Who Wants to Live Forever or What Future is Waiting for WordPress?

We are sure that every web developer knows pretty much about WordPress, so we will try to abridge the introduction part.

Who Wants to Live Forever or What Future is Waiting for WordPress?

2003 can be considered the year of WordPress’ birth. Then the newborn looked like a single bit of code to enhance the typography of everyday writing and had just a few users. Since then it has grown up to the scale of the largest self-hosted blogging tool in the world. Millions of sites are using it and tens of millions people are amazed with its beauty and usability every day.

WordPress is an Open Source project and hundreds of people all over the world are constantly working on its improvement. This gives you a kind of unlimited freedom as you can use WP for absolutely anything without paying anyone a license fee and a bunch of other important freedoms.

WordPress is Free

You can download WP on the WordPress.org site. You will also need a web host which meets the minimum requirements and a little time. The platform is completely customizable and can be used for almost anything. Want to start a new and free WordPress-based blog in seconds? There is a service called WordPress.com for the purpose, but it varies in several ways and is less flexible than the WordPress you download and install yourself.

Due to thousands of plugins, widgets, themes and ready-made professional skins, WordPress is not just a blogging system anymore. It has evolved into the feature-rich content management system nowadays.

If you feel like learning WP better, we advise you to attend or volunteer at a WordCamp. Such events are free or low-cost and happen all around the world to gather and educate WordPress users. BTW, they are organized by WordPress users. Maybe you don’t know yet, but a WordCamp is somewhere near you at the moment.

WordCamp Europe 2013

But enough with the well-known facts, let’s pass to the core of our entry

When we talk about the WP future, we mean mainly the future of PHP, as WordPress is written in this language (read more about it here).

The truth is that PHP presence on the Web is so overwhelming that it seems that it will never die. But let’s turn words into numbers. Google reckoned that PHP is present in 75% of the web servers, so they were to add a native PHP support to Google App Engine after 5 years of being reluctant to do so.

Indubitably, PHP is widely used today. Many applications are written in PHP. There are no apparent signs of PHP being replaced by any other language. This happens not only because of the large installed base, but also owing to the recruiting problem. Software developers are hard to find, especially the ones who know Ruby or Pyhton well. It’s a lot easier to find a skillful PHP developer.

Even if we assume that PHP is slowly ceding the ground to Ruby and/or Python in 20 years perspective there will still be PHP developers. Would you like to know why? Because old programming languages never die. Even now there are people out there maintaining PL/1 or FORTRAN or COBOL code (NB: saying that there will always be PHP programmers because there are still COBOL developers we should consider the following. COBOL was used for large infrastructure projects in the early days like traffic systems, payroll systems, etc. We doubt very much that there are that many PHP applications running in critical positions because of the nature of the language). The same thing will happen with PHP and Ruby and Python when they finally fall out of favor.

PHP short tags

Of course we can always try another approach and assume a really long term perspective. In about 5 billion years our sun will die, so PHP will die before that (eventually nobody and nothing is immortal). Please, don’t take this sentence serious, we are just kidding to reduce the readers’ suspense. In fact, in PHP’s case, we don’t believe that. At this time, there is no real contending scripting-language with enough maturity, which would threaten PHP, and may hint an end to its existence, let alone popularity at this point.

Popularity of PHP

Now, let’s get earnest. We view PHP and JavaScript in the same vein. Both languages were released, became popular. Some people were indignant as the barrier to entry was extremely low. They were written off as toy languages. Though, you can’t but agree that JavaScript is doing some amazing things right now. It matured. It still got that low barrier to entry, but there are more tools in the toolbox to use them effectively. In fact, people had to learn to use it effectively and now, more than ever, JavaScript is having resurgence. We believe that two scenarios are possible. PHP will follow a similar course as JavaScript. This has already started to happen. PHP 5 makes it easier to create OOP code more than was possible in the past. OOP is now sooner the norm instead of being the exception. There are PHP standard recommendations (just Google PSR to read them) that are helping to standardize the code being written. It’s growing, with new features being added every day. There are bug fixes, etc. Developer is helping with auto loading and some more mundane tasks that push people away. The PHP of 2003 is completely different than the PHP of 2014. It’s more mature and a little cleaner. There are better tools. The whole experience is just better. There are some things that still need a work out to make it even more mature (like threading, for one…), but it’s grown up a lot in the last 5 years.

JavaScrip Future

The other option is that JavaScript will take over what PHP handles. The inroad to this is Node.js. It’s the relative hotness right now and there really is a use case for it that overlaps with PHP’s strong suits. Plus, a lot of the inexperienced developers already know JavaScript and it’s even easier to find a developer with JavaScript experience than with PHP experience (notwithstanding that both are pretty easy). Although, this is not going to happen tomorrow. There isn’t as much of a need for people familiar with Node.js and the like yet. There also aren’t enough tools (e.g. frameworks, IDEs, etc.) and “one-click install” applications (e.g. CMSes, shopping carts, etc.) to gain the same momentum that PHP has. In 5 years? Maybe, but the probability is slight.

