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PHP AKA the modern web application development platform

Photo: Anti_Ainsar
Photo: Anti_Ainsar

On September 3, 2019, version 6 of one of the best-known PHP frameworks, Laravel was released. IT Producer at ADM Interactive, Anti Ainsar talked to ITuudised about PHP and Laravel in more detail.

Should one go for PHP or are the main players still just JAVA and .NET?

All companies nowadays use some sort of software to manage and automate their work processes, but more and more companies are forced to develop solutions that are tailor-made for their needs. Oftentimes, this means making financial and time-related investments, which means that it is important to ensure that the base platform chosen for the development of these applications is secure, reliable, sustainable, but also cost-effective.

When you think about the development platforms used for developing professional and business critical web applications, then two names pop into mind most often – Java and .NET. Both are well-known and widespread platforms, which have been used in the software industry for a couple of decades and in that time, they have become deep-rooted in various large corporations and organisations.

Next to them, the PHP platform has also become increasingly more important. Although PHP has been used in software development for quite a long time, it is still considered to be mainly suitable for the development of smaller websites and applications.

But thanks to the advancements that have been made in the world of PHP over the years, we can finally say that that period of time in PHP’s history is over and that today, it is a very strong contender for even the most demanding development projects.

PHP applications can be found nearly everywhere

The first version of PHP was released in 1995. Over the last two decades, PHP has been significantly developed and the ecosystem surrounding it has grown to be so large that you can find PHP-based applications nearly everywhere.

Countless open-source libraries have been created for the PHP platform, but they have never been as easy to integrate with each other as they are today.

Over the last ten years, 18 major specifications and standards have been released for PHP which are known as the PHP Standard Recommendations (PSR).

This common shared standard and PHP’s package manager Composer make it possible to use a large number of high-quality libraries and stable, well-tested and easy-to-integrate software components in modern PHP projects.

The current version PHP, version 7, was released at the end of 2015 and it brought with it many important updates to the language itself as well as to the performance of the applications based on it. PHP 7 uses a completely new internal engine, which optimises memory usage and improves application performances by nearly two or three times when compared to earlier versions. Every couple of months, smaller updates are released for version 7, which usually consist of smaller add-ons and security updates.

The popularity of PHP among those who prefer open-source solutions

Generally, developing solutions for the PHP platform tends to be less costly than, for example, developing for Java since the platform is very accessible. Additionally, a significant number of agencies exist today that specialise in developing for PHP, which means that you can always find help and advice when working with this platform.

PHP has always been very popular among smaller companies and startups who prefer using open-source solutions, but by now, PHP has also become the preferred development platform for many large technology companies. Among them are Lyft, a popular ride-sharing platform in the US, Tesla, MIT, Wikipedia, and Facebook.

In the case of Facebook, the truly remarkable part is the volume of data their web application must be capable of handling. As of Q1 2019, Facebook had 2.38 billion active users, who make tens of millions of posts on the platform every day.

Laravel – PHP’s rising star

As is the case with many languages, PHP also has multiple frameworks that make it easier and faster to work with PHP. The shining star among these is Laravel, a free, open-source web framework.

Laravel was first launched in 2011 and its relatively short lifespan, has already become one of the most popular frameworks in the world of PHP. There are a lot of reasons behind why and how it has become a favourite of many developers so quickly.

Amidst today’s data protection and security issues, one huge and important advantage that Laravel has is how simple the implementation of strong and well-organised authentication methods has been made with it.

Best practices for developing web solutions

Similar to other languages, Laravel can also be used to work with the MVC or Model-View-Controller architectural pattern, which divides applications into three larger parts. MVC is a widespread best practice to follow when developing web solutions.

Other common best practice principles include DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself), which encourages developers to combine similar functions in their code instead of repeating them, and KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!), which originates from the 1960s from the US and defines the best-working systems as ones that are simple and easy to understand.

MVC itself falls under the broader umbrella of Separation of Concerns – a design principle according to which the solution you are developing should be separated into distinct parts, each of which addresses a separate concern.

Laravel already has many of the functions needed to work with the MVC principle built into it, which makes working with the framework easier and helps the developer to build their application according to the best practices.

Of course, Laravel also comes with various other tools, properties, and official add-ons that make the developer’s job easier to do. Some examples of these include the Eloquent ORM, Cashier and Passport. The Eloquent ORM or object-relational mapping tool enables the developer to search and manage data in a database by using PHP syntax instead of writing SQL code.

Cashier is an official Laravel add-on which is used to integrate a service or product with Stripe’s subscription billing services. Passport provides a native OAuth2 server to be used for API authentication for Laravel apps.

From the perspective of an entrepreneur, the most important thing is to ensure that using a solution such as this enables them to make quick advancements with their service or product. Since working with Laravel has been made quite convenient and fast, then new MVPs or minimum viable products can also be developed very quickly whilst still ensuring that they work reliably. The speed and efficiency that Laravel provides can also be implemented when developing and introducing new systems.

Accessible in every way

One of the most important things related to the success of Laravel and PHP in general is the fact that it is open-source, which means that for a lot of younger people, it is the first software development language they learn, which in turn means that on average, there are more PHP developers on the market today.

This is especially true for Estonia and our neighbouring territories, where open-source platforms, languages and frameworks are preferred over others due to limitations set by the state budget and general government principles.

With PHP, it is also important to mention the huge community that surrounds it, which is once again influenced by the open-source nature of the language. The existence of such a community means that if a PHP developer has a problem or a question, then nearly all of them can be resolved very quickly with the support of the community. The people behind PHP have also taken great care to ensure that the platform’s documentation is thorough but easy to read.

In addition to developers, the community also includes those who have decided to teach PHP to others. This means that there are a lot of instructors around who know the platform very well and whose guidance helps new developers get acquainted with and start working with PHP and Laravel quickly.

Java and .NET’s equal

Companies must be capable of developing and managing their systems and applications quickly and without any errors to be successful in the digital world. Accordingly, using tools that are adapted to work according to modern standards and requirements makes it much easier to achieve that goal.

PHP in combination with the Laravel framework is a great example of a solution that has earned its spot next to Java and .NET as their equal. And just as importantly, since learning how to use Laravel is relatively quick and easy, then it also makes it easier to exchange projects between development partners, which in turn helps both clients and developers save their time.

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