What Makes PHP Better than Its Alternatives PHP

The skeptics are asking themselves, "Why should I learn PHP?" The days of static Websites built with HTML files and a few CGI scripts are over: Today's sites must be dynamic.All the stale company brochures littering the streets of the Internet will transform into 24-hour virtual storefronts or be swept away. The toughest decision facing the creator of a Web application is choosing from hundreds of technologies.

Perl has adapted well to being a CGI solution and it has been used to drive complex Web technology like CyberCash and Excite's EWS search engine. Microsoft provides its Active Server Pages with Internet Information Server. Middleware like Allaire's Cold Fusion is yet another solution. ServerWatch.com lists hundreds of Web technologies, some costing tens of thousands of dollars. Why should you choose PHP over any of these alternatives?

The short answer is that PHP is better. It is faster to code and faster to execute. The same PHP code runs unaltered on different Web servers and different operation systems. Additionally, functionality that is standard with PHP is an add-on in other environments. A more detailed argument follows.

PHP is free. Anyone may visit the PHP Web site and download the complete source code. Binaries are also available for Windows. The result is easy entry into the experience. There is very little risk in trying PHP, and its license allows the code to be used to develop works with no royalties. This is unlike products such as Allaire's Cold Fusion or Everyware's Tango Enterprise that charge thousands of dollars for the software to interpret and serve scripts. Even commercial giants like Netscape and IBM now recognize the advantages of making source code available.

PHP runs on UNIX, Windows 98, Windows NT, and the Macintosh. PHP is designed to integrate with the Apache Web Server. Apache, another free technology, is the most popular Web server on the Internet and comes with source code for UNIX and Windows. Commercial flavors of Apache like WebTen and Stronghold support PHP, too. But PHP works with other Web servers, including Microsoft's Internet Information Server. Scripts may be moved between server platforms without alteration. PHP supports ISAPI to allow for the performance benefits of tightly coupling with Microsoft Web servers.

PHP is modifiable. PHP has been designed to allow for future extension of functionality. PHP is coded in C and provides a well-defined Application Programming Interface (API). Capable programmers may add new functionality easily. The rich set of functions available in PHP are evidence that they often do. Even if you aren't interested in changing the source code, it's comforting to know you can inspect it. Doing so may give you greater confidence in PHP's robustness.
PHP was written for Web page creation. Perl, C, and Java are very good general languages and are certainly capable of driving Web applications. The unfortunate sacrifice these alternatives make is the ease of communication with the Web experience. PHP applications may be rapidly and easily developed because the code is encapsulated in the Web pages themselves.

Support for PHP is free and readily available. Queries to the PHP mailing list are often answered within hours. A custom bug-tracking system on the PHP site shows each problem along with its resolution. Numerous sites, such as phpbuilder.com and zend.com, offer original content to PHP developers.

PHP is popular. Internet service providers find PHP to be an attractive way to allow their customers to code Web applications without the risks exposed by CGIs. Developers worldwide offer PHP programming. Sites coded in PHP will have the option of moving from one host to another as well as a choice of developers to add functionality.

Programming skills developed in other structured languages can be applied to PHP. PHP takes inspiration from both Perl and C. Experienced Perl and C programmers learn PHP very quickly. Likewise, programmers who learn PHP as a first language may apply their knowledge toward not only Perl and C, but other C-like languages such as Java. This is very different from learning to code in a visual editor such as Microsoft Visual InterDev.

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