Despite being called, one of the worst languages, PHP is still and has a massive community behind it. Besides, the language is getting updated, new releases are getting made and bugs are being fixed constantly. These are the hallmarks of the progressive language, but not a dying one.

Thinking of the learning curve, PHP will be a beginners’ first choice language for years to come, which is a huge momentum too.

Well, we definitely don’t think PHP is dead by any chance. There are people who are not moving back to PHP after trying other platforms, but there are those who return to its welcoming arms even after several years of experience with another language.

People love PHP for the ease of use and the low barrier to entry for new people. Yes, the platforms like RoR or Django etc. are amazing and they are still waiting for being explored. PHP frameworks are on the rise now, and with Laravel (PHP framework) a lot of the good stuff from Rails and other platforms are now being incorporated into the PHP world. PHP, which was once a toy language compared to many other tools is slowly changing and it is not yet ready to see its end.

It’s our strong belief that technology should be simple and PHP does just that. Sure, it doesn’t fit every need, but we’re sure it’s well on its way there.

We repeated many times in this post that developers consider the negative part of PHP its easiness to get up and running with it. It’s not a secret that lots of programmers suffer from the “copy paste syndrome”, which can hardly be called healthy. The syndrome can be observed everywhere: from building WordPress themes to other CMS stuff out there. Nevertheless, if understood and used well, we think it’s still a great tool and can do a lot more than it’s credited for.

Please notice the new web projects built in PHP. They are certainly in decline relative to other options. This suggests that PHP, while not dying, is becoming much less relevant. Surely, it’s out of the question that PHP is going to disappear in the next decade. But there’re some indices that it will become less significant in the coming years.

Having a closer look at the today’s web, we see WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other CMSes there.

WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal stets

It’s possible, but unlikely that something impends the WordPress’ future. There are a few things you could use as measuring gauges – the number of sites/developers/applications that are driven by PHP as well as how many mission critical applications are built on PHP.

The first (sites, developers, apps) is definitely increasing. That’s not to say that other platforms aren’t making inroads. Still, moving all the existing sites and applications from PHP to something else is a daunting task.

The second – well, define ‘mission critical’. For some businesses, it is the only online platform they use. For them, it is mission critical.

Does PHP need to evolve? Of course it does. However, if it doesn’t, it still won’t die, not for a long time.

You know, this question has been asked in tech circles 10 years ago, but all of us have seen interpreted server languages like PHP surviving the onslaught of “core” server side languages such as Java, .net. While its certainly true that NodeJS / server-side JavaScript in general is catching on, the range of frameworks which are out there for PHP like CakePHP, zend, etc. will continue to exist as a good option for programmers who are already used to the PHP ecosystem.

If you worked with NodeJS, you know that it has its own set of problems (almost all operations being asynchronous, resulting in your code being littered with callbacks, no exposure to multithreading etc.) So, we would imagine PHP still has a place in this JavaScript obsessed world.


Here follow some more final thoughts as to WordPress and its obscure future

Yeah, if you want to make something really complicated with WP, you need multiple plugins. It’s the fact. But you will need them with Magento, OpenCart, Drupal, Joomla as well as all other available platforms. However, people choose WP. More sites are made daily on WodPress than on all other platforms taken together. And yes, in this case the price also matters. PHP hosting costs less and even if you don’t want to pay that, you can get some for free. There are lots of sites giving free hosting which can work on PHP.

Good web hosting services

Apart from these we need some simple frameworks like Codelgniter. What’s more, you cannot replace Larawell, Zend and Symphony frameworks. You can build really robust sites with them.

PHP works amazing with Apache, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This cooperation can work wonders.

Have you noticed a great development activity around PHP out there? Many people are working on improving it all the time and brand new cool features appear every now and again.

While we talk about the future of PHP many tech companies still use C, C++ today, just let this sink for a minute…

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail as they say… PHP is sometimes compared with a dumb hammer, but people who are used to it and don’t know anything better take it as it is and are quite happy with what they have. The advanced developers consider PHP a mess, like JavaScript or Perl.

Kitchen-sink languages, accumulated instead of designed, with hundreds of glitches originated in early decisions. There are many much better alternatives, that are not single purpose or only for web development, but general purpose, with better ecosystems, powerful, succinct, flexible, easier to learn and use. Python and Ruby, for instance, just to name two dynamic languages.

Python and Ruby

Surely WP won’t die anytime soon because it is massively deployed everywhere, like a plague. But eventually, it will follow the fate of other technologies such as ASP.

By the way, anyone considering using WP for their new projects should learn a little bit about Facebook regrets for having implemented their codebase in PHP.

In a nutshell, it’s our personal opinion that WP is not going to die or give way to some other CMS in the near future. Still, we shouldn’t completely ignore the possibility of some new technology advent. But it should be much more intricate to beat WP as the latter makes it possible for us not to write lines of code and be able to create dynamic websites with just drag and drop. There is a need to write the code in PHP for WP plugins. Have you got a better solution? Then just present it to the community.

Speak up!

Please, don’t forget to share your thoughts on the topic with us. What future do you predict for WP? Do you use and like the platform? What would you like to improve in it? Which of the existing platforms do you see as the main WP competitor and why?

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