The State of PHP in 2021: Forecasts and Development Trends

Getting Your PHP Applications in Order

Matthew Weier O’Phinney (Matthew Weier O’Phinney)

What does the future hold for PHP, though? PHP is alive and well in 2021, thanks to new language improvements and the growing demand for polished, customer-facing digital experiences.

In this blog, we’ll talk about the current state of the PHP landscape in 2021, answer some common (if not hyperbolic) questions about the language’s state, and speculate on PHP’s future as a language and as a development ecosystem.

  • In 2021, what will be the state of PHP?
  • PHP Development Trends in 2021
  • Future Projections for PHP as a Programming Language
  • Projections for the PHP Ecosystem’s Future
  • Last Thoughts

In 2021, what will be the state of PHP?

This year, PHP celebrated its 25th birthday. It’s come a long way since its beginnings as a template parsing system that ran C functions whenever it encountered tags.

The language is still recognizable today as it was 20 years ago, though it has improved and expanded its features to assist developers in writing more flexible, maintainable, and correct software. Developers can even use the language to create web servers, which would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.

PHP 8.0 now includes full object-oriented capabilities, an opt-in strict-typing system, a Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler, extensions for nearly every database in use today, robust date and time processing tools that put other languages to shame, and much more.

Those improvements, however, are insufficient to appease the skeptics. So, for the sake of argument, let’s respond to some frequently asked questions about PHP’s state in 2021.

Is PHP a Dead Language?

  • It is by no means a dead language, as neither is ASP for that matter.
  • PHP has been for at least 20 years the most popular language for doing web back ends. Right after Java
  • NodeJS has been around for 10 years but has grown very fast because of many innovative ideas. If I made a new site I would do it with NodeJS, that’s why PHP is “less alive” for me, but not dead.
  • Where the heck do you get your stats? Unless the site states what language it uses in a roundabout or indirect way, you can’t be sure what language it uses.

Is PHP Still Useful in the Year 2021?

When you think of web development, aside from HTML, CSS and JavaScript, PHP language is one of the names that come to mind.

Contrary to popular belief, PHP is not dead. It’s still widely used for site development, including big names like Facebook and Wikipedia.

According to W3Techs, PHP is used by about 79% of all websites. It is eight times more popular than ASP.NET, its closest rival in server-side programming languages.

PHP’s share of usage has remained steady over the past year.

Is it necessary for me to learn PHP in 2021?

PHP is known to be the most widely used programming language. Imagine, over 88% of websites are built with PHP!
In general, the choice of development language is a trade-off between pros and cons of the available options. PHP is the language that can be used to create any type of website in 2021, starting from Landing pages and simple WordPress websites, and ending with complex web platforms like Facebook.

Check out the PHP Trends and Analysis for 2021.

Future Projections for PHP as a Programming Language

Many of the new features in PHP 8 will help developers save time (named arguments, constructor promotion, match expressions), reduce maintenance (union types, enhanced covariance/contravariance rules, full range of type hinting capabilities), and improve performance (JIT). Features like the Just-In-Time (JIT) compiler have yet to show their worth in the language, but they could pave the way for future advancements in systems programming and machine learning.

Projections for the PHP Ecosystem’s Future

Automation and testing tools are gaining popularity. Containers are increasingly being used by businesses to deploy applications. As a result, the average PHP developer will require more training and education in order to create the APIs and business-critical applications that their companies rely on. Real-time dashboards and data processing are made possible by async applications. In the last few years, the PHP ecosystem has greatly expanded and matured.

Last Thoughts

PHP is a stable, mature language at this point, but it is still expanding its capabilities to gain a foothold in new ecosystems, such as Big Data and Machine Learning. As a PHP developer, you’ll have the security of 25 years of development and refinement, as well as the excitement of all the future growth and innovation.

See the Most Important PHP Development Trends

Do you want to know which PHP technologies are the most popular among developers? Do you want to know about the latest PHP development trends? The 2021 PHP Landscape Report provides an inside look at PHP development in 2021, as well as projections for how the landscape may change in the future.

Obtain a Free Report

Additional Information

  • 2021 PHP Landscape Report White Paper
  • 2021 PHP Landscape Report: Key Findings and Analysis (webinar)
  • Webinar: PHP 8 New Features and Improvements
  • Top PHP Technologies for 2021 (Blog)

O’Phinney, Matthew Weier

Zend Product Manager, Perforce Zend

He is a founding member of the PHP Framework Interop Group (PHP-FIG), which develops and promotes PHP ecosystem standards, and is currently serving his second term on the PHP-FIG Core Committee. Matthew started working on Zend Framework (ZF) before it was released to the public, and he led the project for Zend from 2009 to 2019.