A Brief History of PHP: The Language That Runs the Web

What we know today as PHP began as PHP/FI. Rasmus Lerdorf developed it in 1994 for tracking the number of visits to his resume online. He named the scripts Personal Home Page Tools, commonly referred to as PHP tools. It required more functionality. Lerdorf rewrote the PHP tools to provide for richer implementation. By now, the new implementation could interact with the database. It provided a framework by which a user could develop a dynamic web application. In September 1994, Lerdorf expanded the PHP and dropped the name to Forms Interpreter (FI).

He developed some features of PHP as we know it today

After the changes of September 1994, he changed the language. In October 1995, he performed a complete rewrite of the code. Rasmus renamed the language back to PHP, briefly naming it as Personal Home Page Construction Kit. He deliberately designed it to resemble C, making it easily adaptable among the developers familiar with C.


In April 1996, Rasmus combined the names of the past releases and introduced PHP/FI. The second version of PHP started developing from a suite of tools to a full-fledged programming language. It now had support for MSQL, DBM, and Postgress95 databases. Other functionalities included cookies, support for user-defined functions, and much more. In June 1996, he gave the language the official status of PHP version 2, PHP 2.


PHP 3 was the version that had a close resemblance to the PHP as we know it today. More features were required to ensure applications like e-commerce were effectively powered. While developing a project for the university, Andi Gutmans and Zeev Suraski approached Rasmus with a proposal for collaboration. They wrote the underlying PHP 3 parser afresh that later formed the basis for this version. Through their collaboration, a new and independent programming language was developed. It was given a new name that removed the implications of PHP/FI 2.0. That was the first time the name Hypertext Pre-Processor was coined.

PHP 4 (Scalability and optimization)

Andy and Suraski started working on the core of the PHP. The aim was to improvise the language’s performance in complex applications and improve the modularity of its codebase. Although PHP 3 had broad support for third-party databases and APIs, it could not handle complex applications efficiently. It is at this stage that Zend engine 1.0 was released in May 2000. PHP 4 powered it.


This version of PHP was used to power the second version of the Zend engine. Features like support for object-oriented programming, PDO extension, and other performance improvements. By 2008, PHP 5 had become a stable version. A consortium of developers begun the GoPHP 5 that promoted the transition to PHP 5. Therefore, many open source projects stopped on the fourth version of PHP and started supporting PHP 5.


There was no release for PHP 6. In the seventh version of PHP, there were better improvements in the way the web was powered. It revolutionized the way we delivered applications for everything from mobile, websites, cloud, and enterprise. This explosive performance was the most significant change for PHP since PHP 5 was released in 2004. It reduced the consumption of memory and has many frameworks that make development easy.

By using Zend engine 3, there is a better performance in your apps and memory consumption than there was in PHP 5.6. PHP 7 is the preferred choice for web developers nowadays because of its stability.


There have been updates in PHP 7 that have been upgraded to PHP 8. In this update, there are optimizations and additional features such as attributes, union types, named arguments, constructor property promotion, and null safe operator. Perhaps the most exciting upgrade in PHP 8 is the implementation of just-in-time compilers.


What started as a collection of scripts to track the people who visited Lerdorf’s resume is complete language today. PHP has undergone various changes and is applied to develop complex business, finance, and other sectors. Coupled with many frameworks, PHP is today the go-to language in web development.

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