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What the New Version of PHP Means for You

10 November 2015 by Guest

The latest version of programming language PHP has been pushed back, which means there’s a bit more time to get yourself acquainted with it. Whether you’re a dev or end user, one of our ace tech lads, Chris, has the lowdown.


Originally scheduled for release this Thursday, the latest major version of PHP (the first in 11 years) has the community abuzz for many reasons. However, due to the late discovery of several minor issues, the PHP Internals mailing list announced on Sunday that there would be at least one more release candidate before moving to a final release.

While disappointing, this was unanimously viewed as the correct decision for the platform, which will be more stable as a result. This means that PHP7 looks like it may arrive shortly before Christmas, making it an early present for developers around the world.

Given the current version of PHP is 5.6, and the next version will be PHP7, you may be wondering what happened to PHP6. In order to avoid potential confusion between a tried, but ultimately aborted, attempt at PHP6 that was started in 2005, a rather controversial vote was taken to decide the name of the new, 2015 version of PHP – which saw PHP7 become the outright winner. And with this major release comes some major new features.

Undoubtedly, the headline feature of PHP7 is the performance improvements, which will benefit developers and end users alike. Recent benchmarks demonstrate that PHP7 is over twice as fast as its predecessors, which means websites may see a major increase in response times running on existing hardware. This is likely to encourage hosts and developers alike to adopt this version far faster than previously seen.

Other improvements will benefit developers, as PHP moves to adopt functionality seen in other languages such as Ruby and Java. Some changes are purely syntactic sugar, offering shorthand alternatives such as <=> (the delightfully named spaceship operator) which acts as in a similar manner to the strcmp() function. However, there are some more significant changes such as scalar type hints, which allows developers to define the expected data type of a parameter as it is passed into a function. This might not mean much to non-developers, but it’s been a long time coming and brings PHP in line with other languages that offer similar functionality.

Unfortunately, it’s not simply a matter of upgrading your servers. As it is a major version, there are some changes that are not backwards compatible, which may result in your application no longer functioning as expected. So it’s highly recommended you read through the latest migration guide to ensure you will be unaffected before jumping on board.

There’s plenty more new features to be discovered, but work hasn’t stopped there. The PHP Internals group has already announced new features for PHP7.1, so they clearly have plenty more functionality to look forward to in the future.

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