PHP is a widely-used general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for Web development and can be embedded into HTML.

With PHP, a user's request to the Web server is fulfilled by running a script directly on the server to generate dynamic HTML pages. It is usually used to provide interactive web sites that interface to databases or other data stores. The script can customize the response based on the user's requirements, access rights, or queries into a database.

PHP was developed in 1995 by an independent software development contractor named Rasmus Lerdorf who wanted to know how many visitors were reading his online resume. His script performed two duties: logging visitor information and displaying the count of visitors to the Web page.

Because the Web as we know it today was still so young at that time, tools such as these were nonexistent, and they prompted emails inquiring about Lerdorf’s scripts. Lerdorf thus began giving away his toolset, dubbed Personal Home Page (PHP), or Hypertext Preprocessor.

The clamor for the PHP toolset prompted Lerdorf to begin developing additions to PHP, one of which converted data entered in an HTML form into symbolic variables that allowed for their export to other systems. To accomplish this, he opted to continue development in C code rather than Perl.

The new PHP release was extremely popular, and a core team of developers soon formed. They kept the original concept of incorporating code directly alongside HTML and rewrote the parsing engine, giving birth to PHP 3.0. By the 1997 release of version 3.0, over 50,000 users were using PHP to enhance their Web pages.

Development continued at a hectic pace over the next two years, with hundreds of functions being added and the user count growing in leaps and bounds. At the onset of 1999, Netcraft reported a conservative estimate of a user base surpassing 1,000,000, making PHP one of the most popular scripting languages in the world.

PHP is installed on over 3.6 million domains, making it one of the most popular scripting languages in the world. The future of PHP indeed looks bright, as major Web sites and personal users alike continue to embrace the product.

PHP is best summarized as an embedded server-side Web-scripting language that provides developers with the capability to quickly and efficiently build dynamic Web applications. PHP bears a close resemblance, both syntactically and grammatically, to the C programming language, although developers haven’t been shy to integrate features from a multitude of languages, including Perl, Java, and C++. Several of these valuable borrowed features include regular expression parsing, powerful array-handling capabilities, an object-oriented methodology, and vast database support.

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