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Highlights of web technology surveys, November 2010: Three quarters of all websites are based on PHP
Posted by Matthias Gelbmann on 2 November 2010 in News, PHP, Server-side Languages
When Rasmus Lerdorf started to write the code of his "Personal Home Page Tools", he did not think of creating a technology that would power many of the best known websites such as Wikipedia and Facebook 15 years later. And he did not think that PHP would outshine all the technologies provided by Microsoft, Apple, Sun, Oracle or anyone else when people choose a language for writing websites.
Our server-side programming language survey shows that a very remarkable 74.9% of websites use PHP, slightly increasing in the last year. ASP.NET technologies (presumably mostly C#) come in second, and a few percentages are left for Java. That's about it. The variety of programming languages used to develop websites is surprisingly small, considering that everyone and his dog develops websites these days. There is a lot of talk in the IT blogoshere about alternative languages such as Ruby and Python, but their real world usage is tiny compared to PHP.
One factor in that statistics are content management systems. The top 5 CMS are all written in PHP. I'm sure many of these sites run in some out-of-the-box mode, and their users don't care what language they are written in. That does, however, in no way invalidate the statistics. If you don't care whether your car runs on diesel or gas, your choice still counts for the statistics as much as any other car.
Let's look at some details of PHP usage. PHP dominates the small and medium sites as well as the large sites, but for the high traffic sites, the percentage is lower (still 59%). There seems to be more competition from Java and ASP.NET on large enterprise sites.
There are also remarkable geographical differences: PHP dominates in Germany, Russia and Poland with around 90% market share, whereas only 39% of Chinese sites use it. The underlying reason for that is, that China loves Windows (and thus ASP.NET), for whatever reason.
There is not much movement from one server-side language to another, and no clear direction to or from a certain language. Understandably, that seems to be too big a step for most webmasters to do frequently. Similarly webmasters (or web hosters) are not exactly fast in updating PHP versions. PHP 4 is still around, only slowly disappearing more than 6 years after the release of PHP 5. And only 4.7% of the PHP 5 users switched to version 5.3, which has been released in June 2009. That's a pity, considering all the improvements that went into this new version. Perhaps at least PHP.net should upgrade from their 5.2 version. Perhaps we should too.
One last word to our statistics: when people see surprising numbers such as these 74.9%, they start to wonder whether that can be true. I know that, because that's the way I think too. In that particular case, I have repeatedly heard the assumption: "you just count installed Apache modules, that's why the PHP figure is way too high". That is not true. We do not reveal details of our website analysis algorithm (we spent a lot of work developing it), but I can assure you, it is much more sophisticated than this. Specifically, we avoid any methods that have a built-in bias towards any specific technology. We know that our figures are not perfect (see our disclaimer), and we know that nobody will ever have perfect figures on website statistics. Our goal is to have the best statistics than can possibly be made, and this is how they look like.
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