The future of PHP (and JavaScript)

As a developer, I’m always reevaluating what tools I use to do my work. This can be what language I’m using, but also what frameworks, libraries or editors I’m using.

I’ve been doing pretty much nothing but PHP for close to a decade and I love it. I know it’s cool to dis PHP and talk about how awful it is, but honestly I think it’s a great tool for what it’s designed for. Recently I’ve been learning Node.js. Partly because it’s fun, but also because I see JavaScript as the biggest threat to PHP.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think JavaScript is going to kill PHP (nothing ever dies) and I don’t think Node.js will eclipse PHP in popularity anywhere in the near future. But the trend I see is that new applications are being built primarily in client side JavaScript and the back end is little more then an API. That API can be built in PHP, Ruby, Python, whatever. It’s only logical to determine that if this trend continues, we’ll end up with a lot of skilled JavaScript developers who don’t want to write their APIs in a different language. That’s where Node.js comes in.

Node.js is a platform built on Chrome’s JavaScript runtime for easily building fast, scalable network applications. Node.js uses an event-driven, non-blocking I/O model that makes it lightweight and efficient, perfect for data-intensive real-time applications that run across distributed devices.

If you look up PHP on Google Trends it doesn’t look pretty. It’s “web search interest” has steadily decreased since 2004 (the earliest data you get in Google Trends). However I think this is a red herring. PHP is such an elephpant in the room (har har) that it’s not enough to be a PHP developer these days, you have to specialize. We have WordPress, Yii, CodeIgniter, Symfony, Drupal and about a million other frameworks and applications that are built in PHP, each have become ecosystems of their own.

WordPress which now powers 18.9% of the web has shown a steady increase on Google Trends. Then if you compare some of the popular PHP Frameworks the jury is still out on a clear victor.

Remember that chart of PHP on Google Trends? Well take a look at JavaScript on Google Trends. The line is pretty much parallel with PHP and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that JavaScript is dying. JavaScript is showing a downward slope because people are no longer searching for JavaScript, they are searching for jQuery and Backbone.js.

I feel very secure in my career as a PHP developer and I don’t think I’ll be porting Date Check Pro to Node.js anytime soon. Have fun doing what you do. If you’re a PHP developer try out a new framework or even give Node.js a try. It certainly won’t hurt to become better at JavaScript.

Author: Andrew Shell

Madison, WI developer, Co-Founder and CTO of Pinpoint Software, founder of Madison PHP.

1 thought on “The future of PHP (and JavaScript)”

Leave a Reply