A look at modern PHP

PHP has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1995. While it was originally designed as a simple templating language, PHP has evolved into a full-featured, mature programming language powering over 75% of the websites on the internet today. Despite some lingering misconceptions, modern PHP is a fast, secure, and capable choice for building web applications of any scale.

Language improvements

Over the past several years, the PHP core team has made major strides in improving the language itself. PHP 7, released in 2015, offered massive performance gains - roughly doubling the speed of PHP 5.6. It also introduced useful features like scalar type declarations, return type declarations, and the spaceship operator. Subsequent 7.x releases have continued to optimize performance while adding new capabilities like nullable types, void functions, and more.

With PHP 8, the language is taking another big leap forward. Just-in-time (JIT) compiling promises additional performance boosts. New types like union types and match expression make the language more expressive. Named arguments, attributes, and property promotion streamline common tasks. All together, PHP 8 represents a significant upgrade for the language.

Robust frameworks and ecosystem

Modern PHP development is accelerated by a number of excellent web frameworks. At the full-stack end, frameworks like Laravel, Symfony and Laminas (formerly Zend) provide an integrated toolkit for building web applications, with tools for routing, databases, authentication, testing and more. Slimmer frameworks like Slim and Lumen enable developers to craft lightweight APIs and microservices.

PHP's package ecosystem, anchored by the Packagist repository and Composer dependency manager, provides access to tens of thousands of open source libraries for any task. It's easy to pull in packages for interacting with web services, generating PDF files, parsing markdown, manipulating images, and much more.

The PHP community has also embraced modern development practices like unit testing, static analysis, and continuous integration. Tools like PHPUnit and Psalm catch bugs early in the development cycle, while platforms like Travis CI and CircleCI automate builds and deployment.

Flexible hosting and deployment

One area where PHP shines is in the wide variety of ways it can be hosted and deployed. Nearly every web host and cloud platform supports PHP out of the box. For small projects, FTP-ing files to a shared host is still a viable option. For larger applications, PHP plays nicely with modern DevOps tools and infrastructure.

You can containerize PHP applications with Docker, then deploy them to Kubernetes clusters or serverless platforms. With PHP's inbuilt web server, it's easy to run applications locally during development, then deploy to production-grade web servers like Apache or Nginx when the time comes.

Power real-world apps

Modern PHP powers the backends of some of the most widely used web applications in the world. WordPress, built on PHP, is used by over 40% of the top 10 million websites. Wikipedia, the world's largest encyclopedia, uses MediaWiki, an open-source wiki package written in PHP. Platforms like Mailchimp, Slack, and Canva rely on PHP backends to serve millions of users.

Rapid SaaS Development with Laravel

In recent years, the Laravel framework has emerged as a powerful tool for rapid SaaS development. Laravel's expressive syntax, powerful ORM, and built-in support for essential SaaS features like subscription billing and user management make it an ideal choice for building web-based software products.

Combined with Vue.js on the frontend, developers can quickly prototype and launch SaaS MVPs. Packages like Spark and Jetstream provide pre-built scaffolding for common SaaS requirements, while Laravel's robust queue system and support for serverless deployment make it easy to scale applications as they grow.

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