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Recommended Host for PHP 4
What is PHP 4?
Still using PHP 4? Many hosts have upgraded to PHP 5 and no longer provide support for PHP 4. You may still be able to find a host that supports it. You just need to do a little legwork.
If you have a website that runs on PHP 4, you'll need to look for a web hosting provider that still supports that generation of PHP. If you're unable to upgrade your website to PHP 5, there are still hosts who support earlier versions.
PHP 4 vs. PHP 5
Did you know that PHP was originally an abbreviation for Personal Home Page? The scripting language hearkens back to the early days of the Internet, when people weren't yet building entire websites, but home pages, where they would share photos, maybe family news, or whatever other tidbits of information that were important to them.
Websites have come a long way since then, and so has PHP, which now stands for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. (Yes, the first P in PHP now stands for PHP, making it a recursive acronym. It must be that developer sense of humor at work.)
PHP is a server-side scripting language designed specifically for web development. It's used to run a lot of well-known software, including the top four CMSs: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, and TYPO3, plus a host of applications including Facebook.
PHP has seen numerous versions and iterations since it was first released in 1995. PHP 4 was released in 2000, and soon saw widespread adoption. PHP 5, the current generation of PHP, was first released in 2004, but took a little longer to catch on.
Then in 2008, many open-source projects chose to band together to transition to PHP 5 and drop their support of PHP 4, forcing web hosting servers to upgrade to PHP 5 to stay competitive. That same year, development of PHP 4 was officially halted, and no further patches or updates have been released since then.
But there are still some websites and software out there that run on PHP 4. And finding a web hosting provider that supports PHP 4 may be an easier, cheaper, and faster solution for you than upgrading your entire to PHP 5.
Finding a PHP 4 Host
Many web hosts have now moved on to PHP 5, and no longer support PHP 4, so trying to find a compatible host for your website might be a bit tricky. It's technically possible for a host to support PHP 4 and 5, but it might require some workarounds in your software in order to access the right version.
Before you sign up with a hosting provider, double check with them to see whether they're still supporting PHP 4. If you can't find a suitable host that supports PHP 4, you may need to consider upgrading your site to PHP 5. It may not be as much work as you think: PHP 5 was designed to still be backwards-compatible with PHP 4, so your website may still work with very few or no changes. If you have the resources to update to PHP 5, there are plenty of benefits including active development and improved security features.
If you're adamant about continuing to use PHP 4, check around. You may find a host that plans to continue to support it. Or you may at least be able to find one that supports it with plans to phase it out, which will give you a little more time to make the necessary changes to your site without any downtime.
PHP 4 Hosting Frequently Asked Questions
What is PHP 4?
PHP 4 is an old version of the PHP programming language. (PHP 5 was released in 2004.)
What is PHP 4 hosting?
This is a hosting is a niche service for users who require an outdated version of PHP on their server. Most hosts now run PHP 7, although they also still support PHP 5. If you absolutely need PHP 4 hosting, you should be able to find some hosts willing to cater to your needs.
Why would I need PHP 4 support in this day and age?
Practically the only reason anyone would need PHP 4 hosting today is legacy support for old sites and software. Perhaps you have a few outdated websites that you still need to keep alive, but you don't want to waste resources updating them. Maybe your business commissioned a few PHP 4 projects years ago, and now you're stuck with them because the original coders are long gone.
What's the difference between PHP 4 and PHP 5?
PHP 5 offers a lot more features and capabilities. It has a completely overhauled object model, new class constants, a lot more automated functions and so on. It supports more functions and extensions than PHP 4.
Isn't PHP 5 supposed to be backward compatible with PHP 4?
It is. But it is not that simple. There are a number of issues that could prevent PHP 4 code from executing on PHP 5 correctly. For example, the array_merge() function can cause a few problems if your PHP 4 coder did not follow best practices. Objects also need to have cloned keywords and PHP 5 does not consider an object with no properties empty. Certain classes can also be problematic. For example, you need to declare your classes before use.
How old is PHP 4 anyway?
PHP 4 is ancient by tech standards. It was released in 2000 and soon became the de facto industry standard. PHP 5 was released just four years later, in 2004, but its adoption was relatively slow. PHP 5 adoption picked up in 2008 when a number of big open-source projects decided to transition to PHP 5 and drop support for PHP 4. Official development of PHP 4 was halted in 2008, and no updates or patches (bug fixes) have been published since then.
Can a host support both PHP 4 and PHP 5?
Anything is possible. This would require a lot of work on your part to make sure that your project uses the right version of PHP. This may be problematic and virtually impossible on many web hosting packages. In case you really need a PHP 4 server for legacy support, chances are you will have to find one or set one up yourself, without PHP 5 support.
What about security? Is using PHP 4 risky?
Yes. Using PHP4 is inherently risky. Since there has been no development since 2008, there is no way to address security issues with new patches and versions. This means that exploits may go unchecked for years, placing you at risk. There is really not much you can do, short of migrating to a more recent version of PHP.
How hard is it to update PHP 4 code?
It depends on your skill level, but the process itself is not too complicated because PHP 5 was designed to be backward compatible. In other words, you won’t have to make many changes, just address some potential issues and that is it. The process is well documented and you should have no trouble finding useful resources online. If your PHP 4 projects were developed using best practices, chances are you won’t have much to do, so it depends on the quality of the original PHP 4 code as well.
Is it still possible to find PHP 4 hosts?
It is, but it is getting harder with each passing day. At the end of the day, it's all a matter of demand. Fewer people need PHP 4, so fewer hosts are offering it. Depending on your needs, it may be very tricky to find an adequate host willing to deal with PHP 4. This is especially true if you are looking for shared hosting on the cheap.
It may be easier to simply update your code.
What about online PHP 4 to PHP 5 code converters? Do they really work?
It depends on the original PHP 4 code. Generally speaking, most PHP 4 to PHP 5 converters work, but their track record is mixed and can be described as a hit-and-miss affair. Luckily, you will find a lot of information on PHP 4 to PHP 5 migration online, so you should be able to find a lot of useful tips and guides.