I’ve seen this question pop up on forums and I know every PHP developer has their own reasons, it made me think of why I initially picked PHP when i started programming.
It started when I was in my final year at the university and I was going looking for a new programming languages to learn. Everyone of my mates at the time was moving to the web and I didn’t want to be left behind. I started by taking a look at PHP since it was the popular trend then.
Flash forward three months, and I was spending half my day on forums trying to figure out different ways of implementing cool things. That got me really excited. Eventually, though I was tired of that, the website i was working was getting larger with so many bugs and every time it became a nightmare to fix
This led me to a crossroads. I wanted to remake the site so it was dynamic and so we could quickly add new inventory. The two languages I heard was best for this was either Python(Django) or PHP. To a newbie, they both seemed like greek, but PHP was easier to start and setup, also hosting was cheaper, so that is the direction I went.
With the language chosen, I started reading everything I could but it didn’t “click”. I struggled more with understanding the relationship between PHP, MySQL and Apache. It was trial and error from tutorials and forums.
What I ended up realizing is the part I struggled with was that I couldn’t actually see the relationship between all these tools. Around this time I tried Dreamweaver, and it helped tremendously because it was all basically integrated into a single app.
As I compare then to today the training material now is leaps and bounds better than we what we had. Yes, web development is way more complicated today, but everything from tutorials, to training videos, to even open source apps. Everything is better explained than back then.
So to finally answer the question, “What makes PHP popular?”, For me, it was cheaper hosting, easier to start learning and once I grasped the basics, I never left the community. If it works, embrace it.