At the end of November, prominent members of the PHP community formed a new PHP Foundation as a non-profit organization, “to ensure the long life and prosperity of the PHP language.” The founding members include Automattic, Laravel, Acquia, Zend, Craft CMS, Private Packagist, Tideways, PrestaShop, Symfony, and JetBrains—a group of companies with products that rely heavily on PHP.
In just 11 days, the Foundation has has secured an estimated annual budget of more than $280,000 through donations and monthly commitments using Open Collective’s transparent funding platform.
JetBrains, leading the charge with a promise to contribute $100,000 annually, announced the formation of the foundation. It stated that the organization will not seek to influence PHP language decisions but will leave those to the PHP Internals community. The donations will be used to fund developers to work on PHP:
Our initial scope of operations is narrow so as to maximize the chances of successfully addressing our immediate concern – that there are not enough core developers working on PHP.
In our first year or two, our only priority will be the hiring of core developers. Eventually, after our immediate concern has been resolved, the Foundation will be prepared to expand the scope of operations to include the hiring of developers dedicated to non-core projects. Beyond that, we may expand our focus to include community-oriented projects.
The loss of a longtime prolific contributor Nikita Popov, who is moving on to work on LLVM with significantly less time on PHP, was one of the major contributing factors for the formation of the foundation.
“Losing one of the main contributors to PHP is a blow to the community, because he is the bearer of a lot of knowledge and expertise,” PhpStorm marketing manager Roman Pronskiy said. “It puts the language that powers 78% of the Web in a fragile position. Not to mention an overwhelming burden on the maintainer, which unfortunately in the world of OSS often leads to people burning out.”
Despite enormous contributions from Zend by Perforce on various initiatives for nearly two decades, along with other corporations invested in the future of the language, PHP is too important to the web to risk going without vital support for its maintainers.
“By continuing to fund full-time and part-time developers on the PHP project, Zend has helped ensure the ongoing prosperity and modernization of the PHP language, and its continued use for mission-critical application development,” Pronskiy said.
“We were proceeding rather leisurely, thinking that the problem was not critical. However, Nikita’s decision forced us to intensify our work on the foundation.”
The 26-year old programming language continues to be immensely popular today, thanks to its easy learning curve and the relative ease of finding hosting for PHP-based sites. It powers 36% of the top million websites and 49% of the top 10K according to BuiltWith. With such a massive footprint, formalizing support for the future of the PHP project is long overdue.
“PHP quickly became my choice of language, and while some folks mock it for not being a ‘real’ language – whatever that means – it can be strongly typed and structured if you choose – but more importantly, PHP has enabled the innovation and explosion of the web, largely through projects like WordPress, CakePHP, CodeIgniter, and Laravel,” Automattic engineer Jeffrey Pearce wrote in a recent essay about how he found PHP. “These projects all had a low barrier to entry and made writing software accessible to the masses.
“Hacking away through a PHP file, mixing classes and inline code, functional and object orientation, and discovering the joys of MVC frameworks – you could really move fast and break things.”
At WordCamp Europe in 2019, when Matt Mullenweg was asked how he plans to balance chasing the new and shiny with all of WordPress’ existing legacy APIs, he said, “PHP is going to be crucial to us for many years to come.” WordPress owes a great deal to PHP, which keeps getting faster and better with each release. Behind these releases is a community of people who need reliable support.
Any contributor can apply to the Foundation for funding part-time or full-time work. Positions are not permanent and can be canceled at any time. Applications are still open for the next two weeks and the Foundation’s administration will use its expertise to decide which contributors will receive funding.