PHP’s Triumphant Return, Or My Immediate Abandonment of Ruby & Python

Heroku today unveiled and released support for PHP today on the back of Facebook’s F8 conference, and this left me immediately grinning ear to ear.

This is a big, big deal.

Wait, What?

You’re probably confused about my enthusiasm. Allow me to explain.

Famously, Facebook is written partly in PHP, and it remains one of the largest and most trafficked applications in history. This is significant because, in recent years, boutique devs have given way to enterprise devs in both selecting and preferring the likes of Python and Ruby over PHP.

The reasons for this are many, from run-time efficiency and security through to suitability for complex, multi-faceted web services. Combined with issues around security, frameworks, and package management that PHP’s 2000s-era web centricity didn’t adequately address, the language fell out of favour.

Facebook stood as the only beacon of hope for web devs who missed their light, flexible little language, and yet, in spite of the blue giant, PHP’s mindshare has eroded, its pools of love tainted and drained slowly, if for no other reason than perception.

And then, seemingly when no one expected it, a one-two punch came out of nowhere: HipHopVM, a modern take on PHP which brings many conveniences of Ruby and Python, and now Heroku support, which is a platform idolized and championed by the most devoted Rubyists and Pythonistas.

Don’t call it a comeback? A rose by any other name would be equally as fucking awesome.

So What?

Ruby and Python are powerful languages, to be sure, but when it comes to getting up a web application, nothing is faster than PHP. Because of the way it is interpreted, you need only upload a PHP script to an (Apache) web server with PHP installed and point your browser to the file; moments later, your code executes and renders the result natively in the browser. No background processes. No unnecessary frameworks. Just one file, one binary, and one dynamic web page as a result.

This speed to market is, and has always been, PHP’s biggest strength. As a language, it has (especially now with HHVM) many niceties and many deficiencies, but its tight, framework-free integration with the web makes it a powerful, useful, and efficient development vehicle.

I’ve always been a get shit done guy, and as other smarter people before me have articulated, PHP is a language founded on the notion of get shit done. It also happens to be one I’ve known and loved for years, so, bias aside, it shouldn’t be hard to understand why I’m already neck deep in some sweet, sweet echoes and PHP-born REST APIs.

N.B., I’m not really abandoning Ruby and Python; I can’t well identify as a polyglot if I limited myself to just PHP. I’m just happy—can’t you let me be so?