21 December 2009

Dawn Ascends! Ready Your Swords!

I absolutely love coding in PHP. Sometimes I get distracted by the glitz and glamour of some of the more popular languages (and their associated frameworks) - and I agree, they have their place. But PHP is in a class of its own.
The truth is that for years PHP has had an active community - and this continues to thrive. Because it's so easy to get your hands on PHP, and get it installed, hosting is cheap, and there are no major licensing issues, uptake was fast.

The PHP site fast became the home of many PHP-related projects and spun off into package managers and extension managers (PEAR and PECL respectively). Literally thousands of developers write setup and "Hello World" tutorials. Loads of scripts and apps are open-source and open-licensed. No wonder it is the most popular language in use on the web!

However, we're moving into a new age. A very competitive era dawns. PHP needs to stand up to the impending onslaught of faster compilers and VMs. The competition will be tough. But I believe PHP can hold its own.

As we move into this era of greater web app interconnectivity, PHP seems poised to reign strong. With a flock of transport layer extensions (think JSON, SOAP, XML-RPC) and authentication modules (OAuth, OpenID etc) at the ready, it looks pretty solid.

One thing stands at the gates, pleading nervously and gently as we give out our warcry: documentation, documentation, documentation. And for good measure... DOCUMENTATION!

The PHP site is littered with it. The community add to it. But when it comes to third-party tools, especially PEAR libraries and other third-party code, we're pretty weak.

The area of most concern has to be client libraries for web service APIs. Some are just totally appalling: outdated, incorrect, poorly formatted or purely non-existent.

This is a bad show and something we need to improve upon desperately if PHP is to be the language of choice for web development in the next decade.

You might argue that it's not going to disappear off the map. You may be right. But there's no harm in making our lives easier and ensuring PHP's safety and continued popularity by writing better documentation!

Come on chaps... for GLORY!

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