PHP is a widely used language supported by a range of web servers, including Apache and IIS. Also, most popular operating systems such as Windows, Unix, Linux and macOS also use PHP. According to w3Techs’ data, PHP is used by over 79.2% of websites as their server-side language.
Version 7 is the latest, and it is now being used by 66.2% of PHP-based websites. This adaptability and popularity of PHP make it an ever-green language and many of the big companies today use this language for their server-side programming.
- PHP Use Cases
- Social Media Platforms
- Web Portals
- Content Management Systems
- Travel and Hospitality Portals
- Real Estate Portals
- Media and Entertainment
- Music and Video Streaming Systems
- Chats and Messaging Platforms
- Multi-Vendor Marketplaces
- Why are Companies using PHP?
- Is PHP a good choice for Companies?
PHP Use Cases
Many tech giants and companies from different backgrounds and domains use PHP as their main server-side language. We divided these companies in accordance with their domains. Some of these companies use PHP partially while others completely rely on this language.
Social Media Platforms
Social Media Platforms have their own websites where users access their social accounts to interact with other platform users. This requires better loading time and speed that PHP provides by fast querying to the database.
According to Similarweb, Facebook is visited over 22 Billion times every month.
Although PHP as a dynamic scripting language has a reputation for being difficult to scale, Facebook chose to scale its PHP monolith rather than breaking it up into distributed microservices architecture.
Scaling PHP with a just-in-time compiler Hip Hop Virtual Machine (HHVM) allowed Facebook to continue moving fast without going through a painful refactoring that would have slowed down the entire company.
PHP 7 (and upcoming PHP 8) got many features from Facebook's Hack language that Facebook created as a dialect of PHP.
Flickr is a photo-sharing platform with over ten million groups and billions of photos on the platform. They also use the LAMP model to power their site with PHP being their main server language while MySQL is used for databases and Memcached as a caching layer.
Flickr Architecture by High Scalability highlights from Flickr architecture:
- Think of your application as more than just a web application. You'll have REST APIs, SOAP APIs, RSS feeds, Atom feeds, etc.
- Go stateless. Statelessness makes for a simpler more robust system that can handle upgrades without flinching.
- Abstract. Create clear levels of abstraction between database work, business logic, page logic, page mark-up and the presentation layer. This supports quick turn around iterative development.
- Layer. Layering allows developers to create page level logic which designers can use to build the user experience. Designers can ask for page logic as needed. It's a negotiation between the two parties.
Tumblr is used by millions to share their ideas, images and blogs to engage with other people across the platform. Officially, the platform used PHP as its main server-side language. However, they also partially used Scala for performance reasons.
Tumblr team revealed in their blog post PHP 7 at Tumblr how new PHP features that can make the life of the developers at Tumblr a bit easier:
- Functions can have explicit return types that the language will enforce. This reduces the need for some boilerplate code and manually checking the return values from functions.
- Much like anonymous functions (closures), anonymous classes are constructed at runtime and can simulate a class, conforming to interfaces and even extending other classes.
- PHP 7 brought various security & performance enhancements across the board.
Many web portals serve useful information and news to their users. These portals are often based upon PHP for better performance. A few of these portals and their PHP use case is described below.
This is one of the largest sources on the internet for information on all major and minor topics. The information is contributed by individual volunteers. The platform also uses PHP as its main server language to display content fast on the web pages.
Later in 2014, Wikipedia also made a shift to HHVM for better performance by converting PHP code in other languages for faster execution. See How we Made editing Wikipedia Twice as Fast
Currently, according to What software is used to run Wikipedia? Wikipedia is most of code at Wikimedia Foundation uses PHP 7, MySQL and MariaDB as backend database. ATS and Varnish for frontend and caching. Search is implemented using Lucene-based ElasticSearch.
Content Management Systems
CMS systems are used by web owners to manage their website in a much better and easier way. Many of the popular CMS systems are also based upon PHP which increases the language usage by a lot.
It is currently the largest CMS system with over 64 million websites being hosted. The whole infrastructure of WordPress is based upon PHP and the language is used to fetch data fast from the database.
Drupal also powers over a million websites which are 2% of the entire websites that are running on the Internet. Drupal is a CMS and also a Content Management Framework where many government sites are hosted with the best security.
The latest version 8 of Drupal was entirely based on a PHP framework called Symfony. This largely contributed to the improvement of this CMS.
Drupal adopted Symfony components, modern PHP concepts, OOP, Twig template engine, and more. It rebuilt its core, APIs, configuration management system, and so on. The results are stunning — Drupal 8 architecture is truly brand-new compared to that of Drupal 7.
Source: Why the big architectural changes in Drupal 8
Travel and Hospitality Portals
The popularity of online booking sites can be depicted by the thriving Travel and Hospitality industries. These are a few platforms in this domain that used PHP to improve their performance.
