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The first fruits have emerged in an industry-backed project designed to promote greater simplicity and consistency for developers scripting in PHP.

The Zend Collaboration Project, announced last October with support from 14 major IT companies, has delivered the first two implementations of a framework that helps standardise the way PHP applications are built.

The Zend Framework Preview 0.1.2 takes a heavy steer towards Web 2.0, with support added for the increasingly popular Asynchronous JavaScript, XML (AJAX) and web services. The framework wraps up APIs from Amazon, Yahoo and Flickr in order to simplify the development of web services built with PHP.

Project organisers said they are working to engage other API providers in order to "make PHP the premier platform for consuming web services".

Also addressed in version 0.1.2 is the ability to generate PDF documents and create and send email messages using Zend_Mail and Zend_Mime. Click here for more details.

PHP has become something of a mainstream success story in recent years, as a growing number of developers use it in conjunction with Linux, Apache and MySQL to build low-cost websites and web services for businesses.

Larger IT vendors have subsequently recognised the power PHP has in bringing developers to their underlying platforms - be they databases, enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, or micro processors.

As such, Zend Technologies has received funding from the venture arms of SAP and Intel while working to optimise PHP for databases from IBM and Oracle during the last year. The Zend Collaboration Project, meanwhile, drew support from MySQL and SugarCRM in addition to IBM and Oracle on its launch.

There had been some concern voiced in 2005 that PHP's popularity had peaked. An Evans Data Corp (EDC) report found there had been a 25 per cent drop in use of PHP by developers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) last year. Worse, 40 per cent of developers had no plans to use PHP in future projects.

At the time, EDC said developers had been turning to better promoted and packaged scripting alternatives, but cautioned that we should expect a reversal in the decline as Oracle, IBM and SAP threw their weight behind PHP. ®

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