Zend and the Art of PHP

Brian Dunlap
Familiar to all Web programmers, PHP has become the most popular programming language on the Internet, powering most of the world's dynamic (constantly changing, interactive) websites. Even non-programmers constantly benefit from the popularity and utilization of PHP-whether it's in lower bandwidth costs and fewer labor hours for webmasters or faster content access and personalized displays for surfers.

PHP is particularly relevant to adult sites that demand heavy traffic loads and offer up the latest in dynamic multimedia content, along with a broad range of websites seeking to personalize the visitor's experience with a variety of content and a flexible, interactive and efficient interface. PHP not only facilitates modern Web-based business but, indeed, spurs its progress.

The two men recognized as being responsible for PHP as it exists today, Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans of Zend Technologies, emailed Cybersocket (from their offices in Israel) about their current efforts in the development of PHP as an open source scripting language, what Zend Technologies has made available to power PHP, and what it means for the rest of us.

Cybersocket: How would you describe PHP and what Zend offers to compliment it?

Andi and Zeev: PHP is a programming language used to build dynamic websites, such as online news, online stores and adult sites. Such sites usually either interact with the user-showing them personalized information-or change content periodically. As the creators of PHP and the Zend Engine (the scripting engine that powers PHP), we have a very deep knowledge both of the technology and of PHP users.

Cybersocket: What would be the tangible benefits a Web business owner/ developer could experience implementing PHP and a product such as ZPS?

Andi and Zeev: ZPS improves performance drastically. It's especially popular in the adult industry, as adult sites tend to deal with a huge amount of traffic. The ZPS improves end-user satisfaction and hardware cost by serving more with less and serving the pages faster. Readers can find adult industry case-studies at

Cybersocket: What advantages does PHP have that would compel someone to choose its framework over any other?

Andi and Zeev: PHP's main advantage over its competition is its ease of use while still remaining an extremely powerful language. This allows PHP developers to build very complex sites with an extremely short time-to-market. PHP was designed specifically for the Web and not as a general-purpose language. It supports a wide variety of technologies which are especially helpful to Web developers such as excellent support for most databases, XML, on-the-fly image creation and much more. In addition, PHP runs pretty much on any operating system and Web server in use today.

Cybersocket: How does PHP 5-the latest version of PHP-address some of its previous weaknesses?

Andi and Zeev: We think the main weakness of PHP is lack of Java integration (available soon in PHP 5 thanks to a community process jointly started by Zend and Sun). Such Java support will allow enterprise PHP users to use Java technologies from the J2EE stack such as Java Messaging Services. Also, the fact that PHP has been developed over a lot of years by many different developers shows in the not always consistent APIs (Application Program Interfaces). However, PHP's benefits far outweigh these weaknesses. The main improvements are definitely the redesigned object model and the very much improved support for XML (eXtensible Markup Language) technologies including a native SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) goes into more detail on it.

Cybersocket: How important do you see open source and nonproprietary development to be vs. proprietary?

Andi and Zeev: We believe in both open-source and proprietary software. We think PHP-a very innovative piece of software that represents tens of thousands of combined brain hours-is a perfect example for a good open-source project. It's not a clone of anything; it was conceived and developed as a solution for a problem which was unanswered beforehand. We have less sympathy for open-source projects that do nothing but clone commercial products. Many people don't realize that actually writing the source code is the simple part of coming out with a software product-coming up with the idea, analyzing it, designing the interface and making it usable are the difficult parts. The problem with some open source projects is that they do nothing but clone the implementation of a certain product and release it for free. That makes the lives of commercial companies more difficult in a way which in the long run may prevent them from allocating resources to inventing and designing new products and technologies. We think open source is a great way to create new solutions, but find open source cloning of commercial products a bad practice as it doesn't bring real innovation. So it really depends on the open source project, how useful it is, and what its potential reach is.

Cybersocket: Where do you see Zend, PHP and the open source community five years from now?

Andi and Zeev: I would really like to see PHP get the same amount of exposure Linux is getting as an operating system. This is the reason why I think it's crucial for Zend to continue investing in the proliferation of PHP itself and converting it from what a reporter once called "The best kept secret of the Web" to the "Best known Web scripting language."

Brian Dunlap is the director of Marketing for Bionic Pixels LLC.