PHP 6 was echod to be a fantastic new version with a lot of hype associated around it but some years on - where is PHP 6 and why has there been such a delay?

PHP 6 - Web Design Cheshire, Chester

Photo: elePHPant by Cal Evans, CC-BY-2.0.

There are a lot of books about PHP 6 but in reality, PHP 6 doesn't actually exist yet; there aren't even alpha or beta versions. Simply put, PHP 6 does not exist and that doesn't seem to be changing any time soon.

Quoting a question posted to Stack Overflow in 2009 the answer is:

"It looks as if PHP 6 will released when 'it is ready' which might not be particularly soon"

However, PHP 5.4 included a lot of features that were initially planned for PHP 6 but have now become branched into the PHP 5.4 development - the development isn't completely dead, but very far from being deployed to your systems.

SEE ALSO: PHP5, the trade-off between memory and computational power!

What Features Will be in PHP6?

We should expect PHP 6 to feature:

  • Enhanced array indexing to improve substring support and array slicing that can be pretty tedious on large data sets in PHP 5.3
  • Performance improvements to support page caching (opcode) and developing Alternative PHP Cache into the core of PHP to provide native application caching.
  • Native UTF-8 support to power the core of PHP6 providing internationalisation to all string functions and existing language API's (this is a huge task - but why has it taken over 4 years?)
  • Support for the 'jump' and 'goto' opcodes to send code processing to specific labels defined by a programmer (as you can do in machine code, C, C++, Java, etc..)
  • Magic quotes will finally (hooray) be dropped entirely from the PHP production line

What is Causing the Delay?

There are a lot of reasons why the release of PHP 6 is no closer than it was four years ago. Primarily it is because a lot of "proposed" features for PHP 6 have actually now been implemented into PHP 5.4 although this has caused a lot of frustration to users as to the moving PHP's development forward.

On top of this, there is no official PHP 5.4 to-do Wiki page and no code branch. PHP 5.4 released in 2011 and now has official support (as of June 2013). At ALJT Media, we run PHP 5.4.

SEE ALSO: Migrating to PHP 5.4, what you need to know

Why the Crazy Hype?

PHP 6 is a major version build change away from PHP 5 which has been around for many years. A new release indicates signifiant changes both for the developers but the direction the company wants to push themselves towards.

PHP 6 also aims to provide unicode support which is a huge thing for every developer who constantly has to take into account - 'how do I handle unicode in this project?'. The PHP 6 development team initially decided to use UTF-16 internally which causes double memory usage for strings, more CPU usage and increased complexity of coding PHP 6. Using UTF-16 apparently removed the fun out of developing PHP and caused a lot of tension amongst PHP's developers thus severly slowing the development down.

In 2010, the choice to use UTF-16 was completely abolished by Rasmus Lerdof, creator of PHP. The unicode implementation process had to be completely scrapped and started again afresh.

Hopefully one day we will see PHP 6 released but until then, PHP 5.4 hosts a new platform of outstanding features and works very well with efficient processing and memory handling for most common web applications.

SEE ALSO: A Look At Implementing The New Features of PHP 5.4 and PHP 5.5

Header image based on elePHPant by Cal Evans, CC-BY-2.0.

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