Apr 10

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

PHP Becoming Mainstream

We've noticed that one of the signs that a language is becoming mainstream (and perhaps being abandoned by the cutting edge developers) is that the For Dummies book becomes the top seller.

I was reviewing data about PHP in our Bookscan data mart the other day, and was really struck by how much the sales mix has changed in the past year. Here are the top ten PHP books in the first quarter of this year vs. the first quarter of last year. (Apologies for the quick screen shot -- those aren't really links you can click for more info -- but I don't have time to create a proper table with more info.)

Top PHP books 2007 vs. 2006

In Q1 of 2005, the Dummies book was #7; in Q1 2006, #5; in Q1 2007 it's #1. Not only is the Dummies book now #1, four of the top five titles are now introductory.

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Comments: 14

  ProfessorDino [04.10.07 06:49 AM]

"PHP is dead. Long live PHP."

For those of us in the developer community that are sick to death of being called PHP dinosaurs, it's nice to read something from this blog that doesn't necessarily deal with Ruby on Rails :) If anything, the recent Rails phenom forced the PHP world to look closely at themselves, clean up their act, maybe even try on a framework or two (Cake and Symfony come to mind). Keep those books a'comin' and we'll keep a'readin'...

  Jason [04.10.07 09:55 AM]

I'm interested in your aside about cutting edge developers abandoning PHP. Do you think there's a natural correlation there? Or was it just an off-the-cuff remark? (Of course the follow-up question would be ... What's cutting edge out there that people are moving to when they move away from PHP?)

  anon [04.10.07 12:00 PM]

I still cant believe you made badges!

  Bill Pena [04.10.07 12:45 PM]

Is there any more popular web scripting language now than PHP? Is even ASP or ASP.NET used on more sites?

  Tim O'Brien [04.10.07 02:03 PM]

@Jason, to answer the question "What's cutting edge?". A few answers:

1. Rails - The grassroots energy under rails is still emerging. Rails gathers energy and audience from .NET, Java, and people looking for something a more opinionated than PHP.

2. Rich Client Offerings from Adobe - Both Flex and Apollo.

3. Cross-language integration - You'll see a ot of interesting hybrid approaches on both .NET and the JVM as a platform in the next year. PHP doesn't lend itself to anything like integration within a larger platform (you'll see Ruby and Python emerge as the technologies of choice)

While PHP has made inroads against established "enterprise" frameworks, you are going to see the install base shrink as the world continues to learn about alternatives like Rails and Django.

  Aleksei Miheev [04.10.07 03:25 PM]

PHP already was mainstream when I just started using it about a year before 5.0 release. And it was extremely hard to find any not-for-dummies book on PHP. I didn't, acutally.

  Robin Percy [04.10.07 06:03 PM]

Tim, I completely agree.

Personally I've moved from PHP to Python/Django. Although cross-language integration was less of a factor than language level features like namespaces, first-class functions and list comprehensions. Everything felt like more work in PHP after looking into Ruby and Python.

  Jason [04.11.07 01:44 PM]

I see my question was poorly worded. I was really trying to get at:

1. Why do you think PHP developers are moving away from PHP? (I realize you prefaced that with a "perhaps", but there is an implication there that because PHP is widespread it must therefore be abandonded in favor of the cutting edge.)

2. What, specifically, are PHP developers moving toward. (The answer is probably a subset of your "cutting edge" response. Yes, I understand these are edge technologies, but of these, would you hazard a guess that PHP developers are gravitating toward one versus another.)


For what it's worth, I work with PHP but feel strongly the lure of Ruby.

  Yawn [04.15.07 02:04 AM]

Hi, I'm an author of opinionated software. I'm cutting-edge and write beautiful code. I don't work in crufty Java/.NET shops because they suck but at the same time I believe there is a right tool for the job- it just so happens the right tool is always the one I use.

I believe I'm very productive in my cutting edge tools multiple times over. Unfortunately, I can't give you any numbers to back it up- I just *know* I am.

I hope the rest of you learn to embrace the joy of my language and framework-everything zen, just like the song goes. Btw, I already know you hate me, I guess you just fear change like those outdated Java/.NET people.

  pcdinh [04.15.07 06:31 AM]

PHP Community spirit is under radical change. More OOP embrace, more high quality frameworks ( http://solarphp.com, http://framework.zend.com, http://cakephp.com), seamlessly integrated with Java technologies (EJB, POJO, JMS), more security concern, more love to design patterns and enterprise-style features and more mature developer base. With these change, ASP.NET is obsolete and JSP/Servlet is optional, right? What are you looking for beyond of them?

  TJ [04.16.07 04:20 PM]

PHP is the underappreciated workforce of the Web. Not as sexy as some, but doing the lions share of the work. It just works, which is why it continues to spread.

  Stephen [04.28.07 06:37 PM]

We've hired PHP procedural programmers, PHP OO people, CakePHP people, and RoR, and I've noticed that a lot of the latter two often choose to do it in their system in inappropriate situations. For instance, simple sites that nevertheless need flexibility in things like encoding support and URL construction, and the frameworks can make that a pain, with their Rails crapping out on UTF-8, and both of them implementing complex mod_rewrite schemes that make any attempt at customization a minefield.

The smartest guys are the PHP OO people who _dont't_ use a comprehensive framework as a starting point, and who do the design pattern analysis and design themselves. MVC is just one of many design pattern patterns, and is more appropriate to enterprise stuff than to a lot of web sites, but if your only experience with OO is RoR, you force every project into it.

I think if you come into CakePHP or RoR after a bit of a carreer doing more hand-tooled OO, you're fine, but a lot of people don't have that background.

  russ [04.28.07 09:09 PM]

Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, Ruby, SO HO......

  John L [05.03.07 04:34 PM]

I'm a sr. engineer at a pretty big corporation... we've been growing our LAMP resources recently, and my particular department currently has websites in both PHP and RoR (actually, just one) to maintain.

The original RoR site vendor is no longer with us, and we've been looking for resources to help us get stuff done on that site.

That's the background, so take that for what it's worth when I say the following...

We've found that RoR the developers we've interviewed (at least in the NYC area) tend to be cocky as anything, and have an annoying arrogance to themselves. Additionally, they're slippery sonsobitches and really hard to get to commit to anything.

That said, I got the sense that these people were actually quite talented programmers, so I'll have to agree with Paul Graham's famous essay on the subject of enthusiasts.

That crops up *occasionally* with PHP people... and they're certainly less enthusiastic, overall... but exceedingly easier to work with.

I *know* that's such a blanket statement, but I've had a LOT of people in my office, having responded from a variety of job sites AND through head hunters.

Anyhow, hope I haven't offended anyone... not here to flame, and I *LOVE* Ruby as a language.... if this came out with any hostility, please understand that I might just still be disoriented from all the interviews. :-)

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