Dear PHP, the times are a-changin'
PHP has for the longest time been the top of mind programming language for mainstream and hobbyist Web Developers. It's running a large parts of the web, you're bound to be a PHP user if you've got an internet connection. It's everywhere and it's not going away any time soon.
The PHP runtime itself has been challenged by Facebook's HHVM in the last few years. People are comparing charts of PHP 7 vs. HHVM performance, dreaming of low latency and high throughput. This and improvements in the language are good, but in the end it's just a better tool for server side scripting via HTTP or via Command Line. RoR and Django were sold as a replacement to do the same exact thing. Meh.
PHP has never been able to break out from being a server side language. There have been efforts to make PHP a viable Desktop Application Platform, but those have been awkward at best. Java, dreaded by many PHP developers is more versatile than PHP.
With Java you write passable desktop applications, you can write high performance data analysis and storage applications like ElasticSearch, Neo4J and JackRabbit. You can write plain old web application back ends as well with modern frameworks like Play. In addition Java likely powers your every day life embedded in mobile phones, printers, set top boxes, etc.
I'm sure people will continue to create all kind of kludges to stretch PHP beyond it's limits. Please stop, since it's just not a very good tool for many things out there. If you want to move beyond the limits of PHP with a similar language - take a look at Hack, an open source PHP derivative from Facebook.
Hack gives you a PHP like syntax, great tooling, native async and allows bridging the server and client side natively with XHP-JS. Also worth noting is that Hack and PHP can share HHVM as a runtime, just like Java and Scala share JVM. But with a maximum one year support cycle it's safe to say Hack does not compete with long stability with PHP.
So I'm not going to switch the H2O-HHVM combo this site is running to something like Ghost, just because NoSQL and Node. But for the first time since what feels like forever, I find myself seriously considering alternatives to PHP when starting fresh. Something universal, not bound by front end vs. back end Apartheid.
You've got your niche, but the times they are a-changin', old friend.
P.S. Heavily influenced by Pekkis' talk on the Long march to PHP 7 and Beyond