A PHP project that's been underway for about two years is finally going to bear fruit for Facebook. Reports indicate that the company is set to announce the creation of "Hyper PHP" (or HPHP) today, and that Facebook will see speed improvements of around 80 percent as a result.
This trick relates to Web development, and more specifically, bridging the gap between interpreted languages and compiled languages. Hyper PHP is supposed to combine their strengths and more or less escape their weaknesses.
Mike Melanson explained, "PHP is normally an interpreted language, which means that every time a user accesses a PHP page, the server needs to take the code and interpret it to produce the final product. A compiler, however, makes this process much quicker, as the code is interpreted before the user ever asks for the page. The problem here is that any time that page needs to be changed, the code needs to be recompiled."
Hyper PHP should represent a major turning point, then. What's more, it doesn't look like Facebook will be the only beneficiary. The social network is due to make Hyper PHP available on an open source basis, so all sorts of sites may get speed boosts in the end.
We'll update this post with more information when it becomes available.
UPDATE: The official announcement and explanation are now available.