PHP Explained: A Comprehensive Guide To What Is PHP

What Is PHP? A Beginner's Guide to PHP Development

Final: What is PHP

PHP may be considered an old language, but its popularity in the world of web development continues to soar. In fact, PHP is used by nearly 80% of all web applications, powering millions of websites and web servers worldwide.

With PHP, developers can create dynamic web pages, process user input, build content management systems, and even integrate with other web services. Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just starting, PHP is a language worth exploring.


Key Highlights

  • PHP is a popular scripting language for creating content management systems (CMS), e-commerce websites, social networking sites, web APIs, and more
  • Variables store values that can be used later in the code
  • Forms can be created with PHP to process data submitted by users
  • Loops are used to repeat a block of code multiple times


What Does PHP Stand for?

PHP stands for “Hypertext Preprocessor.” Originally, it stood for “Personal Home Page.” However, as the language evolved and gained popularity, it was renamed to reflect its primary use case: processing hypertext, or HTML, documents on the server side.

As a server-side scripting language, PHP runs on the web server, not on the user’s computer or device. When a user requests a web page that contains PHP code, the server processes the code and generates HTML output, which is then sent to the user’s web browser for display. This allows PHP to create dynamic web pages that can interact with databases, other web services, and user input.


How Does PHP Actually Work?

When a user requests a web page that contains PHP code, the server processes the code and sends the output to the user’s web browser. This means that the user sees the final HTML output, but they don’t see the underlying PHP code that generated it. This allows you to create dynamic web pages that respond to user input or other conditions, without exposing the inner workings of your website.

Your PHP code can also be embedded directly into HTML, making it easy for you to create dynamic web pages that respond to user input. By using PHP variables, you can store and manipulate data that is passed between different web pages or components. PHP also provides powerful control structures, such as loops and conditionals, that allow you to create complex logic that can adapt to changing conditions.


What Is a PHP File?

A PHP file is simply a text file that contains PHP code and is typically saved with a .php file extension. This file can include HTML, CSS, and JavaScript along with PHP code.

When a user requests a web page that contains PHP code, the server reads the PHP file and sends it to the PHP interpreter. The interpreter then parses the PHP code, executes it, and generates dynamic content that is sent back to the web server. This dynamic content can include data from databases, user input, or other web services.

  • The use of PHP files allows web developers to create dynamic web pages that can adapt to changing conditions or user input. For example, a PHP file can be used to process a form submission, validate user input, and then generate a response based on the user’s input. This can be done without requiring the user to reload the entire web page, making the user experience more seamless and efficient.
  • PHP files can also be used to create reusable code modules, such as functions or classes, that can be included in multiple web pages or applications. This makes it easier to maintain and update your code, as changes made to a single file will be reflected in all pages or applications that use it.
  • It’s worth noting that PHP files can be vulnerable to security threats if not properly secured. For example, if a user is able to input malicious code into a form submission, this code could be executed by the PHP interpreter and cause damage to the web server or compromise user data. To prevent such security threats, it’s important to properly sanitize user input and use secure coding practices when working with PHP files.


Why Use PHP?

Final: What is PHP

Certainly! PHP is a popular choice among developers for many reasons. It is a versatile language that can be used for a wide variety of web development tasks, from creating simple websites to building complex web applications. Its flexibility makes it an excellent choice for both small and large-scale projects. It is like the Swiss Army Knife of programming languages

Here are some detailed explanations of the reasons why PHP is so popular:

1. Easy to Learn

PHP is a relatively easy language to learn, especially for beginners with limited programming experience. Its relatively simple syntax is one of its most appealing features for beginners. The language is based on common programming principles, such as variables, loops, and conditional statements, which makes it easy to understand for those who are new to programming

PHP’s syntax is also quite similar to that of other popular programming languages such as C and Java, which makes it easier to transition to PHP from those languages. Its pre-built functions and libraries also make web development easier for developers who may not have the time or expertise to create everything from scratch.

2. Open source

Being an open-source language is one of PHP’s biggest advantages, as it allows anyone to view, use, modify, and distribute its source code without any cost. This means that developers can use the language to create web applications without worrying about licensing costs or other restrictions. This encourages collaboration among developers and allows for the development of customized solutions to specific web development challenges.