Trivago is a platform to compare different hotel prices to get the best booking plans. It extracts prices from a range of booking sites to come up with the most budget-friendly option. Trivago uses PHP, Kotlin for its technology stack, while GoLang is used for performance-critical factors.
It is an excellent delivering app serving in over 50 countries. The delivery services range from restaurant food and shop items. The Delivery Hero also hired backend PHP software engineers to improve their website’s performance.
Also, they used GoLang partially for performance-critical factors but they are constantly relying on Go to make it their main backend language. This consideration is made to improve the performance of their applications.
Real Estate Portals
Real estate companies have shifted to an online medium for buying and selling property assets. These companies often need responsive web pages to show property listings and that’s why they use PHP for this purpose.
Compass is an innovative Real Estate solution that automatically notifies you about the properties around your location. They have an Android and iOS app for this purpose. However, they also have a pretty responsive website that also accesses your location for property suggestions.
Century21 connects agents and brokers to customers. They have over 8000 agents and brokers in 80 countries. Their web-based platform uses PHP and Java as their two main backend languages. Also, Bootstrap and jQuery UI are utilized to enhance the frontend elements such as property listings.
Source: Century21 Technology Stack - StackShare
Media and Entertainment
In the media and entertainment industry, there is an abundance of websites. However, some of the top media sites make use of PHP to give readers the best possible experience with fast web pages.
It is probably one of the largest sources of entertainment for youngsters who surf the internet to explore funny memes, videos and jokes. 9GAG offers a social networking type of platform where users can post funny stuff and comment on each other’s memes.
Source: 9GAG Technology Stack - StackShare
Music and Video Streaming Systems
Music and Video streaming applications are also gaining popularity. These platforms need to give a smooth experience to their users and that’s why they use languages like PHP to load all dynamic elements of their web application.
It is most likely the largest music streaming app with millions of users. You can access millions of songs with just a simple search and click. It is a cloud-based platform that is powered by PHP.
PHP is the core language that makes all dynamic elements load faster upon a search. There are many frameworks for PHP but Spotify opted to use Symfony2.
The complete Spotify’s Technology Stack is listed on StackShare with its major application and data elements.
Chats and Messaging Platforms
MailChimp allows companies to send automated emails to their customers. There are over 10 million registered users who can easily automate and utilize the bulk emails feature to keep in touch with hundreds and thousands of clients.
This mail system is also entirely based on PHP. Source: Do You Use PHP? | MailChimp Email Marketing Blog
Slack is a platform made for corporates and businesses to collaborate, discuss and work on various projects. It integrates with a range of other tools and applications that make collaboration much easier.
The thriving eCommerce industry also has some platforms that continuously rely on PHP as their main backend programming languages. A few of these platforms are discussed in detail.
This platform is a huge player in the eCommerce market. It is based on the SaaS model and its customer base is mostly merchants and online sellers that contribute to over $9 billion of the total sale.
As for the BigCommerce Tech Stack, they use PHP as their main application language. Also, the whole infrastructure is hosted on the Amazon AWS.
Magento helps online sellers in the commerce market by developing an engaging and more shoppable experience for the users. Magento was acquired by Adobe and it is now also known as Adobe Commerce.
Magento incorporates the core architectural principles of object-oriented, PHP-based applications. Comprehensive discussions of these general principles exist both online and in printed form.
Source: Technology Stack of Magento - Adobe Commerce
iStock is a project of Getty Images. It is sort of a stock exchange for images where graphics and illustrations are sold. The platform has millions of active monthly users who love to explore and exchange their graphical illustrations or images.
The multi-vendor marketplaces allow third parties to sell under their wing. They provide complete infrastructure to the buyers and sellers to safely do all the trade of their products and services. A few of these marketplaces use PHP as their base language and they are listed here:
Upwork is a marketplace for freelancers where clients are connected to the sellers who are willing to sell their digital services. The platform is web-based and that’s why PHP is the most suitable language that is being used in Upwork.
Also, the platform has a similar nature to that of a social network where new jobs appear on the newsfeed. Hence, this dynamic structure needs a language that can make web pages more responsive.
Kafka is used to making communication between clients and buyers much easier and responsive. Also, the whole infrastructure is hosted on Amazon AWS.
Etsy is a marketplace for creative homemade items. People sell art, collectables and a range of creative handmade products on this eCommerce site. The site is built on top of PHP and it utilizes HHVM to improve its webpage performance.
The reason behind choosing HHVM was that "In 2014 engineers at Etsy noticed two major problems with how we were building mobile products. First, we found ourselves having to rewrite logic that was designed for being executed in a web context to be executed in an API context. This led to feature drift between the mobile and web platforms as the amount of shared code decreased.
Source: Experimenting with HHVM at Etsy
Many pharmaceutical companies generate billions of dollars every year. Although they mostly distribute their products through offline channels they still need to list everything on their websites and here PHP comes in handy for these companies.
Pfizer also recently contributed to the Vaccine distribution which further increased their revenue by Billions. However, talking about their Technology Stack for a website, they heavily rely on Laravel which is basically a framework of PHP.
