PHP has been a popular programming language for many years, powering an estimated 74% of websites (April 2023).
However many developers passionately dislike PHP for various reasons, and in this article, we’ll explore how the very strengths that make PHP so accessible can also be its biggest weakness.
The Simplicity of PHP
One of the key reasons PHP became so popular is its simplicity.
It’s easy to learn and start using, which has made it the go-to choice for many beginners in web development.
This ease of use has been invaluable for many small-scale projects, but it has also opened the door for some significant issues.
Messy and Hard-to-Read Code
- PHP allows for non-standard coding practices: The flexibility and simplicity of PHP can lead to code that is hard to read and maintain. It is possible to write code that is functional but does not adhere to the coding standards that other languages, like Java or C#, might require.
- Difficulties in code auditing: PHP’s lax coding standards can make it tough for other developers to understand and audit the code, which may result in security vulnerabilities and maintenance nightmares.
The Security Problem
Another point of contention with PHP is the potential security risks associated with poorly written code.
- Easy to write insecure code: PHP makes it relatively easy for inexperienced developers to write code that is functional but insecure. This can lead to potential security breaches and vulnerabilities in the applications built using PHP.
- Auditing and fixing security issues is difficult: Due to the potential messiness of PHP code, finding and fixing security issues can be a challenge for even experienced developers.
The Argument for More Functional Languages
Many developers argue that investing time in learning more functional languages like Python is a better choice, as they offer a wider range of applications and better coding practices.
- Python and other languages offer more versatility: Languages like Python can be used for various tasks, such as web development, data analysis, and desktop applications. This versatility makes them more attractive to learn for developers interested in expanding their skillset.
- Maintaining and upgrading legacy PHP code can be challenging: With a large amount of PHP code in existing systems, developers tasked with maintaining and upgrading these systems often face the challenge of deciphering and fixing poorly written PHP code.
Conclusion: Balancing PHP’s Strengths and Weaknesses
While there are valid reasons for developers to dislike PHP, it remains a valuable language for certain tasks and contexts.
Its simplicity and ease of use have made it a staple of the web development world. But it’s essential to balance PHP’s strengths with its weaknesses and consider learning other languages, like Python, to expand one’s skills and versatility in the ever-evolving world of software development.