PHP has been a staple for web development in server-side languages for years. Now a developer from “Netflix” seems to have created a variation for this using the good part of the development language while being easier to use and more secure.

Called OWL, the OWL programming language has a Javascript like syntax and compiles to PHP. In a beta stage of production, OWL is best suited for single-server application and will not replace PHP completely. “It’s more of a new secure interface on top of the same engine underneath,” developer Joe Lesko said. “But I could see more developers choosing OWL over raw PHP over time, especially for single-developer projects.” Ideas in OWL may have a chance to get incorporated in PHP frameworks itself. And Lesko has published instructions on how to get started with OWL.


PHP, OWL documentations, have an easier interface to use for novice programmers, lack build steps, and have a large library of built-in commands. But it also has shortcomings including a disorganized standard library, security vulnerabilities, and an inconsistent approach to error-handling. In addition to a recognizable JavaScript like syntax, OWL also has features of security, safety and consistency. The language may even be controversial as Lesko said, considering it offers no tabs and just spaces, only single-quoted strings, and no switch and while statements.

OWL programming language includes a feature to include router as well as a template system for embedding HTML and other content within scripts. To make the programmer avoid cross-scripting languages the template system automatically escapes OWL expressions. OWL was built with secure string-handling in mind to protect against a major source of web vulnerabilities, Lesko added.

“It’s really difficult, even for experienced developers, to cover every possibility so I think it’s important for a web language to protect as much as it can by default.” For example OWL sends CSP (Content Security Policy) headers to prevent malicious client scripts and requires LockStrings a new kind of templatized string, for sensitive operations like database queries and system calls.

Other features which are included in the framework are the Litemark markup language for writing content and a base stylesheet with a Flexbox grid system and SVG icons. OWL has been tested to compile with PHP 5.6 and 7.0. Future plans for OWL include adding secure form-handling and validation and session support. Other features which will be added in the near future is the Windows Support and asset caching. Right now, OWL works with MacOS and Linux.