ionCube was founded in 2002, and introduced tools to protect software written using the PHP programming language from being viewed, changed, and run on unlicensed computers. The encoding technology grew out of earlier work on the PHP Accelerator project, and at first launch included an online encoding service where PHP scripts can be uploaded and an encoded version downloaded in return, and a command line tool for Linux soon after. The tools use the technique of compiling to bytecode prior to encoding so that source code is eliminated, and runtime overheads are reduced. A PHP extension called the ionCube Loader handles the reading and execution of encoded files at run time.
The encoding products were subsequently ported to FreeBSD, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X, and the range of products expanded to offer additional features such as product licensing and encryption of non-PHP files. In July 2004 a Windows GUI was introduced, no longer requiring use of the command line for Windows users.
In 2004, ionCube introduced their Package Foundry product, IPF, for Linux and Windows. IPF allows web applications to be packaged as a Windows executable installer that can automatically deploy a web application to a remote server, as well as performing various installation and configuration tasks, and launching the browser on the main page of the installed application.
ionCube also produce a product called the Bundler. Unrelated to PHP, the Bundler is a Windows and Linux tool to produce self-extracting archives for Windows.
In December 2010 ionCube released version 7.0 of their Encoder, including support for the PHP 5.3 language.
In May 2013 ionCube released version 8.0 with support for encoding the PHP 5.4 language. This was followed by an 8.1 release in October 2013 with changes including an updated GUI, enhanced security and a feature to assist selecting optimal security settings. February 2014 saw the release of Encoder 8.2 with some new features, and most notably a GUI for OS X users. As of April 18th 2014, Encoder 8.3 was released with support for encoding PHP 5.5 language features.
Since 2006 there have been hacker sites offering encoded file reverse engineering.[which?] Such sites typically provide only partial recreation of source code, with scripts mainly unusable due to imperfect decompilation, hampered by the use of encoding features such as bytecode obfuscation and newer Encoder versions.
In February 2012, ionCube launched an initiative called EPIK, aimed at Encouraging Programming In Kent for people aged 16 to 24 through a programming competition, with winners sharing part of a £1000 prize fund and having the opportunity of an IT apprenticeship.
In February 2013 the ionCube EPIK initiative was expanded, and ran a three day coding event for young developers with age ranges from under 10 to their early 20's. Most participants had no prior experience of coding or web technologies, and with support of industry mentors from ionCube and elsewhere, teams at three regional sites in Kent conceived and developed a range of website projects over two days. Teams came together for a third day of coding at the Turner Contemporary gallery before making final presentations of their projects, mostly with live websites. Judges from ionCube and Sony awarded various prizes, including Raspberry Pi and related hardware, a future presentation to the British Computer Society, and further one-to-one industry mentoring. Subsequent events have included a Minecraft 3D printing day in May 2013, a B9Creator 3D printer build day, and events in conjunction with Mozilla.
Involvement with Young Rewired State
On August 6 to 10 2012, ionCube hosted a week long hackathon in Kent, South East England, as part of the Young Rewired State 2012 Festival of Code event for encouraging self-motivated young programmers. Attendees were aged from 9 to 18, and with the guidance of mentors and the remit to use some Open data, devised and produced the website http://radiosight.com