PHP 7: The next generation for business?

On 3 December, the PHP development team announced the long awaited availability of PHP 7.0.0., marking the beginning of a new major PHP 7 series. In this post, I share my thoughts on how the newest version of the scripting language is going to give businesses a big boost, helping application development and end performance.

2015 has been a big year for PHP, with its seventh version now released packed with Zend Engine, and other various improvements and new features. The release is the result of over two years of development based on the feedback of the very active PHP community. The end result marks not just an impressive new version of PHP, but a release so comprehensive that it is expected to mark the beginning of a new generation of PHP driven products and services.

You’ve come a long way PHP

PHP, or, originally, Personal Home Page, is a server-side scripting language used in web development and a common programming language. Now a recursive backronym, PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, PHP came into existence in 1994, created by Rasmus Lerdorf. Further development is now undertaken by The PHP Group.

Interestingly, Rasmus Lerdorf never meant for PHP to become a new and such extensive programming language and it grew out of a need to build simple and dynamic web applications. Its explosive and organic growth happened with no formal specification or standard until only last year, and as such the period of 2014-2015, during which PHP 7 was developed, has been a pivotal time for the language.

Enormous potential for business

PHP 7 offers enormous potential both to the companies using it to develop new services and to end users running the final application. Businesses will be happy with PHP 7 because they get a new version of PHP that, on the same machines, has better performance than its predecessor, PHP 5.6.

Developers will enjoy the syntax improvements and new features which may positively affect the quality of the software created, making it easier to modify it later. In addition, obsolete modules have been removed, syntax has been improved, and support for the 64-bit architecture has been enhanced. PHP 7 will allow developers to focus on code’s quality, using a more comprehensive SDK and API.

Second of all, the RAM usage has been reduced because less resources are necessary and they are able to withstand higher load. This all means that performance jacks up the moment you decide to update PHP to the newest version.

The downsides of PHP 7

However, I think that the new PHP also has its downsides. It comes with ‘return and scalar type declarations’ that enable defining function in signature: these are parameter types (before only applicable to classes or arrays now also to scalar values), and value types returned by functions. PHP 7 programmers themselves decide which parts of the code they want to apply this scalar type declaration to.

This is supposed to bring PHP closer to being a typical programming language and retain the backward compatibility it should feature, however, this may also lead to a mish-mash in the code. One fragment of the code may use it, whereas the other won’t. I’m not a fan of this hybrid, which is supposed to ‘please’ everyone.

If I was to answer the question of whether PHP 7 introduces value to the business, I would have to say that it depends. Novelties always need time to be fully accepted, but there are obvious areas where developers and businesses will benefit.

PHP has made a huge leap in finally releasing this new version after years of waiting, and I look forward to seeing its already extensive and diverse community make the most of its new features for better development so that end users can enjoy its performance improvements.

Adrian Piętka is Senior Developer at Future Processing