PHP’s open-source community is a space where developers can collaborate and work together to create customized web development solutions. Here are some benefits of PHP’s open-source nature:

  • Innovation

Another benefit of the open-source nature of PHP is that it encourages innovation and experimentation. Developers can create their own tools and libraries, and share them with the community. This fosters an environment of collaboration and continuous improvement, as developers can learn from each other and build upon each other’s work.

  • Extensive Documentation

In addition, PHP has extensive documentation available online. The official PHP documentation is thorough and well-organized, covering everything from basic syntax to advanced concepts. This documentation provides a valuable resource for beginners who are learning PHP, as well as experienced developers who need to reference specific functions or techniques.

3. Widely Used

PHP’s popularity is largely due to its widespread use by some of the largest websites on the internet, including Facebook, Wikipedia, and WordPress. These websites handle enormous amounts of traffic and require highly scalable and efficient web applications, which PHP is well-suited for. As a result, PHP has become a popular choice for web development, and there are many job opportunities available for developers who know PHP.

  • One of the reasons PHP is so widely used is because it is highly efficient and can handle large amounts of traffic without compromising performance. PHP’s ability to handle high-traffic loads is due in part to its lightweight architecture, which makes it easy to run on most web servers.
  • Another reason PHP is a popular choice for web development is because it is highly scalable. This means that as a website grows and its traffic increases, developers can easily add more resources to the PHP application to accommodate the growth. This is made possible by PHP’s modular design, which allows developers to easily add new features and functionality as needed.
  • In addition, PHP hosting typically includes features such as automatic backups, security scans, and uptime monitoring to ensure that PHP applications are always up and running smoothly. Some PHP hosting providers also offer specialized support for PHP applications, which can be helpful for developers who need assistance with troubleshooting or optimizing their PHP code.

When it comes to hosting PHP applications, PHP hosting is the most efficient option. One of the key benefits of PHP hosting is that it includes pre-installed versions of PHP and all the necessary modules and libraries that are required to run PHP applications. This means that developers don’t need to worry about configuring their servers or installing the necessary software themselves.

If you’re looking for PHP hosting, HostAdvice is a great resource to find the best PHP hosting providers. HostAdvice offers detailed reviews and comparisons of the top PHP hosting providers, as well as user ratings and feedback to help you make an informed decision.

4. Wide availability of resources

PHP’s community of developers create and share resources such as documentation, tutorials, and code libraries. This makes it easier for developers to find the resources they need to learn PHP and develop their own PHP applications.

PHP’s popularity and widespread use also mean that there are many resources available for learning the language, such as online tutorials, books, and courses. With these resources and the support of the PHP community, beginners can quickly get up to speed with the language and begin building their own dynamic web applications.

5. Versatile

Final: What is PHP

PHP is a versatile language that can be used to develop a wide range of web applications. It is not limited to any specific type of application or functionality, and it can be used for anything from simple websites to complex web applications.

PHP’s versatility has made it a popular choice for web development, and many developers choose to learn PHP because of its wide range of use cases. Whether you’re building a simple website or a complex web application, PHP is a reliable and flexible language that can help you achieve your goals.

  • One of the reasons for PHP’s versatility is its extensive library of functions and extensions. These libraries make it easy to develop a wide range of applications with different functionalities, such as e-commerce platforms, content management systems, social networks, and more.
  • PHP is also well-suited for developing web applications that require interaction with other web services like APIs and webhooks. With PHP, developers can easily make HTTP requests to external APIs to retrieve or send data. They can also create webhooks to receive real-time updates from external services and trigger actions in their own application.
  • Furthermore, PHP can be integrated with many different databases, including MySQL, PostgreSQL, and MongoDB, which makes it easy to store and manage data in web applications.

6. Fast and Efficient

PHP is designed to be fast and efficient, making it a good choice for high-traffic websites and applications. The PHP interpreter is designed to execute code quickly and efficiently, which helps to minimize the time it takes for a web page to load.

