Where is PHP going?

PHPDeveloper.org, PHP’s premiere news resource, has posted a great review of the newsworthy PHP-related events of 2005. Derick Rethans has also given us a great review of the events surrounding core PHP development last year. We saw the release of PHP 5.1, the renaming of the CSV trunk to 6.0 (in attempts to beat Perl to the punch, apparently), massive security concerns raised by applications ranging from phpBB to Mambo, Zend’s numerous partnerships and announcement of the Zend framework, great improvements to Pear, more conferences, more enthusiasm, more realization from the enterprise that PHP is where web application development is headed.

So, where is PHP going from here?
I think 2006 will involve a lot more of the same, with Zend’s new marketing director solidifying the company’s image as a no-nonsense, for-business open source company (like he helped do for RedHat)–and taking PHP along with it. The major hurdles PHP must still overcome in this journey are: the perception that it is not secure (a fire only fueled by reputable packages getting exploited this year, and the PHP’s haunting past with register_globals and other bad ideas); the perception that PHP coders are cowboys; and the lack of widespread adoption of PHP 5 due to the perception of poor backward compatability.

One of the major solutions is, of course, education. Periodicals like “International PHP Magazine” (in its new, more ubiquitous format) and “PHP | Arch”, numerous conferences, and Zend certification provide help with issues of security and maintainability. Chris Shiflett’s new book helps demystify the core issues surrounding PHP security. But we need more help if PHP is going to become not only the most popular, but most trusted web application development language in the industry. PHP doesn’t need another CMS package, another framework, another bulletin board. It needs good educational resources to help bring it to the enterprise. Hopefully, that’s what we will see emerge in 2006, making PHP not only popular but mature–because the language is about more than the syntax; it’s about the culture surrounding the people and ideas that make it great, about the customer perception and adoption.

It’s about time PHP stopped being a best kept secret and emerged as the gold standard for great development. And we don’t need a single new feature to accomplish that in 2006–we just need better education within the community and to bridge the gap with enterprise.

Here’s to a a great year in PHP–and an amazing opportunity ahead!