In honor of the 20th anniversary of PHP, I thought I’d write a short story about my years in PHP.
I discovered PHP in 1997 after I started experimenting with Linux and we started a university team of the Distributed.net RC5 challenge. We had a so-called personal key proxy running and wanted to generate some personal statistics. I decided to learn this relatively new language called PHP, which was at version 2.0FI at the time, which served to create some basic stats. Afterwards we used the Perl-based PPStats, but I soon found it too slow and too messy to deal with, so I rewrote it in PHP.
My first major PHP adventure was a personal project called GNet, a search engine submission system (back in the days when most search engines didn’t crawl the web and if they did, they did so slowly and inefficiently). The system I built was both web-based as well as Windows-based. The web-based version was built in PHP 3.0, the Windows version was not a standalone system, but rather plugged into the web-based version to fetch the latest engine list, parameter lists, etc using some custom API (well there were no ‘standard’ APIs at the time anyway). This was an actual client-server based application with PHP running on the server side, back in 1999
phpAds(New) / OpenX
The end of the 90s was also the boom of the online advertising industry. And having a system like GNet meant I could actually show some ads and try to make a little money. There was a system called phpAds, written by Tobias Ratschiller. After version 1.4 arrived, Tobias seemed to have vanished and although I had created a number of bug fixes, nobody was able to put them into the official phpAds project, which was being run from Tobias’ website.
So I merged all the existing patches with mine, added some functionality, and released phpAdsNew 1.4.9, the new part indicating that this was the new release. The new would remain part of its name until 2007, when the project was renamed to OpenAds (it has since been renamed to OpenX and recently to Revive Adserver). Over the course of 2 years, I rewrote the core of the system and added features, until in 2002 I gladly handed it over to someone else to maintain.
Although I never made much money with the ads, the project was fun, I got to see the fruits of my labour being used by thousands of companies and I learnt a lot running it.
The next few years I spent building mostly control panels and online ordering systems (for our own domain name, hosting and colocation business) and small websites and webapps.
In 2006 I started working for a number of Belgian companies as a freelance PHP developer. I worked for Internet Architects, Telenet, NMBS (Belgian railways) and a few more, before finally starting a dedicated PHP development company called Cu.be Solutions.
Although phpAdsNew/OpenX was an open source project from the start, I had been out of touch with actual open source work for a while when I started working on PHPCompatibility a few years ago. I’m happy to see a lot of people using it.
But my contribution is so small compared to the massive amounts of code so many have contributed to the PHP core, frameworks, CMS systems, testing tools, and so much more.
Open Source makes PHP great, absolutely. But it’s the PHP community that makes it all worth it ten-fold. In the past 8 years I’ve met the most amazing people from all around the world, each with their own distinct tastes, opinions, abilities, mindset, and so on… with one single thing binding them together : they’re all using this tool Rasmus Lerdorf built 20 years ago, this tool that has taken the web by storm and has been the undisputed number 1 web language for a long time, a language I will gladly use for another 20
Happy happy birthday PHP ! Onwards to the next 20 !