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What is PHP 7?
PHP 7 is a major version of PHP whose first stable edition was released on December 3, 2015. The release of PHP 7 marks the first time a new version of PHP has been released in over a decade since PHP5 was released in 2004.
PHP 7 Overview & History
Originally dubbed PHP next generation (phpng), PHP 7 is a major version of PHP that provides dramatic performance improvements over previous versions of PHP. Tests performed during development of PHP 7 indicate that applications running on the new version outperform the same applications running on previous versions of PHP by approximately 100%.
Wait! What Happened to PHP 6?
Development of PHP 6 was announced in 2005. The primary motivation behind the development of PHP 6 was to add native support for Unicode to the language core. However, there weren't enough developers committed to the project who understood what needed to happen to make the project a success. As a result, some of the features that were supposed to be part of PHP 6 were siphoned into a minor update of PHP 5 with the release of PHP 5.3 in 2009.
The PHP 6 project was formally abandoned in 2010. To avoid confusion, when development of PHP 7 was well underway, the decision was made to skip over PHP 6 entirely in the naming sequence of stable versions of PHP.
It's worth noting that full Unicode support still hasn't made it into PHP, and the goals of the PHP 6 development team remain largely unachieved.
What's new with the release of PHP 7?
According to The PHP Group, PHP 7 provides many improvements and new features while still supporting near complete backward compatibility with previous versions of PHP. A few of the most noteworthy improvements include:
- PHP 7 is approximately twice as fast as the most recent previous version of PHP: version 5.6.
- Server memory usage is significantly reduced.
- Many fatal errors in previous versions of PHP have been coverted to exceptions.
- A function to securely generate encrypted random numbers is now included.
- You can read about all of the changes and new features at GitHub.
How do I get PHP 7?
If you want to get started using PHP 7 either on your own web server or your local development environment, there are three places you can download the installation package:
If you don't run your own web server, you'll have to wait on your hosting provider to make PHP 7 available on their web servers, or switch to one of the PHP 7 hosts listed above.
How to Make the Switch
Switching to PHP 7 in your hosting account is pretty straight forward. Simply navigate to your hosting account control panel, look for the PHP version manager, and select the version of PHP you want to use to run your web applications.
If you are a developer with an application live on the web and you want to switch to PHP 7 from an older version, it's important to test the backward compatibility of the code that powers your application before upgrading to PHP 7 on your server. Before you make the jump use PHP7MAR to identify compatibility issues, php7cc to have a second set of (virtual) eyes look over your code, and php7ize to automatically add PHP 7 features to PHP 5 code. The last step before you switch to PHP 7 on the web server is to set up PHP 7 in a local environment and test your codebase for errors and functionality locally. Once you have error-free operation and up-to-date backups on hand you're ready to make the transition.
The PHP Foundation has also provided an extensive Migration Manual to help developers plan and handle the transition from previous versions. The manual covers topics such as backward compatibility, new features, deprecated features, new and changed functions, and much more.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are previous versions of PHP now obsolete?
Each release of a version of PHP - both major releases such as PHP 7, and minor releases such as PHP 7.1 - is supported with bug and security fixes for at least three years. After that time, versions of PHP often remain in regular use until major bugs and security loopholes force them into disuse. Previous versions of PHP will remain in regular use until the hosting industry deems them too insecure for modern web servers.
Are previous versions of PHP compatible with PHP 7?
There are a few compatibility issues between PHP 7 and previous versions of PHP. However, the majority of applications developed with relatively recent versions of PHP should work well with PHP 7. To confirm compatibility before making the change review the resources we listed above.