This is a 3 min read · Published on 14 Feb 2016

People are really mean about PHP.

I read this great article the other day about How False Stereotypes Turn Into Technical “Truths”

Subjective perceptions about languages impact more than just debates between idling programmers, affecting important decisions like hiring and funding.

That really got me thinking about the community perception of PHP.

Today I was listening to a JavaScript Jabber episode with Jenn Schiffer and she had a few awesome comments about how judgmental people are when it comes to technology and how chasing trends often detracts from making cool things that people want to use.

Learning how to program

Although JavaScript is quickly filling this role, there are a number of reasons new developers are drawn to PHP:

  • You want to build a website or application on a shared host.
  • All of the books and videos you buy involve working on the LAMP stack.
  • All of the entry-level job postings you see are for PHP developers.

Everybody hates PHP

Here are some examples of the negativity surrounding PHP in the programming community:

I don’t really have the energy to find any more of these but all over Hacker News and Reddit there are quotes like:

If you learn PHP today, you should most definitely be ostracized.

You start questioning whether or not you chose a bad language.

Everything is built on PHP

Maybe you start doubting yourself, thinking that you bet on a bad horse. It seems like everyone loves Clojure and Haskell and JavaScript and no one likes PHP. Maybe you just got lucky landing your first job?

Maybe you start poking around the internet, what projects are actually built with PHP?

  • Facebook
  • WordPress
  • Yahoo
  • Wikipedia
  • 4chan

It’s kind of ridiculous. A large portion of the worlds largest websites are written in PHP. It seems just inarguable that PHP is a worthwhile and practical language choice for making web applications, but I digress…

It’s not 2004 anymore

A lot of these criticisms of PHP are predicated on things the language was missing when they last looked in the early 2000’s.

PHP has classes now and can do proper OOP. There are great frameworks like Laravel and Symfony.

PHP has a package manager which pulls from an enormous archive of open source packages.

PHP has great testing frameworks. Unit testing frameworks like PHPUnit and Behavioral testing like Behat and Codeception.

Some of the complaints in the aforementioned links are definitely reasonable. There are inconsistencies in the language, and there are certainly languages out there without as many problems but PHP holds up really well when you consider its age, flexibility and what it was designed for.

The effect on developers

It is incredibly discouraging not being taken seriously as a developer despite working on serious development projects. It’s really taken its toll on the community.

It often feels like PHP developers end up in insular micro-communities. Feeling unwelcome in the larger software engineering community they frequently have their own meetups, their own user groups and their own conferences.


Sometimes I really do get tired of the judgment. Despite thinking that PHP is a perfectly fine language, I often think about abandoning PHP development entirely just so I don’t have to deal with the judgment anymore.

When I was younger I looked weird. I had dyed dreadlocks, facial piercings and patched clothing. I really liked looking that way, but it was exhausting.

Taking college classes, applying for internships, starting my own company. It was a constant distraction. The best case scenario was being ‘surprisingly professional’ for someone that ‘looks like I do’.

10 years later, same problem — different distraction. You know a lot about compsci for a PHP developer. Bleh.

No end in sight

Unfortunately, I really don’t see this problem going away. Often times, people are just complaining about PHP because it’s a popular thing to do. But unfortunately I don’t see it stopping any time soon.

It really is unfortunate, and creates a chicken-egg situation. If PHP developers are made to feel terrible, they will leave and there will be less and less great developers working with PHP.

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