  • In addition, PHP has a number of features that make it well-suited for high-traffic applications. For example, PHP can be used with opcode caching systems like APC and OpCache, which can significantly improve the performance of PHP applications by storing compiled code in memory for faster execution.
  • PHP also supports multithreading and process management, which can help to improve the performance of web applications that need to handle a large number of concurrent requests.
  • Furthermore, PHP is designed to be scalable, which means that it can handle an increasing amount of traffic as a website or application grows. This scalability is achieved through a number of techniques, such as load balancing and caching, which help to distribute traffic and reduce the load on individual servers.

7. Large Community

Final: What is PHP

PHP has a large and active community of developers who have created a wide range of libraries and tools that make it easier to develop PHP applications. These libraries and tools include PHP frameworks, content management systems, and other third-party components that can be used to extend the functionality of PHP applications.

Frameworks like Laravel, Symfony, and CodeIgniter provide a structured approach to developing web applications, making it easier for developers to organize their code and build complex applications. Content management systems like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla provide pre-built modules and templates that can be used to create websites and web applications quickly and easily.

  • In addition to frameworks and content management systems, the PHP community has created a wide range of other tools and libraries that can be used to enhance the functionality of PHP applications. These include database libraries, email libraries, and encryption libraries, among many others.
  • These libraries provide developers with pre-written code that can be used to accomplish common tasks, such as interacting with databases, sending emails, or parsing XML data. This saves developers time and effort, allowing them to focus on building the unique features of their web applications.
  • The PHP community also provides support and resources to help developers learn and improve their PHP skills. Online forums, documentation, and tutorials are all readily available, making it easy for developers to get help and learn from experienced developers.

Overall, the large and active community of PHP developers has helped to make PHP one of the most popular and widely used programming languages in the world. Whether you’re just starting out as a PHP developer or you’re an experienced professional, the PHP community has resources and tools to help you develop robust and scalable web applications.


What Are PHP frameworks?

A PHP framework typically includes components such as database connection handling, session management, and input validation, among others. They are pre-written, structured sets of code that provide a foundation for building web applications. These frameworks make it easier for developers to build complex web applications by providing a set of common features and tools.

By using a framework, developers can save time by not having to write this code from scratch, and can focus on developing custom features specific to their application. Some popular PHP frameworks include Laravel, Symfony, CodeIgniter, Yii, and CakePHP. Each framework has its own strengths and weaknesses, and developers often choose a framework based on the specific needs of their project.

What Can PHP Do?

PHP is a versatile programming language that can be used to create a wide range of web applications. Here are some of the things that PHP can do:

1. Server-Side Scripting

PHP is primarily used for server-side scripting, allowing developers to create dynamic web pages that can interact with databases, process user input, and generate custom content based on the user’s actions. Server-side scripting means that the code is executed on the server before being sent to the user’s browser, which helps to improve security and performance.

Some of the popular databases which PHP’s built-in functions allow you to interact directly with are MySQL and PostgreSQL. This means you can easily store and retrieve data from your website, such as user information or product listings, and create dynamic pages that display customized content based on user input or other criteria.

2. Form Processing

Another common use for PHP is processing form data. By embedding PHP code directly into your HTML form, you can easily process user input and validate it before submitting it to a database or other web service.

This feature allows developers to create interactive forms that users can fill out and submit, and then process that data on the server side. So you can create everything from simple contact forms to complex surveys and questionnaires that can adapt to user input and provide feedback in real time.

3. Content Management Systems (CMS)

PHP is widely used to create content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. These CMS platforms allow users to easily create and manage their websites without knowing how to code. They also provide a range of tools and plugins that can extend the functionality of the CMS.

4. E-commerce Websites

PHP can be used to create e-commerce websites, allowing users to purchase products and services online. PHP is commonly used with popular e-commerce platforms like Magento, WooCommerce, and OpenCart. These platforms provide a range of features for managing products, orders, payments, and shipping.

If you are planning to create an eCommerce website, it is important to choose the right hosting provider. PHP hosting is the most efficient for PHP-based applications, and you can find a list of the best PHP hosting providers on HostAdvice.

5. Social Networking Sites

PHP can also be used to create social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. These sites require complex user authentication and management systems, which PHP can handle easily. Social networking sites also require real-time updates and notifications, which can be achieved using PHP’s server-side scripting capabilities.

6. Web APIs

PHP can be used to create web APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which allow other applications to interact with your web application. This is an essential feature for building complex web applications that require integration with other software systems.

