Back in 2001, when I wrote the first edition of this book, readers were astonished
to discover that you could create a site full of web pages without having to write a
separate HTML file for each page. PHP stood out from the crowd of programming
languages, mainly because it was easy enough for almost anyone to learn and free
to download and install. The MySQL database, likewise, provided a simple and
free solution to a problem that, up until that point, had been solvable only by expert
programmers with corporate budgets.
Back then, PHP and MySQL were special—heck, they were downright miraculous!
But over the years, they have gained plenty of fast-moving competition. In an age
when anyone with a free WordPress1

account can set up a full-featured blog in 30
seconds flat, it’s no longer enough for a programming language like PHP to be easy
to learn; nor is it enough for a database like MySQL to be free.
Indeed, as you sit down to read this book, you probably have ambitions that extend
beyond what you can throw together using the free point-and-click tools of the Web.
You might even be thinking of building an exciting, new point-and-click tool of
your own. WordPress, after all, is built using PHP and MySQL, so why limit your
vision to anything less?
To keep up with the competition, and with the needs of more demanding projects,
PHP and MySQL have had to evolve. PHP is now a far more intricate and powerful
language than it was back in 2001, and MySQL is a vastly more complex and capable
database. Learning PHP and MySQL today opens up a lot of doors that would have
remained closed to the PHP and MySQL experts of 2001.