Browsing through the list of sponsors for Google's summer of code, I noticed that while ventures written in PHP like Mambo showed up, there was no representation at all from Pear, Pecl, or PHP itself. The Perl Foundation, by contrast, had a number of interesting project ideas they were willing to sponsor. This got me thinking: is it time for something like "The PHP Foundation?"
According to their site:
The Perl Foundation is dedicated to the advancement of the Perl programming language through open discussion, collaboration, design, and code.
PHP does not have any major champion dedicated "the advancement of the language" that is incorporated as a non-profit organization. Instead, it has Zend, a for-profit company founded by two of the original creators of the language.
While there are advantages to forging business alliances as a for-profit organization like Zend, I am hardly convinced that this directly translates into the advancement of the language. For example, recent courtship of PHP by IBM with Zend as matchmaker has run hot and cold as IBM seeks to position PHP in respect to IBM's other commercial offerings such as Websphere. Meanwhile PHP's real customers--its developers--seem to have forged a strong sense of identity in the absence of any single rallying point, and in the midst of mixed press and an undeserved reputation as a hobbyist language.
Granted we have grass-roots organizations like phpCommunity and phpSec, and periodicals like PHP Magazine and PHP|Arch as means of community self-support. But it seems clear that if PHP is going to compete successfully with ASP, JSP, Websphere, ColdFusion and the like, it needs advocacy. Not camaraderie, more discussion forums, or mailing lists--but a formal organization advocating PHP in the enterprise without any commercial agenda of its own. It needs something like, "The PHP Foundation."
Then maybe this new organization could sponsor a project or two the next time a company with as much influence as Google decides to celebrate open source.