PHP is a general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited to server-side web development, in which case PHP generally runs on a web server. Any PHP code in a requested file is executed by the PHP runtime, usually to create dynamic web page content or dynamic images used on websites or elsewhere.

PHP code may be embedded into HTML code, or it can be used in combination with various web template systems, web content management systems and web frameworks. PHP code is usually processed by a PHP interpreter implemented as a module in the web server or as a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) executable. The web server combines the results of the interpreted and executed PHP code, which may be any type of data, including images, with the generated web page. PHP code may also be executed with a command-line interface (CLI) and can be used to implement standalone graphical applications.

The standard PHP interpreter, powered by the Zend Engine, is free software released under the PHP License. PHP has been widely ported and can be deployed on most web servers on almost every operating system and platform, free of charge.The PHP language evolved without a written formal specification or standard until 2014, leaving the canonical PHP interpreter as a de facto standard. Since 2014 work has gone on to create a formal PHP specification

Early history

The fact that PHP was not originally designed but instead was developed organically has led to inconsistent naming of functions and inconsistent ordering of their parameters. In some cases, the function names were chosen to match the lower-level libraries which PHP was "wrapping", while in some very early versions of PHP the length of the function names was used internally as a hash function, so names were chosen to improve the distribution of hash values.

PHP 3 and 4

Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans rewrote the parser in 1997 and formed the base of PHP 3, changing the language's name to the recursive acronym PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. Afterwards, public testing of PHP 3 began, and the official launch came in June 1998. Suraski and Gutmans then started a new rewrite of PHP's core, producing the Zend Engine in 1999. They also founded Zend Technologies in Ramat Gan, Israel.


On July 14, 2004, PHP 5 was released, powered by the new Zend Engine II. PHP 5 included new features such as improved support for object-oriented programming, the PHP Data Objects (PDO) extension (which defines a lightweight and consistent interface for accessing databases), and numerous performance enhancements. In 2008 PHP 5 became the only stable version under development. Late static binding had been missing from PHP and was added in version 5.3.

PHP 6 and Unicode

PHP received mixed reviews due to lacking native Unicode support at the core language level. In 2005, a project headed by Andrei Zmievski was initiated to bring native Unicode support throughout PHP, by embedding the International Components for Unicode (ICU) library, and representing text strings as UTF-16 internally. Since this would cause major changes both to the internals of the language and to user code, it was planned to release this as version 6.0 of the language, along with other major features then in development.


During 2014 and 2015, a new major PHP version was developed, which was numbered PHP 7. The numbering of this version involved some debate. While the PHP 6 Unicode experiment had never been released, several articles and book titles referenced the PHP 6 name, which might have caused confusion if a new release were to reuse the name. After a vote, the name PHP 7 was chosen.

The foundation of PHP 7 is a PHP branch that was originally dubbed PHP next generation (phpng). It was authored by Dmitry Stogov, Xinchen Hui and Nikita Popov, and aimed to optimize PHP performance by refactoring the Zend Engine while retaining near-complete language compatibility. As of 14 July 2014, WordPress-based benchmarks, which served as the main benchmark suite for the phpng project, showed an almost 100% increase in performance. Changes from phpng are also expected to make it easier to improve performance in the future, as more compact data structures and other changes are seen as better suited for a successful migration to a just-in-time (JIT) compiler. Because of the significant changes, the reworked Zend Engine is called Zend Engine 3, succeeding Zend Engine 2 used in PHP 5.