7. Real-Time Communication

PHP can also be used to create real-time communication applications, such as chat apps or messaging platforms, by utilizing web sockets and other real-time communication protocols. These applications require real-time updates and can handle large volumes of traffic, making PHP a good choice for developing them.


How Is PHP Used in WordPress?

Final: What is PHP

PHP is a crucial part of WordPress, and it is used extensively in themes, plugins, and custom code. With PHP, you can create dynamic and interactive websites that engage your visitors and provide a great user experience. You should also take note of PHP code standards for wordpress. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how PHP is used in WordPress:

Step 1: Install WordPress

First, you need to install WordPress on your server. You can do this by downloading the latest version of WordPress from the official website and then following the installation instructions.

Step 2: Set up the Theme

Once WordPress is installed, you need to set up a theme for your website. WordPress themes are collections of PHP, HTML, and CSS files that control the look and feel of your website. You can choose from thousands of free and premium themes on the WordPress theme directory.

Step 3: Customize the Theme

After installing the theme, you can customize it to suit your needs. This involves editing the PHP, HTML, and CSS files that make up the theme. You can do this using the built-in WordPress theme editor or by editing the files directly on your server using an FTP client.

Step 4: Add Plugins

WordPress plugins are pieces of software that extend the functionality of your website. Many plugins are written in PHP and interact with the WordPress core using PHP functions and hooks. You can add plugins to your website by installing them from the WordPress plugin directory or by uploading them directly to your server.

Step 5: Create Custom PHP Code

If you need to add custom functionality to your website, you can write your own PHP code. This involves creating a new PHP file and adding the necessary code to it. You can then upload the file to your server and include it in your WordPress theme or plugin. Here is more information:

  • To create a new PHP file, you can use a text editor like Notepad or a more advanced IDE (integrated development environment) like Visual Studio Code. In this example, we’ll create a new PHP file called “custom-page.php”.
  • Once you’ve created the new PHP file, you can add your PHP code to it. In this example, we’ll add a basic PHP script that outputs the content of a WordPress page:

How Is PHP Used in WordPress?

  • Save the PHP file: After adding the PHP code, save the file with a .php extension. For example, you could save the file as “custom-page.php”.
  • To use the PHP file in WordPress, you’ll need to upload it to your WordPress site. You can do this using an FTP client or by using the built-in WordPress file editor.
  • Once the PHP file is uploaded to your site, you can create a new page in WordPress that uses the PHP file as its template. To do this, create a new page in WordPress and select “Custom Page” as the page template.
  • Finally, you can view the custom page in your web browser. The custom page will display the content of the page using the PHP script you created earlier.

Step 6: Debug and Test

Finally, it’s important to test your PHP code and make sure it works as expected. You can use the built-in WordPress debugging tools to identify and fix any errors in your code.

PHP Examples for Beginners

Here are some simple PHP examples for beginners:

1. Hello World

How Is PHP Used in WordPress?

This is the classic “Hello, World!” example that you’ll find in many programming languages. It simply outputs the text “Hello, World!” to the screen. You can do this by typing:


echo "Hello, world!";


2. Variables

Variables store values that can be used later in the code. Here’s an example demonstrating how to create and use variables in PHP.

How Is PHP Used in WordPress?

In this example, we create two variables: $name and $age, We then use the echo statement to output a message that includes the values of these variables. Type:


$name = "John";

$age = 30;

echo "My name is $name and I am $age years old.";


3. Forms

PHP can be used to process data submitted through a form. Here’s an example demonstrating how to create a simple form and process the data on the server side.

How Is PHP Used in WordPress?

<!DOCTYPE html>



<title>Form Example</title>



<form method="post" action="<?php echo $_SERVER['PHP_SELF']; ?>">

Name: <input type="text" name="name"><br>

Email: <input type="email" name="email"><br>

<input type="submit" name="submit" value="Submit">




$name = $_POST["name"];

$email = $_POST["email"];

echo "Name: $name<br>";

echo "Email: $email";





In this example, a form is created with two input fields for the user’s name and email. This is a simple PHP form that collects user input and displays it back to the user on submission. Here are the steps:

  • The first section of code sets up the HTML form structure, including the form method (POST), action (which is set to the current PHP file using $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’]), and input fields for name and email.
  • When the user submits the form, the PHP code below the form is executed. It first checks if the server request method is POST (which means the form has been submitted), and then retrieves the user input from the POST superglobal array using the “name” and “email” keys.
  • Finally, the PHP code uses the “echo” statement to display the user’s name and email back to them on the webpage.