Laravel allows their developers to code efficiently and they also need to update tons of product listings and information about their medicines. They picked a simple route by choosing Laravel as their main language for web-framework and they actually have responsive and interactive web pages.
Peloton is a leading player in technology-based fitness. It has a community of over 3 million customers who are achieving their fitness goals. They also offer a range of fitness products but their main product is their SaaS application that anybody can subscribe to on a monthly basis.
Fintech is certainly one of the most interesting industries with huge upside. The fintech companies have their mobile apps as well as websites where users perform transactions on dynamically typed pages. Here are a few fintech companies that use PHP for this purpose.
Known as India's largest digital financial services provider, Paytm is a pioneer in digital financial services. It is currently used by over 17 million merchants and is accessed by millions of people daily.
As for the server-side of their web, Paytm uses PHP for instant responses while someone tries to log in or process any transactions. Along with this, they host all their data and applications on Amazon AWS and an official Paytm case study is also published.
The huge transaction volume and millions of site visits is the major reason why PHP is so necessary for responsiveness of their web platform.
The ratio is a UK based Fintech company that offers a simple and reliable payment solution for their customers. Their main infrastructure revolves around the mobile payment application but as for their website, they use PHP as their core language.
They also use a range of Amazon AWS to host their products on the Cloud. Laravel framework is also utilized to make web elements more responsive.
Among the world's most popular equity crowdfunding platforms is Crowdcube. The platform makes it easy for private investors to locate and invest in promising startups. The platform has over 750k investors and funds over 800 British companies.
Their stack is PHP, with a Laravel powered API for our service code and MySQL database, with React + Redux on the Frontend & AWS/Ansible/Terraform to package and run our services.
Ads are getting smarter and the technology is heavily contributing to Ad space to make planning and management of online advertisements much easier. The Adtech companies offer a range of tools for this purpose and here are a few Adtech companies utilizing PHP in one way or the other.
Using a platform called Smartly, you can automate all the steps of digital advertising by combining technology, creativity, and data. Smartly manages 2.5B€ ad spend for hundreds of companies.
DISQO is an audience insights platform that aims to make companies an audience expert by providing them with all the necessary data that can be used for better targeting of their customers. They also have over 20M+ lifetime consumer members.
As for their technology stack, they use a blend of languages and machine learning algorithms for their tools using Tensorflow. Also, they use PHP for the server-side of their website and WordPress is also configured on their site while itself is built upon PHP.
There are hundreds of platforms where anybody can watch courses online to grab any skills. These platforms are mostly web-based and that’s why many of them make use of PHP as their ideal language.
Skillshare is a platform that offers many courses for interactive learning. They work on a subscription model where their clients can pay monthly or yearly to access their favourite courses.
Moodle is a free open-source learning management system (LMS) that is used by thousands of colleges and universities to provide an online framework where students can learn and grow.
The Moodle is entirely written in PHP that makes it an awesome web-based LMS for everyone. Moodle code is mostly comprised of PHP, CSS and JS code. However, the core of Moodle is built on top of its plugins.
Source: Moodle Architecture Documentation_
Why are Companies using PHP?
The Flexibility of the Language
Despite being a dynamically typed language, PHP has a relatively simple syntax. There are no hard and fast rules when writing scripts and programmers can test their applications despite minor errors.
PHP Improves with Time
Unlike many other languages, PHP keeps evolving with time. The PHP Group listens to the queries and problems being faced by developers and they fix those issues in their latest version. They recently released PHP 8.0 which comes with multiple bug fixes.
Many developers also complain about the slow PHP speed, which was also fixed to some extent with the stable release of PHP 7. The language is constantly growing with new versions and enhancements every year.
New Features with PHP 7
Among all the previous releases, PHP 7 holds the utmost importance. This version was a major release and it is now becoming the most stable version of PHP. It came with many speed enhancements and features like the New Zend Engine to make code performance even better.
The Error handling features are also improved with the help of a new engine. The PHP team renewed the Zend Engine by optimizing its memory usage that now makes execution two times faster.
Developing a website using PHP is relatively inexpensive since the language is free and there are no license fees for the frameworks and libraries. PHP also integrates well with a variety of databases such as MySQL and Apache.
StackOverflow has the 3rd largest PHP community, allowing this community to assist you with any PHP questions or problems you may encounter.
Is PHP a good choice for Companies?
PHP offers a range of Frameworks with the most popular being Laravel and Symfony. These frameworks and PHP itself is heavily used in the backend of web systems to make pages load faster with better query processing. However, we have also seen that many companies use HHVM along with PHP to convert code into C++ for better and faster execution.
The language is reliable for those companies that are thinking of developing a web-based platform where users will interact with each other. Most popular CMS like WordPress is also built on top of PHP which further makes it easy to implement on your own site. The applications of PHP are a bit limited to web-based platforms and other languages like Java are far better for mobile apps.