5 Popular Websites Built with PHP

Despite the declining popularity of PHP, the Internet is abundant with memes about it. Some of those memes are made by PHP developers who see their bank accounts are continuously filled with money earned from coding. Other memes describe this language as so inconvenient that many developers wonder why it isn’t dead yet. They keep on using it, though!

Only the careful analysis of the pros and cons of PHP answers why developers use it and lets us see that things aren’t too bad with this programming language. Besides, many well-known websites and apps have PHP in their technology stacks. In this article, we’re going to talk about the PHP-based websites that have become largely known and successful.

List of PHP-Based Websites

PHP has been around for over 20 years in the software development world. In the time of its rise, it was a starting solution that pushed forward giant companies of today. We made a list of the five most popular use cases of PHP to prove its significant impact on popular apps and websites.

1. Wikipedia

The world’s most famous free encyclopedia strongly relies on the PHP back-end and MySQL database system. Since January 2002, Wikipedia started to use a PHP script for a great number of Wiki applications, the most prominent of which are:

  • MediaWiki – a wiki engine written in JavaScript and PHP. Its used in such websites as Wiktionary, Wikidata, Wikimedia Commons, etc. and handles terabytes of various content;
  • DokuWiki – an app for documentation projects, which works with plain text and doesn’t need a database;
  • MindTouch Core – software for creating, editing and publishing content, and many other Wikipedia projects.

A great part of PHP code for Wikipedia services was executed via HopHop Virtual Machine (HHVM) invented by Facebook. Some services such as MediaWiki have moved to the HHVM competitor. PHP-licensed Zend Engine.

2. Facebook

Facebook has a significant impact on PHP transformation. Surprisingly, Facebook engineers don’t use this programming language in its core system. The PHP code had to be compiled into C++, so engineers invented a separate virtual machine called HipHop (or HHVM)  to make this process easier. 

The introduction of HHVM helped the company to reduce CPU usage on the servers by half and increase the performance of their social platform. In 2014, the company made a dialect of PHP called Hack for static typing, generics, and other features. HHVM was used by many websites, including Wikipedia, and Hack is still the core language on Facebook.

3. Slack

In 2016, the Internet saw the article. Taking PHP Seriously by Keith Adams explaining why Slack Technologies Inc. uses PHP for the server-side part of its web app. It answers the question of why companies succeed using PHP if it’s such a bad language. Despite numerous inconveniences posed by the language during Slack development and maintenance, the pluses listed for the Slack app were:

  • workflow properties of the PHP environment;
  • secure concurrency;
  • high developer involvement and efficiency.

Currently, Slack runs on Facebook’s HipHop Virtual Machine and uses the Hack dialect of PHP as well.

4. Etsy

The back-end part of Etsy e-commerce store relies on PHP and Python programming languages. Striving to reach the higher performance of the website, Etsy developers decided to move the platform to HHVM in 2015. The migration to the new PHP engine was successful and made the platforms performance two times faster. Besides that, Etsy engineers stay true to the philosophy behind their coding. the usage of a small stack of well-known and time-proved technologies. With the focus on their product rather than technologies to use, the company prefers either PHP or Java, since any developer at Etsy knows them best.

5. Business Insider

Business Insider is one of the largest American news websites based on the PHP back-end and its Symfony framework. The server-side stack also includes MongoDB, Solr, Doctrine, Memcached, and has a few services in Python and Node. However, most of the coding is done in PHP. Such architecture makes the site highly responsive, providing its users with quick access to the latest news around the world. 

Note: Many educational and scientific institutions, including MIT, Harward, Princeton, National Institute of Health, etc. are based on the PHP back-end. As a rule, these sites are quite simple because their main purpose is to inform people on a plethora of topics. No complex data processing needed, so many specialists see no trouble using PHP for these types of websites.


Although various technical companies avoid using PHP, its presence in tech stacks of popular websites is justified. The number of available PHP developers stays high, and their vast experience helps them build successful systems. Many governmental, educational, collaborative, and e-commerce sites rely on this language since the first half of 2000 and largely make use of Facebook Hack dialect and HipHop Virtual Machine. Despite the complexity of PHP, there are still many web developers out there creating reliable back-end solutions with ease.