Rasmus Lerdorf, 34
Invented a server language that brought live data to the Web
Born near the North Pole on Greenland’s Disco Island, Rasmus Lerdorf has learned five languages while living around the world. But it’s the language he invented that has had global impact. In 1995, without any formal programming training, Lerdorf developed a server language to help him set up Web sites he was designing for companies. He named the language PHP, for PHP hypertext preprocessor- an acronym that contains itself. Once embedded in the Web’s basic addressing protocol, PHP solved a fundamental problem. Before PHP, Web pages were dominated by static text and pictures; creating sites that could readily incorporate up-to-date information or interact with databases was difficult. PHP made all that possible. Lerdorf offered his code free, and today companies worldwide, including Ericsson, CBS, and Yahoo!, use it as the backbone for more than 12 million sites, where it enables live financial data, news feeds, and stock tickers. Along the way, Lerdorf worked stints at IBM and Linuxcare. In September 2002, he joined Yahoo! To assist it in migrating to PHP-based tools, a move expected to speed development and reduce training costs.