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The Story of PHP and Joomla!: WHD.global 2014

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As a boy growing up in Denmark, PHP founder Rasmus Lerdorf didn’t have much to do.

“In Denmark you don’t have to worry about a lot of things. You can let your mind wander,” Lerdorf says in a panel at WHD.global 2014 on Tuesday morning.

In the panel discussion, Philbert Shih, managing director, Structure Research, talked to the founders of PHP and Joomla!, respectively, about the history of the open source languages, and how hosting providers fit in their ecosystems.

PHP

Lerdorf started computer programming when he was 13 to start building websites.

“I didn’t like any of the tools that were out there,” Lerdorf says.

Lerdorf says PHP was hosting driven, and came out as a solution to his web servers crumbling under traffic because he was “forking Perl on every single request.”

“As soon as I got any sort of traffic to my pages, the web servers would fall over,” Lerdorf says.

At that point he downloaded NCSA source code, and built a templating system.

“It wasn’t until Apache started up until PHP really started to gain traction,” Lerdorf says. “PHP was one of the first modules for Apache. Apache for being named a set of patches, mine was one of the patches.”

By 1995, PHP saw its first public release. After that, the PHP team started growing.

“The focus was on building the ecosystem, not necessarily building PHP,” Lerdorf says. “Ruby started around the same time PHP started, but no one used Ruby for anything web related, until Ruby on Rails was around.”

Shared web hosts were a big part of the ecosystem, Lerdorf says.

Currently, Lerdorf works at Etsy.

Joomla!

Joomla! started much later than PHP, Brian Teeman, co-founder of Joomla! says, in 2000 or 2001.

“We wanted to build websites for ourselves using open source tools,” Teeman says.

According to Teeman, Joomla’s growth really came out of the developers wanting to contribute back, rather than keeping add-ons for themselves.

Similar to PHP, it was building that ecosystem that helped Joomla! grow.

“We could concentrate of Joomla! core, support the core bits and let the ecosystem do everything else,” Teeman says.

“We rely on hosting companies as the platform that Joomla can run on,” Teeman says. “We’re that next layer, the bit in between that the customer actually gets to use on your hardware.”

“We rely on hosters to do their job by doing their job to keep everything updated,” Teeman adds.

Lerdorf says that hosters rely on the distros, like Red Hat, to keep PHP updated.

“We’re at the point now where really good developers are working at hosting companies,” Lerdorf says. “Take control, don’t wait for the one distro guy to get around to fix things.”

Lerdorf describes this is an “endless struggle” because PHP wants to make sure it is providing the best software to the end user, but big web hosts have to be kind of conservative when updating software. Still, “every now and then you have to sit down and break a few sites,” he says.

About the Author

Nicole Henderson is the Editor in Chief of the WHIR, where she covers daily news and features online. She has a bachelor of journalism from Ryerson University in Toronto. You can find her on Twitter @NicoleHenderson.

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