PHP 8.1: The Evolution of a Programming Language That Wasn’t Meant To Be

On 8 June 1995, when Rasmus Lerdorf posted to a Usenet group announcing version 1.0 of Personal Home Page Tools, little did he know we'd be here today talking about version 8.1 of a full-featured, general-purpose programming language. In fact, PHP didn't start out as a programming language at all! It was "a set of small tight cgi binaries written in C" to support common web functionality.
Here we are 26 years later talking about a set of tools that grew and evolved into something much greater than the sum of its parts. It powers almost 80 % of the web. Over 5 million developers around the world make a living from it. It's a modern programming language, with features such as enums, readonly properties, a robust type system, named parameters, arrow functions, first class callables, a foreign function interface, fibers, JIT, and much, much more.
PHP's future looks bright, as it continues to change and grow with the web, but it didn't always look this way. Ten years ago, the future seemed uncertain, but a vibrant community and several pivotal projects have turned this around. Now, the language faces new challenges. In this talk, we'll look back to examine key moments over the past 26 years – some with fondness and others with shame. Then, we'll explore current challenges and how we can overcome them as a community to ensure PHP sticks around for many more years to come.


  • No prior knowledge is necessary. This is a non-technical talk that will highlight some technical aspects of PHP at a high level


  • Learn where PHP came from and how it got to where it is today.
  • Discuss the direction PHP is headed.
  • Discover how you can get involved and contribute.



Ben Ramsey
Ben Ramsey is a coder, writer, and speaker. Recently selected as a release manager for PHP 8.1, he is an avid proponent of open source software and maintains several popular open source packages, including ramsey/uuid and league/oauth2-client. In his free time, Ben enjoys beer, bourbon, board games, and TTRPGs. He co-organizes the PHP user group in Nashville, where he lives with his wife, son, and two dogs. Ben will blog again one day soon at


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