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PHP is a server-side scripting language designed for web development but also used as a general-purpose programming language. As of January 2013, PHP was installed on more than 240 million websites and 2.1 million web servers.
Originally created by Rasmus Lerdorf in 1994, the reference implementation of PHP (powered by the Zend Engine) is now produced by The PHP Group. While PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, it now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, which is a recursive acronym. PHP code can be simply mixed with HTML code, or it can be used in combination with various templating engines and web frameworks. PHP code is usually processed by a PHP interpreter, which is usually implemented as a web server’s native module or a Common Gateway Interface (CGI) executable.
Server-Side Scripting – PHP is mainly used for server-side scripting, and you can do anything any other CGI (Common Gateway Interface) program can do, such as collect form data, generate dynamic page content, or send and receive cookies.
Major OS Support – PHP can be used on all major operating systems, including Linux, many Unix variants, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, RISC OS, and more. PHP has also support for most of the web servers today. This includes Apache, IIS, and many others. Furthermore, you also have the choice of using procedural programming or object oriented programming (OOP), or a mixture of them both.
DB Connections – A significant feature in PHP is its support for a wide range of databases. Writing a database-enabled web page is incredibly simple using one of the database specific extensions (e.g., for MySQL), or using an abstraction layer like PDO, or connect to any database supporting the Open Database Connection standard via the ODBC extension.
Service Protocols – PHP also has support for talking to other services using protocols such as LDAP, IMAP, SNMP, NNTP, POP3, HTTP, COM (on Windows) and countless others. It can also open raw network sockets and interact using any other protocol. PHP has support for the WDDX complex data exchange between virtually all Web programming languages. PHP has support for instantiation of Java objects and using them transparently as PHP objects.
Text Processing – PHP has useful text processing features, which includes the Perl compatible regular expressions (PCRE), and many extensions and tools to parse and access XML documents. PHP standardizes all of the XML extensions on the solid base of libxml2, and extends the feature set adding SimpleXML, XMLReader and XMLWriter support.
Zend Technologies provides a PHP stack, Zend Server (or Zend Server Community Edition), which is optimized for running Zend Framework applications. Zend Server includes Zend Framework in its installers, along with PHP and all required extensions. Zend Server provides improved performance for PHP and especially Zend Framework applications through opcode acceleration and several caching capabilities, and includes application monitoring and diagnostics facilities.
Zend Studio is an IDE that includes features specifically to integrate with Zend Framework. It provides an MVC view, MVC code generation based on Zend_Tool (a component of the Zend Framework), a code formatter, code completion, parameter assist, and more.