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PHP Zeitgeist: What PHP developers have been looking for in the last decade?

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PHP Zeitgeist is a new initiative to show the trends on what PHP developers have been looking for year after year. It is somewhat similar to Google End of the Year Zeitgeist.

This article explains in detail what is this initiative and how you can take advantage of the information that it provide to keep up with the latest trends in the PHP development market and improve your career.

Loaded Article

* What is the Zeitgeist?

* PHP Zeitgeist

* The evolution of PHP trends told by searches

* Learning and benefiting from these trends

* Future developments

* What is the Zeitgeist?

Zeitgeist is a German expression that, in simplistic terms, refers to the current trends. The Wikipedia has a more detailed explanation.

Google made this expression better known when they started the Google End of the Year Zeitgeist initiative. Basically, it is an initiative that highlights the new types of things that users have been looking for using Google search. ...

* PHP Zeitgeist

PHP Zeitgeist is an initiative somewhat similar to Google Zeitgeist. The main difference is that it is based on the statistics of searches performed by PHP developers on the PHPClasses site.

Maybe it would be more accurate to call it PHPClasses Zeitgeist, as only part of the PHP community uses the PHPClasses site to search what they need.

But since the PHPClasses site has large audience that is estimated in about 20% of the PHP developers, I think it is fair to assume that what PHP developers search in the PHPClasses site is similar to what they search elsewhere while they are working on their PHP projects.

Currently, PHP Zeitgeist consists of a series of pages that show a ranking of keywords used to search the PHPClasses site.

The PHP Zeitgeist pages are split by years. Each page represents the top searched keywords that emerged in the respective year.

It works like this: the site builds a ranking of top 1000 most searched keywords. The top trending keywords represent the top searched keywords that never featured in the top 1000 of the previous years. This means that every year it shows a new set of top trending search keywords.

The top trending searches listing shows each of the keywords as a link to perform a search now for those keywords. The last column of the top listing shows the rank of the keywords in the top searched keywords ranking of the year.

The PHPClasses internal search engine was launched in the year 2000. User searches were logged since then for statistic purposes like this one.

The top trending search pages start only in 2001 because it needs to compare with the ranking of the previous year. Since no searches were logged in 1999, there is no way to build the trending searches for the year 2000.

* The evolution of PHP trends told by searches

It is curious that looking at the top trending searches, we can clearly see the sorts of technologies and tools PHP developers were using, year by year. Let me highlight some of the searches that I find more relevant for each year.

- 2001

ADODB became very popular then as a PHP database abstraction layer.

Still, we notice that some people were looking for solutions to use flat file databases, like those built with Microsoft Access and DBase-like applications (DBF).

Despite PEAR is another PHP Classes repository, PHP developers seem to look for PEAR components in the PHP Classes site too.

XSLT was being hyped then as a solution for templating sites from XML data sources.

Also curious, is the list of games that people were playing by then, such as Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament and Quake 3.

- 2002

As PHP starts being used more to develop Web applications, the ability to export and import spreadsheet files, such as those generated by Microsoft Excel program, becomes a very request capability.

PHP was always capable of manipulating images using the GD library. But the ImageMagick library came to make it a more powerful task.

- 2003

Blogs start becoming very popular. The ability to generate and parse RSS feeds also becomes very useful as a means to provide blog content for syndication.

The ability to produce and consume Web services also started becoming very popular that year.

The use of rich HTML editors also starts to raise great interest.

- 2004

PHP 5 is finally released, addressing the concerns of those that wished for more Object Oriented features similar to other popular languages like Java.

Smarty is an established template engine. Extensions for this template engine start having great demand.

Content stealing seems to gain some concern. Developers start resorting to watermark techniques to brand images with a mark of the origin site.

- 2005

This is the year when AJAX becomes very popular.

OpenOffice also started becoming mainstream. Solutions for storing and retrieving data in MySQL databases to Excel and other spreadsheet like formats continue to increase in demand.

