15 minutes with Rasmus Lerdorf, PHP creator

Rasmus Lerdorf
Rasmus LerdorfC'est in 1994 Rasmus Lerdorf invented PHP, originally a personal project to better manage its website. While PHP breath this year its fifteenth candle, it is used on a third party websites. Whether Yahoo, Facebook, or government sites, PHP has established itself in coupling with a database. WordPress to Drupal via Gallery and Joomla, many open source projects that have helped to densify the developer community.

On the occasion of the Forum PHP 2010 organized by AFUP (French Association of PHP Users) and currently taking place in Paris, we met Mr. Lerdorf who returns to the origins of language and its evolution.

After creating the PHP language to solve a personal problem, what were your motivations to distribute open source?

Rasmus Lerdorf: Oh it was laziness! Actually I had come to a point where I could not manage everything alone. Developers complained and asked me to change any part of the code. It was hard work. Finally it was so much easier to distribute and let others change themselves.

Did you or do you hope that PHP would experience such a success?

RL: No, I had no plan and no vision. PHP has always been very pragmatic and I would never have thought that a third of websites would use someday. Everybody is started correcting portions of code here and there and eventually became very popular. You know, you can not plan such a success.

What is your role today in the development of PHP?

RL: There are many portions of code that I do not even know. PHP has become so wide that I can not give my approval to all development initiatives. The programmers familiar with some projects support the decisions themselves. For my part, I try to resolve conflicts. Also I give advice and offers approaches.

What are your latest work?

RL: I currently work for the start-up WePay. I develop OAuth APIs. Before that I Planchais on APC (NDRL: Alternative PHP Cache) for the management of caching data. I have always worked on PHP code portions.

What are the projects developed in PHP that you find most interesting?

RL: It is difficult, there are so many and in many different areas. I was very impressed with the Drupal community. Also, some jobs of WordPress are very interesting, especially their double strategy WordPress.org and WordPress.com.

There is also this fascinating project, CrisisCamp, which allows developers to federate and manage natural disasters. This is something fantastic that actually solves a problem. In either PHP is a language, it is a tool as an operating system but ultimately we can do remarkable things.

If one believes the database vulnerabilities erected by the US government, 30% of software vulnerabilities are due to PHP applications. Do you think there is a problem in language learning and good practice?

RL: PHP is a very accessible language and beginners start by learning it over another as Python or Perl. These languages ​​are then used by experienced programmers who do not make mistakes. PHP will allow anyone to easily design an idea and put it online fast.

However we can not do something that is both accessible but also demand a deep learning to avoid mistakes. We probably could have done a better job in this direction but that would have involved the limitations in functionality. So we need to keep a good balance because we develop more extensive things, the less they are easy to grip. Sometimes we stopped some projects precisely because they became really accessible.

You Work seven years at Yahoo! What was your role in the company?

RL: During the first three years I have been tasked with migrating to PHP. Yahoo was a conglomerate of 35 companies acquired here and there and each with their own technologies. For a while AC worked well, even in Europe. They left the respective engineers to support the development of their products.

After Yahoo! wanted to expand in Asia and will decline many of its websites. They needed to standardize their infrastructure. It would have been too difficult to hire and train developers in different languages. Yahoo! wanted a homogeneous environment.

Was not too hard to convince the engineers to change work tools?

RL: If indeed it was sometimes difficult, some refused to migrate. This has upset more than one but honestly some of their technologies were simply ineffective or inconsistent with the proposed websites. And anyway, the migration was inevitable.

Once the transition is done I worked with the engineers, taking care of recruitment or public relations. Take over responsibility for the development of the largest Internet site was a really interesting challenge but once the work is completed, I had not too many reasons to stay.

We hear more and more about JavaScript as a server-based Node.js What do you think of this technology?

RL: I think there may be an interest in using the same client side language and server side although the two are not identical.

Do you think it could ever be as powerful and developed the PHP?

RL: I think it will depend on the ecosystem and that will make third-party developers. For example if it does not support a database with LDAP so this will simply unnecessary. Databases are very important today.

What is your favorite PHP framework?

RL: Oh I do not, they are all dudes! They try to be too generic wanting to meet the needs of everyone. Finally it does not work. I prefer specialized frameworks such as Drupal or WordPress.

Finally what about PHP 6?

RL: At present we have no objective for the release of PHP 6, simply because there are not enough developers. Our initial goal was Unicode support. But it required a lot of work for developers because their extensions were no longer functional. Finally I decided to stop everything and move more slowly and with smaller steps transistion.

Thank you.Edited on 12/07/2012 at 9:52