Go PHP5!

It sounds like it should be accompanied by cheerleaders chanting and waving pom-pons but that might be a bit too much. Go PHP5 is a new(ish) community effort to encourage the wider deployment of PHP5. Although it’s been around for years, most ISPs and hosts still deploy PHP4 by default, and often don’t even have the newer version as an option. The draft proposal explains the problem:

Web hosts cannot upgrade their servers to PHP 5 without making it impossible for their users to run PHP 4-targeted web apps, and have no incentive to go to the effort of testing and deploying PHP 5 while most web apps are still compatible with PHP 4 and the PHP development team still provides maintenance support for PHP 4. The PHP development team, of course, can’t drop maintenance support for PHP 4 while most web hosts still run PHP 4.

For software developers, especially open source projects, there has been a tendency to cater towards the lowest common denominator and so many large systems – WordPress and Gallery are still full of clunky old style PHP code. Even in the commercial sector where developers have more control over their environment, they still have much less choice over host if choosing PHP5. For years PHP has had a reputation for shoddy, insecure code, due in a large part to amateur developers producing poor quality software.

While PHP5 still isn’t perfect, it is a vast improvement offering real object orientation and a decent stable environment to develop under. The web framework we’re using at Edge Hill – symfony – was designed from day one for PHP5 and that’s one of the reasons why I chose it over Cake and other frameworks. The only query I have is over the choice of PHP 5.2. While it makes sense for hosts installing PHP 5 for the first time to pick the latest version, existing PHP5 deployments will usually be 5.1.x.

The symfony development community is currently discussing whether to drop PHP 5.0 support, which I’d certainly agree with, but I don’t think it should drop 5.1 as it’s still widely deployed. Part of the blame for the slow move to PHP 5.2 lies with the Linux distros – Novell for example are shipping 5.1.2 with SLES 10. Yes, you can upgrade manually, but there’s a whole lot of dependencies that suddenly break when you start down that line. RedHat, Novell and other commercial Linux vendors are paid for their systems, and the “stable platform” argument only goes so far – it would also be nice to have up to date software!

Via Left on the web.

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