TOP 5 most popular PHP frameworks of 2012

There are many “holywars” about the best PHP framework on the market. Obviously, this fight is endless, because some prefer performance, some prefer better documentation, some prefer amount of built-in functions etc. So every framework has something to be better than the others in some field. But let’s make some kind of research on the TOP 5.

The first problem we deal with is no official statistics. If you Google something like “php frameworks usage statistics”, you will find only links to “Google Trends” and many articles with personal opinion of developers. Of course, it is a natural thing, because there is no simple way to find out, which framework is used for a particular website, so it is almost impossible to gather the data. But we can try to make a workaround.

TOP 5: Google Trends 2012

Let’s look at what people were searching for this year. I’ve put five assumingly most-popular frameworks and that’s what I’ve got:

If we look at the exact numbers, the TOP 5 looks like this:

  • Codeigniter: 90
  • Yii: 62
  • CakePHP: 61
  • Symfony: 50
  • Zend Framework: 44

Of course, we cannot really judge about popularity only from the amount of searches. So we dig deeper.

TOP 5: Google Search Results 2012

Second test I’ve performed was just a search on the keyword in Google and then narrowed it to “Past year”. Here are the approximate amount of the results:

  • Yii: 861 000
  • Codeigniter: 660 000
  • CakePHP: 606 000
  • Zend Framework: 465 000
  • Symfony: 329 000

Of course, again, here we have some extra factors. This amount is only approximate and it might depend on my computer – you know, every one of us get slightly different search results on Google. But, as I understand, the difference is in the ordering of the results, but not so much in the total amount of it.

TOP 5: Job search (oDesk + Elance)

The third and final part of my mini-research was job boards for freelancers. I’ve searched two of them – and Again, the test was simple – just putting the keyword into the text-based search field and counting the amount of results. Here we go:

  • Codeigniter: 136 (101 from oDesk + 35 from Elance)
  • CakePHP: 124 (79 + 45)
  • Zend Framework: 54 (39 + 15)
  • Yii: 47 (30 + 17)
  • Symfony: 40 (27 + 13)

As we can see, in this case we have two clear leaders.

Overall result and conclusions

So what can we take from these mini-tests?

  • According to the best performance in all these tests, the best framework in the market is CodeIgniter. I have worked with it on several projects and can also recommend it for your needs.
  • Zend Framework is on a decline. If we compared the data to 2008-2009, we would have found bigger numbers on that framework. I am not saying it is not worth to check out, but it seems that developers switch to something new and fresh from this old framework.
  • Yii is really worth to check out. If we believe these numbers, there are a lot of articles on this one, and perhaps it is only a matter of time for job boards ads to be higher for Yii.
  • CakePHP is a really good perspective in terms of job and project search. I’ve heard this thing also from a couple colleagues, so I’m judging not only by the numbers of oDesk and Elance suggestions.
  • Symfony is not that popular. Strong fifth place, of course, is not so bad – none of other frameworks I tried to bring to this survey showed similar results.

How would you comment on these numbers and my conclusions? Do you agree that CodeIgniter is currently the best that market can offer?


  1. marc January 28, 2013 9:42 am  Reply

    I would rephrase the first conclusion. If anything, your research shows that CodeIgniter is the most popular. You can’t talk about “the best framework” without researching quality first.

  2. kalathiya mayur April 17, 2013 8:51 am  Reply

    i rely agree with conclusion,coz CodeIgniter is very speedy framework

  3. John May 3, 2013 7:28 am  Reply

    Massimiliano Arione on January 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm said: “It’s worth noting that CodeIgniter and Yii are not even in FIG”

    That’s an excellent ENDORSEMENT for both Yii and CodeIgniter! Good for them, PHP-FIG is another FIGment of Fabien Potencier’s political imagination

  4. No Name May 21, 2013 9:42 pm  Reply

    Job search results as of May 2013

    Codeigniter: 180 (117 from oDesk + 63 from Elance)
    Zend Framework: 105 (73 + 32)
    CakePHP: 98 (56 + 42)
    Yii: 90 (61 + 29)
    Symfony: 39 (21 + 18)

    Codeigniter is quite stable at the top position

  5. Andras September 19, 2013 10:27 am  Reply

    Yii is in FIG now, it seems.

  6. Raheel Shan September 26, 2013 1:29 pm  Reply

    Would you please update your blog including Laravel 4. And see what results are generated in 2013. Thanks

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