4. Loops

Loops are used to repeat a block of code multiple times. Here’s an example that demonstrates how to use a for loop in PHP.

How Is PHP Used in WordPress?


for ($i = 0; $i < 10; $i++) {

echo "$i ";



This code will output the numbers 0 through 9.

5. Arrays

Arrays are used to store multiple values in a single variable. Here’s an example demonstrating how to create and use an array in PHP.

How Is PHP Used in WordPress?


$fruits = array("apple", "banana", "orange");

echo "I like " . $fruits[0] . ", " . $fruits[1] . ", and " . $fruits[2] . ".";


In this example, we create an array called $fruits that contains three values: “apple”, “banana”, and “orange”. We then use the echo statement to output a message that says “I like” followed by the first element in the array $fruits[0], a comma and a space, then the second element in the array $fruits[1], another comma and space, and finally the word “and” followed by the third element in the array $fruits[2].

So the output of this code would be: “I like apple, banana, and orange.”


PHP vs Python, Ruby, and JavaScript

Ultimately, the choice of language depends on the specific needs and requirements of the project. While PHP may not be the best fit for every project, it offers a wide range of tools and frameworks specifically designed for web development, and its large community of developers ensures ongoing support and innovation.

1. Python

Python is known for its simplicity and readability, and it is often used for scientific computing, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. However, PHP has a more established presence in web development, and it offers a wider range of tools and frameworks specifically designed for web development.

2. Ruby

Ruby is another language that is popular for web development, particularly for its Ruby on Rails framework. However, PHP is generally considered to be more scalable and better suited for large-scale web applications.

3. JavaScript

While PHP is primarily a server-side language, JavaScript is used extensively for client-side scripting in web development. JavaScript frameworks like Angular and React have become increasingly popular in recent years, but PHP remains a widely-used server-side language that can work seamlessly with JavaScript.



Despite some people bashing it and the claims of decline, PHP is still used to run the servers of almost 80% of all websites today. Its powerful server-side scripting capabilities make it possible to create dynamic and interactive web applications that provide an engaging user experience.

Additionally, its active community and extensive documentation make it easier than ever to get started with PHP, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced developer.

Moreover, PHP’s open-source nature has enabled the development of a thriving community of developers who contribute to its growth and advancement. This has resulted in a wealth of tools and libraries that make web development faster and more efficient, while also fostering innovation and experimentation.

In short, PHP is a language that continues to evolve and improve, making it an essential tool for any developer seeking to create high-quality web applications.


Next Steps: What Now?


Further Reading – Useful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

What is PHP and why is it used?

PHP is a popular server-side scripting language used for web development. It is designed to create dynamic web pages that can interact with databases, process user input, and generate custom content based on the user’s actions. It is also an open-source language, meaning it is free to use and anyone can contribute to its development.

What are the differences between PHP and HTML?

PHP and HTML are both used for web development, but they serve different purposes. HTML is a markup language used to create the structure and content of a web page. PHP is a server-side scripting language used to create dynamic web pages that can interact with databases, process user input, and generate custom content based on the user’s actions. While HTML is used to create the static elements of a web page, PHP is used to create the dynamic elements.

What is PHP in simple words?

PHP is a popular server-side scripting language used for web development. It is designed to create dynamic web pages that can interact with databases, process user input, and generate custom content based on the user’s actions.

Is PHP a programming language?

Yes, PHP is a programming language and a server-side scripting language, meaning that it is executed on the web server rather than in the user’s browser.

How can I choose between PHP and Python for my web development project?

The choice between PHP and Python depends on the specific requirements of your web development project. It’s important to consider the scalability, maintainability, and ease of use of each language before making a final decision.

Is PHP compatible with cloud services?

PHP applications can be deployed on a cloud server and achieve excellent scalability and other beneficial effects. Even more, the area of cloud computing is not monopolized by other coding languages, so PHP has taken its place in such implementations.

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