PHP, rarely referred to by its full name, Hypertext Preprocessor, like other scripting languages, has pros and cons. Everything can have positive and negative aspects, but these are emphasized because PHP is a frequently used, general-purpose language. It’s utilized for showing dynamic and interactive content from the server side. Consequently, it is the building block of modern websites, bringing a variety of features and functionalities to web pages.
PHP is also free and open-source, plays well with frameworks, is updated regularly, and can easily be inserted into HTML without having to request external files for data. The reason is that HTML cannot work with dynamic content, which is considered one of its disadvantages.
What is PHP?
PHP is one of the most popular open-source scripting languages widely used for web development and can be embedded into HTML. It is a recursive acronym for “Hypertext Preprocessor.” If it sounds too complicated to pronounce, we would just tell you it is an efficient tool for making interactive web pages. PHP scripts execute on this server. It then generates HTML which is sent to the client.
The client will receive the output, but one interesting thing happens, which is the PHP code remains invisible to the client’s browser. One great thing about PHP is how easily it interacts with other databases. It makes PHP a fantastic tool for creating web pages that need to be updated regularly. PHP also runs efficiently on more than one platform. It is compatible with most servers as well.
One thing that makes it a favorite of the developers is the number of tools it offers to the developers, helping them create web applications easier.
Now, let’s analyze the advantages and disadvantages of PHP in-depth.
5 Advantages of PHP
PHP is a scripting language we frequently hear about and will continue to do so, prompting our study of its benefits:
1. PHP is free and open-source in nature
PHP can be downloaded and used free of cost and implemented on anything that supports a web application. Moreover, it’s compatible with lots of free platforms and software, meaning developers don’t need to invest in separate or advanced, even paid software.
The open-source nature makes the language easy to modify and improve through a community-driven effort to everyone’s benefit. Also, knowing the source means users can rest assured there are no malicious lines of code such as backdoors, and bugs are found and patched by large groups of developers.
2. It’s a simple and stable scripting language
PHP is an old language, with an idea starting around 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf, and the first release occurring in early July 1995. It has been nearly three decades of frequent releases at the time of publication, meaning the language is straightforward, reliable, and adaptable.
Additionally, its code was optimized to be simpler and more lightweight. Plus, over time, it was designed in a way users can reuse pre-written code to achieve the desired effect across various applications rather instead of writing a custom one for each.
3. Independent of platforms and has a good library
PHP is platform-independent, meaning applications that use it can effortlessly run on Windows, Linux, Mac, UNIX, and other operating systems. Furthermore, PHP boasts significant library support, meaning you can utilize a lot of extra function modules to represent data in this scripting language.
It also opens the door for frameworks such as Symfony or Laravel, file types such as PDF, and useful things such as making graphs.
4. PHP is flexible and offers a good loading speed
One reason users widely employ PHP in web applications is its superior speed, especially on slow Internet connections, compared to other programming languages. Without getting into the specifics, PHP lets applications easily and quickly connect to the database.
This scripting language is flexible and has built-in capabilities that let it connect to lots of RDMS (Relational Database Management Systems). For instance, MySQL, IBM DB2, Inter Base, SQLite, Front Base, PostgreSQL, ODBC, and dBase.
5. Popular and familiar to programmers of other languages
PHP interpreter is written in the C language that you can later embed in HTML documents, for instance. Therefore, people familiar with C will have an easy time working with PHP without a lot of extra work. To put things into perspective, it uses the same syntax.
For instance, calling a function is identical, such as my_function(expression1, expression2), and written code is blank insensitive. Additionally, users can write comments (//, */, /*) as they would in C and C++, use semicolons to terminate statements, and employ the shell-script style (#). With that in mind, thanks to the development of Java and C++ in recent years, programmers adept at those languages won’t struggle to learn PHP.
5 Disadvantages of PHP
Though the number of flaws of PHP may seem almost non-existent based on its popularity, the reality is different. Hence, we decided to go over the downsides of PHP as well.
1. Often unsuitable for large applications or a high number of apps
The key drawback of PHP is its inability to permit the smooth simultaneous operation of multiple features. The more features from PHP tools users need to employ, the worse the performance gets. With that in mind, it’s inadequate for applications in giant web applications that process lots of data. Similarly, PHP is not the go-to scripting language for concurrently handling many apps.
2. PHP is not very secure
The poor security of PHP has been the topic of criticism over the years. Through its open-source nature has the aforementioned benefits, hackers can easily find and analyze pre-written PHP code and the ASCII text file. If additional protection measures are absent, malicious individuals can exploit security risks such as:
- SQL injection
- Session hacking and takeover
- Source code revelation
- XSS (Cross Site Scripting) software attack
3. It doesn’t have advanced error handling
Modern programmers rely on error identification, optimization, and solution for most popular languages. Unlike software and web applications for writing code in those languages, PHP has no built-in error-handling solutions. Therefore, people writing code are more likely to make mistakes and publish their work with unidentified errors that a solid debugging tool could solve.
Luckily, some free and paid software offers debugging tools that include PHP. Also, some websites let you input code and get an error analysis. Plus, with such a large community, users can find guides and freely ask for help with their PHP code.
4. Frameworks can require extra knowledge and are inefficient
Frameworks for other scripting languages are frequently superior to those for PHP. Though they are in no way horrible, or else it wouldn’t have such a wide application, developers have criticized PHP frameworks:
- Provide intricate solutions
- Simulate (and thus duplicate) the functionality of a web server
- Need way too many interdependent classes
- Feature detrimental consistency, such as executing the same code again and again without accounting for requirements
5. It’s declining in popularity for some modern applications
Though this is not a reason to panic, the statement is nonetheless true. First, there are easier and more up-to-date languages for first-time developers to learn. Second, some programming languages open more possibilities and are in higher demand, such as Python.
Thus, to demonstrate one particular area, we’ll take machine learning, a rapidly growing industry. PHP libraries for machine learning are nowhere near as fast or as effective as, say, Python’s Theano, Keras, scikit-learn, or TensorFlow.
Applications of PHP
Let us check the most common applications of PHP:
- Web Page Development: PHP is used with HTML to add functionalities that HTML cannot achieve alone. PHP is used for creating some dynamic web page content for websites. It is one of developers’ favorite languages to use.
- Server-Side Scripting: PHP is commonly used as a server-side scripting language as well. It means it is executed on the server before it gets to the web browser of the user. Now, you might wonder if there is an additional benefit of these features. Well, this makes it an ideal language for developing complex applications that require data processing on the server.
- Database Interaction: PHP scripts have the ability to interact with databases. It makes them perfect for developing web-based applications like e-commerce sites, content management systems, and CRM systems.
As you can see, there are a lot of technical uses of PHP. This language can also be used for form handling and a lot of CRMs are built on PHP.