Why PHP is the choice language – a business owners perspective.

August 10, 2007
Posted in Editorial

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I have written this article to speak to business owners and other non-nerd types. So you will not see me go into nerd-details regarding my arguments.

Instead, I concentrate on the business arguments and only touch on the technological issues underlying them … when it makes sense to mention the nerd stuff.


I’ve already written about why I think PHP is the language that web designers should learn and why Ruby is no threat to PHP.

One thing I feel that needs to be addressed (in non nerd terms,) is why it makes business sense to use PHP for your web based applications.

A Non-Biased Opinion

Before I get into the meat of my arguments, I want to point out that I am not some PHP nerd looking to sell PHP.

Yes I am the Killerphp.com guy, but I decided to put up this web site because I concluded that PHP was the choice language today.

… This from a guy who has written software in 6-7 languages (could be 8-9, I’ve lost track) over the years.

Up until a few years ago I was mainly a Java nerd – though I used several other languages too.

The point is that after years of experience as both a programmer and business owner managing programmers and projects, I found that for small and medium sized projects (I can’t comment on big enterprise jobs,) PHP has been the most effective language for me.

The Business Questions

When you are choosing a framework/language for your new project, you have to ask yourself a few key questions:

  • Is the language reliable?
  • Does the language have a strong community?
  • Is it easy to find programmers who use that language?
  • Is the language productive?

All these questions relate to cost. In a nutshell, if any of these things fall short in the language/framework you choose, it’s going to cost you more money – sometimes a lot more!

What do I say ‘framework/language’ and not just ‘language’?

I want to keep uber-nerds from criticizing me for calling PHP’s competition (like ASP.net) a language, when strictly speaking, ASP.net and other competitors are not programming languages. Rather they are frameworks that enable the creation of database-driven web sites.

Translation into non-nerd English:

PHP itself is a language but ASP.net, classic ASP, JSP are not … but they do the same things as PHP. These competing technologies are frameworks (for creating database-driven websites,
) built on top of programming languages.

For instance, JSP (the framework) uses Java as its’ programming language to do its’ thing and classic ASP typically uses VB Script.

Contrast this to PHP, that was created (from inception) to build dynamic database-driven websites.

… but I digress from the main point of this article.

My business experience and how it has shown me that PHP is king.

As I mentioned before, besides being a programmer and all around nerd, I’ve actually been (and still am) the ‘business owner’ hiring and managing a small team of programmers.

So why PHP? Remember those 4 points I made above? Well PHP shines (outshines) all the competition when you look at them as a whole.

Perhaps in one area or another, one of the other technologies can match or may even beat PHP, but non of them are so well rounded.

One story of my own

I will only recount one quick story that makes my (business) point. About 2-3 years ago I decided to build a new web application using my favorite language at the time: Java.

After months of stuttered development (and $10 000 – $12 000 not including my time,) I had a stuttering mess that kinda worked. This happens all too often in software development BTW.

Anyway, I decided that this had to be fixed, so I had it reproduced with PHP while (at the same time,) adding new features. My cost for the total rewrite came out to $700. I should have went with PHP from the start …

Stefan Mischook


7 Responses

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  3. Stevan Goode Author August 10, 2007 at 7:08 pm

    This is a great article, that every business owner, IT or not, should read.

    As someone who has gone from junior programmer to project manager in a handful of years, I can speak to the business owners from the point of view of the ‘techie’.

    I used to use Perl, and then I came across PHP. It’s like going from a biplane to a 747 in terms of development speed, and support. Perl took quite a while to develop a decent website (maybe I wasn’t advanced enough in it), and the community is there.

    In comparison, PHP takes next to no time to make a website (forms can be done in minutes instead of half hours, file uploads are so easy to do, database integration so easy), and the community support is huge. Type PHP in to Google, and you get the idea.

    What does this equate to in real terms (i.e. money)? Well, shorter development times means less development costs. You can either shorten your timelines, or reduce the size of the team, and achieve the same result (maybe even better). Ideally, you would use the extra time/resources to produce better products, however.

    As well as reducing costs, it can be quicker, and of course turnaround times for client requests is quicker, equating to happier customers (more re-sales), and more contracts won (you can out-perform the non-php competition.)

    I think that’s enough to get on with for now.


  4. Stefan Mischook Author August 10, 2007 at 8:32 pm

    Thanks Steve for the comments.

    … Makes sense to me.


  5. Pingback: A reply to Stefans PHP business perspective at Thinking Outloud

  6. Stefan Mischook Author August 13, 2007 at 9:42 pm

    This is in response to this comment found here:


    The author said:

    “This isn’t really a failure of Java or JSP itself. While Stefan claims to have been a Java developer, I wonder just how he went about building his application? Perhaps he was trying to make it too complicated? Being a Java developer myself I’ve seen how many in our community tend to focus too much on using XYZ framework or tool when something far simpler would have worked out just as well and produced faster.

    By its nature, building applications in PHP tend to be simpler. At least initially… A complicated app in PHP (in my experience) tends to be more complicated than a comparable app in Java, but that isn’t the point. Blatant statements that one language will cost a business owner 10x more than another is quite misleading.”

    My response:

    My intention was not to suggest that Java development cost 10 x more than PHP. But Java tends to stack on unnecessary complexity. And Java developers have a tendency to want to do everything Java, whereas sometimes it makes sense to blend technologies to get a job done.

    In my situation, I hired an experienced Java developer who did exactly what I mentioned. I was derelict my duties as a manager and I did not get pay close attention to what was going on … thus the project ballooned.

    Java has a culture of ‘the enterprise’:

    It is hard to find Java developers or stacks designed to build small and medium sized applications. The Java community has responded to this with projects like JRuby, EJB3 and Spring.

    BTW: I wrote Java for about 5-6 years.



  7. krillz Author August 14, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Hmm I think you actually managed to write an article that wasn’t about what the topic said.
    You basically wanted to show business men why they should go with php well from the article I just get that you like php from a money perspective nothing on why it’s better than ruby or why php is superior.

    Also a lot of non topic ranting about how you dislike ASP.net etc.

    The strong point of PHP is that it’s free and open, and along with other open solutions it can be a very good money saver.
    However the OOP has to get more important, and we see a change towards that direction with version 5, no complete OOP functionality but it’s heading in the right direction which is a good thing.

    As for now php can be a headache for businessmen, have worked for people who hired a group of people in the beginning and they hacked something togheter which is messy, no comments no explanation no nothing, and they all used their own coding style making the mess greater.

    Then after 1-2 years the owner wants changes made or functions added he hires a new group, they look at the code and suprise nothing is clear or obvious and most of the times the lack of structure in the code.

    So the bussinessman has to spend more $ than he had planned on in the first time; analyzing and figuring out the code etc etc.
    Some times the whole thing is just redesigned or recoded.

    OOP Languages and languages that has very good OOP functionality is far superior as they make the coder structure the code making it a lot better.
    So hopefully PHP will focus on getting this implemented ASAP, then and only then will PHP be a very good solution as today we have everything between exellent and pure shit code out there.

    Also the users of PHP should not get stuck on old versions as we are doing today, most still use php 4.x instead of 5 which has a lot of new functions not to mention the improved OOP.
    Soon php 6 will be on the wall and by the time of 7 most will be on 5?
    Seriously we need to keep up or php will be replaced by some other language pretty soon.

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