A few days ago, on June 8th to be precise PHP had celebrated itís 20th birthday! Wow!
Ben Ramsey had written a blog post to talk about his history with PHP to commemorate the event and invited others to do the same. I didnít get a chance to respond to the call at the time since between work and International PHP Conference in Berlin my days were all but gone, but in the spirit of ďbetter later then neverĒ here I go
My first encounter with PHP was back in summer of 1998, at the time I was working on a bunch of websites that were just starting to be dynamic and needed something more advanced than static HTML. My first dive into development for the web was actually with Perl and subsequently mod_perl (**shudder**) and while Perl is a fine language for some people it just didnít settle with me. I was complaining endlessly about it and that fact that combination of every 2 non alphanumeric characters did *something* was driving me nuts. Fortunately, the owner of the ISP I was using at the time got tired of my complaining and occasionally crashing his server with my mod_perl horrors, gently but persistently suggested I look at PHP. And after looking at PHP 3 I never looked back, the proximity of PHP to C in terms of syntax, naming conventions, etc.. and the fact I could inherently grok the syntax won me over. From that point on my tinkering with web scripting languages was largely related to PHP.
As it is true for many Core Developers my contribution to PHP came out of need. In 2000 my very good friend (Slava Polyakov) and I were working on a search engine and we need to quickly pass data from a C backend to the PHP front-end. We decided to use shared memory, but quickly discovered that PHP was a bit lacking in this regard with the sysvshm extension requiring data to be serialized and not being the most performant or easy to use solution. So we decided to do better and this is how SHared Memory OPerations (shmop) extension was born. Since I didnít have a CVS account, I reached out to an existing PHP contributor, Derick Rethans with whose assistance the extension made it into PHP. Needless to say I was quite excited that our extension was considered, let alone allowed to be part of the language.
For the next 2 years I continued to be mainly a user of the language and had actually started actively working on my first Open Source project, Fast Uncompromising Discussion Forum, FUDForum for short. As someone who now had to contend with developing an application that had to work on multiple environments and PHP configurations Iíve soon grown to hate safe_mode and open_basedir restrictions that would continually interfere in the operation of the forum. I ended up spending countless hours coming up with clever ways to bypass them. But this was a massive pain and most of the e-mails and questions I would get from my users were around issues relating to these ďsecurity featuresĒ. In a moment of frustration I went on IRC into the php-dev channel, where the language developers tended to hangout and decided to wage a one man war on those features by pointing out all the file system functions that didnít implement safe_mode/open_basedir restrictions. My hope was that developers would see the futility of these access restrictions and remove them.
Fortunately Rasmus Lerdorf was listening and at first was correcting the issues I was pointing out, then convinced me to write patches to fix them and when he got annoyed with daily stream of patches just said go fix it yourself and here is the CVS access to do itÖ At this point, sometime in 2002 I became a contributor to PHP, from there on Iíve had the opportunity to contribute to virtually every extension, Zend Engine and most of the SAPIs in use today. For several years Iíve even had the privilege and trust of the community to be the release master of over 20 different versions of PHP.
In 2003 the PHP Quebec user group decided to organize their first very conference and they invited me to speak at their event. Boy was I ever nervous, I think I spent close two 2 months preparing my first talk on PHP Performance, but nothing couldíve prepared me for speaking in university lecture hall with PHP luminaries such as Derick, Zeev, Rasmus and several others sitting in the front row along with about 100+ conference attendees. And even though I probably set a record on words said per-minute, people seem to like the talk which in turn encouraged me to begin speaking, writing and advocating use of PHP. With some prodding from Macro Tabini, who at the time was running PHP Architect I even wrote a book on PHP Security, one of my passions aside from making things faster
Looking back at my almost 17 year experience with PHP I have nothing but good things to say, yes there were moments of frustration and annoyance, occasional flamewar or two on PHP internals. But all of that pales in comparison with the opportunity to meet and make friends with some amazing people around the world that I would have otherwise never had a chance to meet. PHP had also became the foundation of my career and even though not all the work Iíve done involved PHP, it still played a dominant role.
So cheers to PHP and all the people who had contributed to make this great language and hereís to another 20 years of PHP. Na zdorovie!
It is funny, that PHP is not much younger than me. After reading your post I myself started to memorize my early beginnings. I almost had a tear in the eye. But yea, a lot happened in the last 20 years and what needs to be said - good job!