Looking At PHP On Windows Adoption

Posted by Stuart Herbert on September 11th, 2009 in Opinion.

On Zend’s DevZone, Remi Woler recently talked about his experiences as a judge for the WinPHP contest organised through the Dutch PHP User Group and the Dutch PHP Conference. One of his closing remarks really stood out for me, where he was expressing his surprise at how few people participated: “I refuse to believe there are only a couple of dozen PHP developers in Europe.”

It’s an odd statement … the world and his dog knows that PHP is immensely popular over here in Europe. Perhaps Remi completely overlooked the Windows factor here?

  1. I’ve been running a series of polls looking to learn more about the wider PHP community. One of the things that comes out of those polls is that 15% of developers use Windows as a platform, but only 3% are using Windows for their production platform.
  2. At this year’s PHP UK Conference in London, Microsoft’s Hank Jansen (who heads up their open-source efforts) spoke in the main room. I wasn’t able to attend personally, but by all accounts his talk was not well-attended. Not only aren’t people using Windows, but the curiosity doesn’t seem to be there either.
  3. Most hosting services (and practically all shared hosting services) are Linux based. If you want to host your site on Windows Server, there are plenty of firms offering this as an option, but many of these services are beyond the budget of many PHP projects.

My personal experience over the years is that many developers work in PHP on Windows because they’re working on laptops … and Linux on laptops continues to be a very hit-and-miss experience sadly. (They should all buy Macs instead ;) ) About half of the larger corporations I’ve worked with in the UK prefer Windows Server because Linux skills are rare in their organisation, but these corporations were also reluctant to use PHP-based solutions, still wrongly seeing PHP as a hobbyist language compared to .NET or Java.


  1. Charles Darke says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    What are the advantages (if any) of using windows as a PHP platform instead of Linux?

    I just don’t see any compelling reason to use windows for this.

  2. Andris says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    IMHO, in addition to Microsoft being evil.. er unpopular, it’s just cheaper to use free (as in beer and speech) software for projects with smaller budgets. On enterprise/government level projects where money is abundant you can start to consider Windows, Oracle, etc. But even this is changing due to the “crisis”..

  3. Martin F says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Also, Windows might be very interested in PHP right now, but PHP sure as hell isn’t interested in Windows. Or if they are, they don’t show it. I just need one URL to prove that.


    Any guess how long they’ve been “preparing a new build system”?

    PHP on Windows is nice enough so long as what you need is a stock system or if you have a setup to compile your own PHP extension. (But just how many Window users will have that?)

  4. Ren says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    http://downloads.php.net/pierre/ has a few extensions, that weren’t included in the main downloads.

    Though they are getting old. Memcache is the stable version without the latest version, and even that probably needs retiring, now there is Memcached extension.

  5. Rob... says:
    September 11th, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    We have some sites on a couple of Windows based servers out there because the client runs the server and were more comfortable with Windows. Personally, I’ve been very happy with PHP on Windows, but it don’t see the benefit of investing in it (license costs + training) compared to Linux for our main hosting.

    I didn’t answer your poll though either :)



  6. Stuart Herbert’s Blog: Looking At PHP On Windows Adoption | Webs Developer says:
    September 14th, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    [...] adoption rates for Windows use on PHP and, in response to comments made in this article he’s shares some of his own stats on Windows adoption (at least in the European market). [Remi] was expressing his surprise at how [...]

  7. Pierre says:
    September 15th, 2009 at 11:14 am

    About memcache vs memcached:

    See http://code.google.com/p/memcached/wiki/PHPClientComparison

    @Martin F.
    I did not want to have that page in the 1st place as it does not show the fact. pecl4win will not come back. What we (err…I) are working on is to have releases based binaries available at pecl.php.net just like any other downloads.

    If one needs a DLL for a given ext, feel free to drop me a request (http://wiki.php.net/internals/windows or via the mailing list, internals-win or pecl-dev). As long as the underlying libraries support windows, there is generally no problem to provide the ext (not the case for libmemcached for example).

  8. Pádraic Brady says:
    September 15th, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I use PHP on both Linux and Windows. Actually I was Windows only up to 2001 since I had limited hardware and dual-booting was difficult. I think the problem with any competition focusing on PHP on Windows is obvious – PHP is the same on any operating system. It’s not a surprise there were so few entries. Then again, would a Linux competition do any better? Coding competitions are notorious for their low uptake regardless.

    There is also the other matter that Microsoft’s reception to PHP has only recently warmed up and most developers are still lukewarm towards Microsoft. It’s the hosting we use when client’s ignore our advice because they are afraid Microsoft will drop a patent anvil on Linux. I think Microsoft will reap some benefit from its warm up – I have a feeling Windows usage in the community is significantly understated in favour of more experienced developers. I still know dozens of developers who work exclusively on Windows even if their hosting is Linux.

  9. Jeff Dickey says:
    September 16th, 2009 at 2:32 am

    I originally used both Linux and Windows for my PHP development up until about mid-2002 when I had a spare system I could throw Linux on and not have to worry about dual-booting; for about five years, that allowed me to nuke the Windows systems as needed (read: depressingly regularly) while still having a continuously available dev system and SVN history.

    Now I’ve this two-year-old iMac and VMWare Fusion and can develop on whatever platform I please and test on everything. Windows is in locked-down VM snapshots where it’s unlikely to do too much damage, but still be available on a minute’s notice for testing (because, as we all know, too many people are still infested with Internet Exploder).

    Would I develop PHP code in a pure-Windows-on-bare-metal environment again? Sure, for three times the rate, and with the understanding that it’s going to take at least twice as long. Botnet penetration is a real problem here; my BSD firewall logs a couple of hundred apparent attempts on a typical day – and the trend is only going up.

    Which really brings up the question – why would anybody touch Windows for PHP development if they’re doing it for money? Even if Windows boxes are all you have available at present, think how quickly a new non-Windows system would pay for itself in billable hours, lowered stress, AND not least, more build/deploy options for PHP available.