Oracle is making an announcement May 16 that it will incorporate use of PHP into developing Oracle database applications. I don't know the details. But I do know that spells the end of an era for 10-year-old Java.
PHP was once known as Personal Home Page, an easy-to-use scripting language that amateur site builders could use to pull together Web-site elements. So what's an amateur's tool doing inside Oracle?
Well, it's already inside IBM.
At the end of February, IBM said it would add PHP capabilities to its Cloudscape database system, which has since become the Apache open-source Derby project. With the Cloudscape/PHP combination, semi-skilled site builders with no computer-science degree can easily add database services to their site. That move must not have been lost on Oracle. IBM was making easy-to-use, free database resources in a Web application, and those resources didn't have to be accessed through Java or C or C#. With literally millions of Web sites already using PHP, IBM was opening a door to site developers that Oracle considered its own domain. But it had no story with which to match IBM.
So Oracle is going to have its own PHP play through Zend Technologies Ltd., the PHP tool supplier.
With increasing support among big vendors, it's clear that Java's future is bounded by the scripting languages PHP, Perl, Python and Tcl. These languages are both easier to learn and use than Java 2 Enterprise Edition or C++ or C#. A lot of creativity resides in the hands of these scripting language users. They are less concerned with Java's discipline, which is very good for high-value business functions, such as transaction processing, and more concerned with mixing up what's available in response to individual users on a site.
Some PHP advocates say there's no reason enterprise applications won't be built with PHP. Indeed, they already are. The Lufthansa E-ticket site runs on PHP programming. Why not your company's E-commerce?
IBM and Oracle are following, not leading, this movement. But IBM and Oracle were Java's earliest and staunchest backers. They, like Sun, at one time believed it would be the dominant language of the Internet. Now they're acknowledging it will fall short of that role. Java has grown in what it can do, but its blind spot, its inability to think in terms of loosely coupled elements working together, became one of the big new patterns of the Internet. And that blind spot may yet prove its undoing. Nothing over the last three years has matched the growth of PHP.