find a particular quote by Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” to be appropriate here: “For to win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the acme of skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill.”


  1. Sara Golemon isn’t the only Yahoo! employed PHP contributor; Rasmus Lerdorf is also a Yahoo as well.

    It’s a shame your friend is on the way out. I know this all to well as many good PHP programmers in my user group have attempted the shift to Rails. It’s painful, but I don’t stress about it. If someone feels that they will be a better programmer because of Ruby, then so be it.

    Personally, I feel that I am more agile and fluid in PHP. The code density of Ruby is a turn off to me but to some, it’s more natural. Then again, some people like to burn themselves for the fun of it…

    I predict that ’08 will bring much innovation to both platforms. Some companies will choose adopt PHP as part of their web presence, others will choose to adopt Rails. I think this can introduce some great competitive innovation.

    BTW: Is that a Programming Ruby book I see in your wishlist?

    Mike G.

  2. admin says:

    My “friend” isn’t on the way out; it’s just his opinion that PHP is. And yeah, I’d forgotten that Rasmus works at Yahoo! as well; good point. I’m partly ranting because I like PHP and don’t really get to use it at my job all that often. And yes, there’s a Ruby book on my list, mostly for the sake of curiosity about the language. I like languages in general, syntax and semantic processing implementation, and I like learning new things. As Bruce Lee once said, “It doesn’t matter what you practice, as long as it makes you strong.”

  3. admin says:

    Update: An excellent blog post by Ivo Jansch touches upon what I’ve been saying here by expounding on use trends relating to open source in general as well as specific accomplishments of Zend. Definitely worth a read!

  4. Hey Matt – I’m one of those who has his doubts on the future of PHP. I don’t think it’s getting ready to disappear or anything, but I do think it’s going to drastically shift and move back toward the “glue” language that Zend has been call it for the past few years. It will pull data out of a cache that was prepped by something coded in another language that addresses the shortcomings of PHP. For that, it’s top notch…

  5. …/development/” title=”View all posts in Development” rel=”category tag”>Development In a recent post to his blog, Matthew Turland refutes the rumor that’s been floating around that PHP is &#8220…

  6. MonkeyT says:

    Running the DallasPHP user group website for three/four years now, I can say that the number of job openings/postings and potential PHP employers who contact us has easily doubled (if not tripled) in the past year. These are not VC startups looking to hire miracle programmers, these are everyday small, medium and large businesses in DFW that have integrated PHP into their everyday operations and need one or more full-time, salaried PHP employees as opposed to hiring freelancers to come in and execute a miracle save. Even the contract work that gets posted is usually offered as an audition for a job with salary and benefits, a kind of PHP job which rarely got spoken about here a few years ago (though some did happen). An important fact is that almost all of these jobs require version control, documentation and group development skills as opposed to the lone gunman talents companies wanted a few years ago. Knowing the language is not enough. PHP may not be making headlines in trade mags like it did during its growth heyday, but the job market certainly takes PHP more seriously now than before.