- 2006

Javascript frameworks start gaining momentum as a follow-up to the popularity explosion of AJAX.

Some "Web 2.0" manias also emerge like using tag clouds.

CAPTCHA validation solutions also are in great demand.

- 2007

Social networks APIs and social applications start having great demand, such as those for Facebook.

This is the year when PHP frameworks like CakePHP start getting significant popularity.

- 2008

Other PHP frameworks also start getting popular like Zend Framework this time.

PHPBB 3 becomes very popular and PHP developers look for integration of this application with their sites.

- 2009

OAuth becomes a de-facto standard for authorizing Web applications of some sites to access APIs of other sites on behalf their users.

qr code finally becomes the new standard for 2D bar codes.

Developing PHP Web applications for iPhone gets great interest.

Object-Relational mapping solutions finally become very relevant for PHP developers, so they can treat information stored in relational databases as if they were objects.

Facebook Connect and Twitter API get significant interest from PHP developers.

- 2010

You need to wait for next year to learn about the year 2010 trends.

Meanwhile, what are your expectations of what will become a de-facto trend for 2010? Post your guesses as a comment to this article and we will get back to your guesses next year.

* Learning and benefiting from these trends

Trends information is very interesting. You can study the trends to take advantage of the information to improve your career.

One obvious way to do that, is focus your developments on the technologies and tools that are highlighted in the trends listings.

If they are showing now as trending topics, that is because the market has great demand for PHP professionals qualified in them.

Another conclusion, probably not so obvious, is that some of the searches are from people searching about recent technologies for which there is not so much support in PHP.

This may be a good opportunity for those developers that have been looking for ideas to participate in the PHP Programming Innovation Awards.

Try this: look at the top trending keywords and click on the links to see if are there any solutions on the PHPClasses site for implementing them. If no solution is found, chances are that if you submit a class for implementing support for those technologies, it will be considered innovative and you may win prizes and greater recognition for your contributions.

To be quite frank, that was the main idea that motivated me to implement the PHP Zeitgeist pages. Giving ideas for more and better solutions of problems that PHP developers are looking for is something very good for everybody.

* Future developments

What was implemented is relatively simple, but I have a couple more ideas to make this more useful.

One idea is to build a tag cloud to help users to see the more relevant keywords.

Another idea is to research for a solution to cluster the keywords and group those that are of related topics. I am not sure how I can do that, but I suppose this is a topic that has been research extensively. So I guess there may exist established solutions described in academic papers.

If you have more ideas to make this information more useful for PHP developers in general, feel free to post a comment to this article.

If the ideas are great and feasible, they may end up being implemented soon. In that case you may want to follow the PHPClassesEarly Twitter account were the latest developments of the site are posted, often way before they are announced in the site blog.

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6. Good idea - Leandro Coutinho (2010-01-09 02:16)
Great initiative... - 0 replies
Read the whole comment and replies

5. Bore. - mark skilbeck (2010-01-07 18:11)
Bore.... - 0 replies
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4. Unicode is a MUST - Jozef Hribik (2010-01-07 18:06)
Unicode is a MUST... - 2 replies
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3. useful but too little - liang (2010-01-07 03:04)
useful but too little... - 1 reply
Read the whole comment and replies

2. Suggestion - Ken Gregg (2010-01-06 19:52)
Why wait a year to spot new trends?... - 1 reply
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1. thanks - usman ahmed (2010-01-06 14:27)
very informative initiative . thanks... - 0 replies
Read the whole comment and replies


3. Max' Lesestoff zum Wochenende (2010-01-08 21:59)
Wie jede Woche spendieren wir euch auch an diesem Samstag wieder ein paar Linktipps...

2. Today's links (2010-01-07 18:34)
Some interesting links (or not!)...

1. PHP Zeitgeist: What PHP developers have been looking for in the last decade? (2010-01-06 13:01)
On the blog there’s a new post talking about a zeitgeist he’s created (Manuel Lemos) based on the searching and demand from the site...

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