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Is PHP dead? Why should I upgrade to PHP 7.3?

For the average computer user, the bunch of numbers and letters are gibberish; making software development one of the most misconceived trades there are. However, software development in these later years has seen a spike in the number of developers striving to learn to engage in this field that will move the global community to the next playing field.

Software engineering is a dynamic field, in which new programming languages, frameworks, and technologies may live and die within a few months or years. Meaning, developers need to constantly learn new skills to remain relevant.

What is PHP? 

Simple answer, it is a servers-side language that has over 78.9% of all websites with a known server-side programming language for provision of dynamic data. Even with this huge usage number, PHP has had it’s fair share of “shade” or bad press if you like.

PHP started out as a relatively slow language in its infant stages, with many inconsistencies and very little direction. Disclaimer; most technologies start out like this, but with adoption by the community, the language has evolved a lot over the years however.

It has grown and worked to silence the naysayers since PHP 5.3 was released in 2009. Striving, to fix most of the old complaints raised by those who both hate to love it and love it to love it. 😉 with its latest release version being 7.3 by this article time. The evolution has seen it become an extremely fast, streamlined language with a strong Object Oriented programming focus.

Why did PHP grow if it’s a mess?

PHP’s adoption can be attributed to its being a very flexible, loosely typed language. To be honest, also its Achilles heel. PHP is very easy to pick up and start writing, but also very easy to write poorly. However, this is also due to the fact that most of its users disregard methodologies such as DRY (Do Not repeat yourself), SOLID and MVC (Model, View and Controller). Irregardless, PHP is a very powerful, diverse and fast language with a lot to offer.

Most schools of learning especially universities tend to focus on languages like C or Java (2.5% global usage) and ASP.NET. And this is why many new startups are choosing to build their applications in these 3 mentioned.

Programming bootcamps on the other tend to focus on languages such as Python, Ruby and Server-side JavaScript yet collectively these languages only cover 1.2% of the internet. Server-side JavaScript (Node.js) is currently the fastest growing server-side technology however still relatively small, but will be a juggernaut.

Javascript up close code
JavaScript code minified up close

Who uses PHP? And what market share does PHP have?

Because of PHP’s popularity, it’s easy to find PHP developers with lots of experience and support in various forums.

The large global market share of 78% (+ or -) shouldn’t surprise you as PHP enjoys the attention and usage of tech giants like WordPress(.com & .org), Facebook and budding frameworks like Laravel. However, PHP’s secret growth ninja tool is content management systems(CMS).

  1. WordPress, the most popular CMS in existence, giving PHP, a pat on the back given that WordPress powers over 32% of all the websites on the Internet
  2. MediaWiki, the software behind Wikipedia, is written in PHP.
  3. ClassicPress (an alternative WordPress)
  4. Drupal 
  5. Joomla 
  6. Magento, Shopify etc use PHP, too.

The huge reason PHP grows on CMS is that, CMS are usually 5-10 mins install options that will have you working with a blog, a small business website or full e-commerce franchise.

However, the ease of set up is not the only advantage, PHP enjoys low costs of hosting. This is largely attributed to the economies of scale pushing its cost downwards is as big ++. Think about it, most hosting platforms offer to a minimum of $2 a month for GBs worth of space and tons of bandwidth for PHP servers in comparison to languages like Java that charge up to $40 per month. This quick maths therefore makes it a quick and easy choice for many users when deciding a programming language to use.

PHP might not be the best or the most modern programming language. But that doesn’t mean it’s dead, and it’s pretty tough to argue with the PHP statistics according to W3Techs’ data. To be fair, W3Techs research shows that number is declining as the server-side language.

  • November 2017 – 80.1% 
  • June 2018 – 79.6%
  • November 2018 – 78.9% 

But when the number is still over 75%, PHP scores a B+ (If this is school). So we can not call time of death. In fact, it is still well recommended as a language of study choice. Techrepublic recently placed it among the top languages to learn in 2018, with both PHP and JavaScript appearing in the top six, and with PHP moving from 9th to 6th in 2017.

Why upgrade your PHP to 7.3 for WordPress or ClassicPress?

One thing stands out for me, SPEEEEEDDDDD!!!!!!

PHP 7.3 is way much faster is we hen-pick from the 5.x versions. It experienced Growth from 5.x to 7.0 by over 50% in speed when execution of calls is made. Subsequently, the next versions 7.0 to 7.3 will see an increase in speed by 15.3%

Time responses for PHP versions on server calls benchmarked by Kinsta

According to WordPress.org, 82.6% of WordPress sites are using PHP 7.0 or lower, with majority of the remaining 36.9% using PHP 5.6.

New tools and toys will be made. Web platforms like ClassicPress and WordPress have shared that by the end of this year 2019, version 7.0 will be their minimum PHP requirement for the latest version of their software. For ClassicPress after version 1.x an equivalent of WordPress 4.9.x, raising the bar of PHP will allow the next iterations of the software that is a fork of WordPress to evolve.

Upgrading your PHP software version on your host, is a simple process. You can either talk to your host via their chat/email forums or even jump to the Multi-PHP editor in CPanel software if you have it and change the versions through the dropdown select options. 

Will you be upgrading, let me know in the comments.

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