History of PHP ¶
PHP Tools, FI, Construction Kit, and PHP/FI ¶
PHP as it’s known today is actually the successor to a product named PHP/FI. Created in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf, the very first incarnation of PHP was a simple set of Common Gateway Interface (CGI) binaries written in the C programming language. Originally used for tracking visits to his online resume, he named the suite of scripts “Personal Home Page Tools,” more frequently referenced as “PHP Tools.” Over time, more functionality was desired, and Rasmus rewrote PHP Tools, producing a much larger and richer implementation. This new model was capable of database interaction and more, providing a framework upon which users could develop simple dynamic web applications such as guestbooks. In June of 1995, Rasmus » released the source code for PHP Tools to the public, which allowed developers to use it as they saw fit. This also permitted – and encouraged – users to provide fixes for bugs in the code, and to generally improve upon it.
In September of that year, Rasmus expanded upon PHP and – for a short time – actually dropped the PHP name. Now referring to the tools as FI (short for “Forms Interpreter”), the new implementation included some of the basic functionality of PHP as we know it today. It had Perl-like variables, automatic interpretation of form variables, and HTML embedded syntax. The syntax itself was similar to that of Perl, albeit much more limited, simple, and somewhat inconsistent. In fact, to embed the code into an HTML file, developers had to use HTML comments. Though this method was not entirely well-received, FI continued to enjoy growth and acceptance as a CGI tool — but still not quite as a language. However, this began to change the following month; in October, 1995, Rasmus released a complete rewrite of the code. Bringing back the PHP name, it was now (briefly) named “Personal Home Page Construction Kit,” and was the first release to boast what was, at the time, considered an advanced scripting interface. The language was deliberately designed to resemble C in structure, making it an easy adoption for developers familiar with C, Perl, and similar languages. Having been thus far limited to UNIX and POSIX-compliant systems, the potential for a Windows NT implementation was being explored.
The code got another complete makeover, and in April of 1996, combining the names of past releases, Rasmus introduced PHP/FI. This second-generation implementation began to truly evolve PHP from a suite of tools into a programming language in its own right. It included built-in support for DBM, mSQL, and Postgres95 databases, cookies, user-defined function support, and much more. That June, PHP/FI was given a version 2.0 status. An interesting fact about this, however, is that there was only one single full version of PHP 2.0. When it finally graduated from beta status in November, 1997, the underlying parsing engine was already being entirely rewritten.
Though it lived a short development life, it continued to enjoy a growing popularity in still-young world of web development. In 1997 and 1998, PHP/FI had a cult of several thousand users around the world. A Netcraft survey as of May, 1998, indicated that nearly 60,000 domains reported having headers containing “PHP”, indicating that the host server did indeed have it installed. This number equated to approximately 1% of all domains on the Internet at the time. Despite these impressive figures, the maturation of PHP/FI was doomed to limitations; while there were several minor contributors, it was still primarily developed by an individual.