The landscape of PHP is changing. We are witnessing a rapid evolution in framework architecture and there are a great many exceptional ones out there. Putting your time into learning one will doubtlessly pay off for many years ahead. But which should you pick?
There are many factors to consider but one of the most important ones, in my opinion, is the community. A technically inferior system can still be the better option, if it has a stronger community to keep it improving and helping its users solve their problems.
Just look at Wordpress. ;)
Measuring the community behind frameworks is not easy, because it is such a soft value. I decided to compare one part that is easier to enumerate - the number of developers following their respective codebase.
The frameworks I looked at was Symfony, Lithium, CodeIgniter, CakePHP, Zend Framework and Kohana. There a hundreds more but I think this should cover the top ones.
Without further ado, here is the ordered list from top to bottom.
554 followers, 127 forks
Symfony (2602) comes out on top, well ahead of number two - CakePHP (1382). Third place goes to Zend Framework (1161). Kohana (700) comes in as number four, closely followed by CodeIgniter (554). In the far bottom we find Lithium (176).
I invested in Symfony over a year ago and these numbers confirms that I played the right horse. There are still some excellent contenders of course but I feel that betting on Symfony is the wise thing to do. Looking at its community further cements this opinion.
What surprised me the most is that Lithium had such a low number. I have not been looking at it myself but I keep hearing great things about it. This could be because they have recently moved to GitHub but I could not find when that was. Perhaps June 14th?
I also thought that CodeIgniter would place higher than it did, at least above Zend Framework. But maybe I am just jaded by how strong CI seems to be here in Sweden.
Did I miss any major frameworks? Does these numbers have another meaning to you? What matters in your choice of framework? Let me know by posting a comment!
Update: @leafnode let me know that only the "heavily-development version of Zend Framework" is hosted on GitHub.