Original question from Quora:

If PHP stops being supported would WordPress re-code in the new language?

What i mean is if php is replaced by another programming language or if php stops being supported will popular CMS’s like Wordpress, Joomla, and Drupal re code in whatever new programming language replaces php? also would more CMS’s start popping up online that’s written in something other than php?

My Answer:

What you are describing is sort of the backwards view of things. You’ve asked the wrong question.

Let me explain…

Consider the Honda Civic, Ford F150, or any other automobile for which there are millions of on the road. Have you ever had to change the oil, fix a spare tire, or do any other mundane sort of vehicle maintenance before?

If you have, you’ve probably used a wrench or a socket set before. If you go to any hardware store or home improvement mega store they will have a wide selection of wrenches, socket sets, and so on for all of your bolt adjustment needs.

Why? Because there is a huge demand for things like cars that have a huge amount of bolts that need tightening and loosening.

Pretty obvious right? Okay.

Well, the thing is this…

You would never ask what happens to automobiles if wrenches go away because wrenches will never go away. Wrenches exist because of things like automobiles that have bolts.

Think about that for a second. Tools exist to do work, work doesn’t exist because of tools.

A tool needs a reason to exist for it to be a tool, otherwise it’s not a tool. It’s a useless blob of matter or a piece of art, depending on how you define either.

Now to PHP and the many CMS’s built in PHP like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal. The CMS’s are the automobiles in this metaphor, and PHP is the wrench you use to fix it.

PHP’s value is only in the fact you can build/maintain valuable software machines with it. Otherwise, it’s art, not a tool.

The reason PHP is so valuable is because it’s a tool so many people use to build so many valuable things. The net world value of PHP is likely billions of dollars to a multitude of companies around the entire world.

However, the value in PHP is in what people build WITH IT. For example, Lua is a fantastic little scripting language. You can do as much with Lua as you can with PHP and in areas like game development, Lua is exceptionally valuable.

Yet, on the web development side of things, Lua doesn’t have as much value as PHP because not as many valuable things are built with Lua. Lua’s tech is as good or better than PHP, but it’s value is lower because it’s a less widely used tool (for building the web).

All of this is to say, the question isn’t what if PHP goes away, the question would be what if WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla go away? What happens to PHP then?

Actually, almost nothing would happen that you might notice because the PHP ecosystem is far bigger than just WordPress and Drupal. PHP was a big deal before them and it will survive after them.

You see, the fact that so many valuable things are built on PHP means that companies will cumulatively spend millions of dollars to keep PHP alive no matter what happens. The long term value in keeping PHP alive is enormous. Facebook is built on PHP for crying out loud. It’s not going anywhere.

But then when you realize that over 20% of the internet runs on WordPress, it is even more apparent that neither PHP or WordPress are going anywhere. There is so much legacy stuff running PHP now that it’s in the same realm as COBOL and FORTRAN - they will never die, if only to keep legacy stuff alive almost forever.

So, I guess my answer is, nothing will happen if PHP goes away because it won’t. WordPress and Drupal will rot and die before PHP does, and at this point all three are too entrenched to ever truly go away.

Don’t forget, people are still buying vinyl records, cassette tapes, and CD’s in a world of digital music. People won’t stop using PHP in our lifetime, even if adoption eventually crumbles to almost nothing. In 20 years, there will probably be websites running WordPress on PHP somehow.

There are still sites on the internet running whatever they did in 1996.

-Brian

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