The PHP podcast where everyone chimes in.


Originally aired on

September 2nd, 2016

053: Why I'm Afraid To Admit I Use PHP

So you spend most of your time programming in PHP. You meet another programmer out in the wild. You begin explaining what you do. Do you find yourself using vague terms and actively trying to avoid the word "PHP?" Do you dread the question, "What language do you primarily code in?" Do you anticipate them scoffing at you when you say, "PHP?"

We discuss why PHP has such a bad rep in the eyes of many and why some of us feel the need to start conversations with, "I use PHP but let me explain..."


Why I'm Afraid To Admit I'm A PHP Programmer Show Summary

Are negative opinions about PHP always valid?

  • A lot of negative stereotypes of PHP are base on negative traits of the language that are no longer a problem: PHP has matured a lot over the last few years
  • PHP: a fractal of bad design is a blog post written in 2012 which details many of these issues.
    • In the article, the author notes that some of these problems have been fixed in PHP 5.x releases
    • Some of these issues have also been fixed or improved in PHP 7
    • Many of the problems noted in this article remain in the language
  • PHP now has a language specification

Where does this reputation come from?

Poor quality user-land code

  • PHP contains a lot of constructs which are often poorly understood and misused by developers
  • PHP is widely used and has a low barrier to entry - it is often the first language people pick up
  • This means that there is a lot of poor quality PHP code out there
  • Perhaps if another language was the most widely used language on the web, that language would have the same reputation
  • Many PHP tutorials and answers to PHP questions on StackOverflow are of poor quality
  • Many negative perceptions of PHP are influenced more by this than inherent flaws in the language

Failings of the language itself

  • Sammy mentions a Quora topic where PHP is described as "an unstructured conglomerate of half-understood and badly implemented features"
  • Almost everything on PHP Sadness is valid criticism
  • Every language has problems, but in PHP we are very aware of them
  • The communities around some other languages are less self-aware in this sense
  • Being aware of our failings helps the community to improve

How is the PHP community fixing these problems?

  • PHP is rapidly evolving and adding more sophisticated features e.g:
  • PHP 7 allowed the introduction of important backwards-incompatible changes e.g:
  • PHP 8 will also feature more deprecations and compatibility breaking changes which help to drop some of PHP's baggage

Will this change perceptions?

  • In isolation, these structural/technical improvements won't change external perceptions
  • As they help to improve 'user-land' PHP code, this will change perceptions

Is PHP's community insular?

  • Jon Kuperman's blog post 'The Life of a PHP Developer'
  • All languages have their own communities, events and culture
  • PHP developers may be less well represented at language-agnostic events
  • If anything, PHP developers are often more pragmatic and willing to accept other solutions than developers in other languages

Do other languages/communities have to deal with negative stigma?

  • Perl, NodeJS, Ruby all have their detractors ..but everyone loves Python, right? :)
  • All languages have problems, but we shouldn't try to justify our preferences by criticizing the choices of others

How can we change the perception of PHP?

Discussion about Evert's blog post PHP Sucks

  • These attitudes genuinely do negatively impact people
  • Evert feels that negative perceptions of PHP impact his ability to succeed both as a developer and more widely as an entrepreneur
  • As a polyglot developer, it is possible to gain an outsider's perspective

Sammy Kaye wraps up with

Developer Shout-Out

Thank you, Chris Cornutt for all your hard work on A $50 Amazon gift card from Laracasts is on its way to you.

Shout-out sponsored by Laracasts


It's like Netflix for developers.


Davey Shafik

Show Notes Credit

Chris Shaw

Thank you Chris Shaw for authoring the show notes for this episode!

If you'd like to contribute show notes and totally get credit for it, check out the show-notes repo!