PHP As A Next-Generation Programming Language?
Frank explained that they chose PHP when writing ownCloud since it's available on most web servers, PHP with one code-base can run on all platforms, PHP is very well known, PHP is fast and powerful, and there's a huge ecosystem of libraries. Frank's reasons were much the same as mine that the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org are largely written in PHP.
Karlitschek does acknowledge though with PHP code can come a nightmare of security issues, there can be compile-time/run-time configuration issues, inconsistencies in function and class namings, and the lack of static typing for PHP variables. But he says, "I would really love to see PHP moving to the next level and improving some of this shortcomings because most of it is really good. But it is very important to do it right."
The ownCloud founder argues that PHP should be overhauled but should be done carefully to avoid incompatibility issues like with the PERL7/Python3 migration, etc. He believes PHP should be evolved and improved while providing a smooth migration experience -- his suggestion is maintaining support for old and new versions of PHP in one release while new code could use a different start tag.
Changes he would like to see would be killing the $_GET / $_POST / $_SERVER arrays and be replaced by a proper API for incoming data, improvements to database handling, improve 32-bit vs. 64-bit handling, kill ancient concepts, remove most of the compile/run-time options, make optional static typing, and always use Unicode strings.
Frank Karlitschek ended his blog post with, "I hope by dream of a more modern and cleaned up PHP including a smooth migration path becomes reality in the next few years. Obviously we at ownCloud couldn´t start to migrate to this new PHP mode before 95% of all PHP installations out there run with the new version. This will easily take additional 3-5 years. By doing this big projects like WordPress or ownCloud would actually have a realistic chance to move to a cleaner and more modern language. But more importantly this would make PHP ready for the challenges of the future."
I certainly agree with his assessment on PHP and thoughts for the future. Sadly, there's been little action in significantly evolving the language in a timely manner though the PHP 5.x releases have had some minor impact. At the same time there's Facebook's Hack language powered by their HHVM virtual machine but sadly there's been little adoption and interest outside of Facebook for the language (HHVM itself for PHP code continues running great) but hopefully this will improve in time.