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PHP 5.0 goes for Microsoft's ASP-dot-Net jugular

Open Source dot Web or ASP hype dot net?
Sun Jul 18 2004, 12:49
"My biggest disappointment with PHP is that I did not learn it sooner." -post in newsgroup comp.lang.php, May, 2003
"We have something that is significant for your developers... something that will blow away people you are developing software for." (!) -Quiet, whispering Steve Ballmer on Microsoft's Dot-Net launch.

THE PEOPLE at Zend Technologies quietly announced last week the availability of the long awaited PHP version 5. The rise of PHP - the open source, server-side web programming language that took the Net by storm starting in 1998 with its 3.0 release, seems to be unstoppable, if one believes the usage charts at

The PHP growth could be compared to the relentless growth curve of Apache, the open source web server of fame which now runs more than two thirds of the sites on the Web, according to the Netcraft Web Servers survey. That's hardly surprising, given that Apache and PHP work very well together.

If you have doubts about the power of PHP, Adam Dunkels, a software developer in Sweden writes: "Following the trend of writing 'inappropriate' programs in the PHP scripting language, I have written a small TCP/IP stack and a web server entirely in PHP". Ok, it's just a proof-of-concept, but it shows that PHP is more than just a way to do server side web scripts. Find his code here.

Back to topic. PHP version 5 adds the following features:

  • SQLite, an embedded database library for those jobs for which MySQL is "too much".
  • A new and improved MySQL extension, "MySQLi" which includes support for SSL connections, multi-query functions, and more.
  • XML integration, dubbed "SimpleXML": allows your PHP programs to interact with information in a XML document as if these pieces of information were arrays and objects.
  • Better object oriented programming style

For a full list of the additions in PHP5, see the article titled why php5 rocks at the O'Reilly site.

People already using PHP4 on their systems or throughout their organizations might want to read an interesting article covering the migration to php 5. Also, folks scratching their heads about the differences between Microsoft's ASP and PHP, should read an enlightening article outlining the strengths and weaknesses of each, at Oracle's web site.

Speaking of Apache, the folks at Netcraft have published an interesting interview with Apache co-founder and CollabNet CTO Brian Behlendorf, about "Apache's growth and changing the world through software".

Over the last few months I saw, as a lurker in the PHP mailing lists, an increasing number of messages from Windows systems administrators installing Apache and PHP for their Windows based web servers and server-side development, instead of going through what quiet Ballmer would think is the "natural path": Microsoft IIS web server and .ASP. Granted, many "Microsoft-only" shops might be listening to the siren's call from softly spoken Ballmer, but more people are starting to take a close look at what PHP has to offer, and version 5 will only make this trend grow even more.

One could ask "why do they do that?". Well, I can think of many reasons, but the big three are: 1. avoiding IIS security bugs, 2. Avoiding vendor lock-in (your web site and application can be instantly moved to any platform and operating system where apache and PHP have been ported to -that is, virtually anything- from windows to linux, from linux to unix, you-name-it), 3. There are thousands of ready-to-install PHP scripts to do almost any server-side task you can think of, many of them open source as well.

In short: PHP 5 has been released. Microsoft execs should be worried. µ

Download PHP 5.0


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