In an interview with Finextra, Bud’s chief information and security officer Merlin Gore maintains that PHP is important for open banking, despite the programming language currently being neglected by the wider engineering industry.
Gore highlights that Bud have “been making a lot of noise about PHP and it’s been against the grain because the language has somewhat of a bad reputation, which I believe is unfair. Using PHP made a lot of sense for us because it is a quick language to learn and you can iterate with it at fast speed.
“Alongside this, it’s a service-side scripting language so it will allow you to spin out applications quickly, hosting costs are cheap and there is a large developer presence using PHP so there is always help within the community if needed.”
Gore goes on to say that as a startup, PHP allowed it to innovate at a fast rate and produce proof of concepts quickly. He also points out that Facebook, Wikipedia and Slack all opted to use PHP too and while early iterations of PHP were not recommended, the language has matured and improved.
However, due to the simplicity of PHP - the programming language is one of the first that coders learn - it is soon disregarded as engineers move on to languages that are considered to be ‘harder.’ As coders stop practicing PHP, it becomes an issue when the open banking industry becomes dependent on it.
Gore states that while he is not aware of banks using PHP specifically and open banking is not coupled with the language, “PHP was born as a web language, so it can handle APIs, which is why it makes perfect sense for open banking.
“PHP doesn’t necessarily handle APIs more effectively than other languages, but it is very well suited to do so. PHP is a widely used scripting language for back-end system and APIs and it has wide support of framework and professional libraries and you can use any database. There’s also a large community available for support and well-defined documentation is available alongside well-structured standards.”
After being questioned on whether PHP is better, or more effective, than Python and Java for open banking, Gore says that it is not necessarily comparable. “All programming languages have strengths and weaknesses. Python for example is designed with features to facilitate data analysis and visualisation, though it can be used with APIs (and we do so internally). PHP’s wide use, proven pedigree in server-side scripting and the use on the web (over 80% of the web is in PHP) made it an ideal candidate for us, but we wouldn’t rule out other languages.
“Because the standards and libraries exist, we can concentrate on the business logic rather handling minutiae like how to make a request or building the blocks of an AP. There are frameworks out there that have proven themselves to be highly scalable, so we can focus on what we want to build and push the boundaries ourselves.”
Bud has secured backing from HSBC, Goldman Sachs, ANZ and Investec for its recent $20 million Series A funding round and Gore points out how “investment in programming languages is important and there are no negative outcomes. If investment is made into a particular language, it becomes more profitable and therefore, the increased interest will result in people creating new products.”
Gore also says that implementation of PHP in the open banking industry is dependent on the hiring of senior engineers who code with PHP as their primary language and if they cannot be found, limitations will permeate across the sector. “PHP gets a bad reputation because it’s an extremely accessible language and often one of the first languages picked up by people learning to write program.
"PHP has also recently matured significantly with improvements to standards, speed, and well-established frameworks and libraries maintained by the community. While it used to be a gateway language for junior developers, this thinking is changing.”