Home Open Thread: What Do Developers Think of Facebook’s HipHop?

Open Thread: What Do Developers Think of Facebook’s HipHop?

So, Facebook went and secretly rewrote PHP’s runtime to be a lean, mean, C++ translated, g++ compiled piece of resource-friendly hotness.

If that sentence confused you, then you’re not the target audience for this post. We want to know what our developer friends think of HipHop, the latest open-source code project to emerge from the deep, dark dungeons of Facebook’s Palo Alto headquarters (ok, the HQ’s actually quite pretty, but we like a good turn of phrase). Read these expert opinions (and by “expert,” we mean Rasmus Lerdorf), and let us know in the comments what you think of the new PHP runtime.

Here’s the skinny on what HipHop is and what it does: Last night, we broke news that Facebook was getting ready to release a JIT compiler for PHP. Turns out we were slightly wrong.

Facebook engineer David Recordon told us this morning, “HipHop isn’t actually a just-in-time compiler. Rather it transforms your PHP source code into C++ and uses a well established compiler (g++) to produce the resulting binary.”

The Facebook engineer who was responsible for concepting and developing HipHop, Haiping Zhao, wrote this morning, “With HipHop we’ve reduced the CPU usage on our Web servers on average by about fifty percent, depending on the page.”

So, with HipHop, Facebook (and by extension other PHP-based sites and apps) becomes faster and more scalable, since rewriting the runtime probably cost a lot less than trying to scale horizontally with more servers.

Late last night, we pinged PHP creator Rasmus Lerdorf on Twitter, asking for his opinions on the new PHP runtime. This morning, he wrote, “I think HipHop is cool and will certainly help the poor people stuck in framework soup.” However, he also noted, “HipHop on simpler template-style PHP pages probably isn’t going to help you too much. It’s not going to make your SQL queries any faster.”

Our friend and a PHP dev himself, Warren Benedetto, wrote to us with a wealth of interesting implications, saying, “[Facebook] get to have their cake and eat it, too. Keep the site in PHP, keep their large staff of PHP developers, rapidly iterate existing features while developing new ones, AND get all the performance benefits of a compiled language on the back end.”

He also notes that the improved speed and performance might cause more enterprises to consider using PHP for sites, features and applications rather than Java or .NET.

But one of our biggest concerns with HipHop was the delay in open-sourcing the project. Former Digg lead architect and current SimpleGeo co-founder Joe Stump wrote this morning on Twitter, “Thanks, Facebook, for open sourcing HipHop. We, the FOSS [free and open-source] community, look forward to maintaining this fork separately from you going forward.” Take that!

So, that’s what a few of our friends and acquaintances think of Facebook’s HipHop and the rewritten PHP runtime. What’s your take on it? Let us know in the comments!

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