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Quick Intro to PHP Development

  • Posted March 10, 2006
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Chances are that if you’ve been around the Internet long enough,
you’ve heard of server-side scripting languages such as PERL,
ASP and ColdFusion. These are all popular languages that are
used to add interactivity to Web sites, but one stands out from
the crowd in terms of usability, power, and, yes, price: the PHP
scripting language. Initially developed in 1995 by North
Carolina programmer Rasmus Lerdorf, PHP has since blossomed into
one of the leading open-source, cross-platform scripting
languages available. This is due, in large part, to the
worldwide community of coders that contributes to its
development. Unlike proprietary scripting languages like ASP and
ColdFusion, PHP’s source code is freely available for peer
review and contributions. This is, of course, the essence of
open-source software development, but why is it that PHP in
particular has gained such popularity among Web developers when
there are other open-source alternatives, such as good
old-fashioned PERL CGI scripts?

One very strong reason is that PHP, unlike PERL CGI scripts, is
scalable and fast. Instead of requiring the server to start a
new process in the operating system’s kernel for each new
request, which uses both CPU time and memory, PHP can run as a
part of the Web server itself, which saves a considerable amount
of processing time when dealing with multiple requests. This
decreased processing time means that PHP can be used for
high-traffic sites that cannot afford to have their performance
hampered by relatively slow CGI scripts.

In addition to its scalability and speed, another usability
factor that sets PHP apart is its ease of use. The PHP language
is considered to be a mix between C and PERL, and it draws from
the best features of each parent language, while adding unique
features of its own. For example, PHP code can be embedded
within standard HTML documents without using additional print
statements or calling separate scripts to perform the processing
tasks. In practice, this allows for very flexible programming
practices. Although a working knowledge of HTML is a
prerequisite for PHP development, PHP’s basic functions can be
learned quickly and applied to a wide range of common
Webmaster-related projects, such as order forms, e-mail
responses, and interactive Web pages.

Contributing to the power of the PHP language, is its native
support for leading relational database platforms, including
MySQL, Oracle and PostgreSQL. Platform-specific functions are
built into the language for 12 databases in all. This native
support for database platforms is a boon to any site that needs
to track user information, store product data, or collect sales
information.

Last but not least, because PHP is open-source, it is
essentially free to use. Almost all professional Unix-based Web
hosts offer PHP as an included option with hosting accounts. Be
sure to check with your host to see if it is available to you.

This article is meant to be an introduction to the PHP language
and not a tutorial, but have no fear—here are several first-rate
sites that have articles that will guide you along in beginning
your PHP development projects:

www.php.net www.onlamp.com/php/ www.phpbuilder.com

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  • Posted On March 10, 2006
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