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I believe that Google’s App Engine has a potential to be the next PHP. By which I mean: low cost hosting option for not too sophisticated websites.
I’m putting my money (or lack of it) where my mouth is and this website is now hosted on App Engine. It’s a combination of static pages a blog and a wiki. The code is written from scratch by myself but heavily based on Bloog.
Writing things like that from scratch is a foolish thing to do. However, I have some special needs (e.g. ability to use it more like a wiki) that generic blogging engine like Bloog didn’t cover, and there’s always the joy of learning a new thing (this is n-th technological transition for this website, it used to run on Radio then Movable Type then WordPress than static files generated by python script and served by nginx).
The code is less than 1000 lines of python and you can see it at github.
Getting back to App Engine as PHP: in App Engine I see many qualities that made PHP popular:
  • it’s even easier to start developing in it - just install cross-platform SDK, write few lines of code and you have sth. runnig. No need to mess with Apache, PHP and a database setup.
  • language (Python) is easy to learn
  • deployment is trivial
It also has many advantages over basic PHP setup:
  • it comes with a database support built-in
  • it’s automagically scalable
  • hosting is free until you go over a very generous quota but even after that usage-based pricing should make it cheaper than even cheapest hosting (I overpay a little for my needs but before this site was hosted on $20 slicehost account)
  • hopefully Google will keep it running well
Sure, there are many restrictions but basic (i.e. cheap) PHP setups also have them.
To me it’s just a matter of time when clued in people start moving from cheapo VPN hostings and LAMP stack to App Engine. It just makes lots of sense.
What would accelerate this move is availability of installation-ready software packages like blogs, wikis, forums etc., since not everyone is up to coding everything from scratch. Those things are slowly popping up, but it’s not a flood yet.

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