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PHP 7: A New Revolution in Web Development

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Are you a web developer or a website owner? Do your sites run on on custom PHP frameworks or PHP-enabled CMS development services such as Drupal,WordPress, Joomla or Magento? Then, this article is for you. Here, we will discuss everything about the latest version of one of the most popular programming languages in world: PHP.

On June 23, 2016, the PHP development team has revolutionized the web app development industry by announcing the stable release of PHP 7.0.8. From security issue fixes to new capabilities, there’s a lot to get excited about in the latest PHP overhaul.

PHP 7

What Drove the Need for PHP 7?

Nearly 82 percent of websites use PHP, which means that most of the Web relies on the language to at least some extent. With an increasing number of people coming online, including a rapidly growing number of mobile users who often rely on relatively slow 3G connections, it is necessary for the servers that power the world’s websites to be able to react quickly to user requests. Studies show that 40 percent of people will abandon a web page that takes more than three seconds to load, demonstrating that speed is a crucial factor in website design.

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Significant changes to PHP have increased the performance of sites that use the language dramatically. In fact, it is estimated that PHP 7 offers a 100% improvement in performance speed over PHP 5.6. This major improvement in speed allows web developers to create sites that provide interesting and engaging interactive features that still respond to user input as quickly as modern web users have come to expect.

Another motivation for the development of PHP 7 is the need to develop scripting languages that run more efficiently. This demand is driven by two factors: the need to reduce costs and the need to reduce power consumption to protect the environment. Compared to PHP 5.6, PHP 7 places substantially reduced demands on servers, which makes it a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly choice, as comparatively less energy is needed to power servers running PHP 7 applications.

One question might be popping in your mind is “how much PHP 7 is more efficient than its previous version”. Here is the performance comparison of PHP 5.6, PHP 7 and HHVM 3.7: 

php7 performance comparison infographic

What Is New in PHP 7?

1. PHP#NG– the New Zend Engine for PHP 7

Since 1999, Zend engine is responsible for powering all versions of PHP.

Note that the Zend engine is not the same as Zend Framework. Zend Framework is an open-source C based engine which works as an interpreter for PHP language.

Currently, the PHP 5.X uses Zend Engine II which powerfully enhances the functionality of the PHP 5.x based websites and adds the extensible object model, providing performance boost to the language.

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2. Twice the speed of Previous Versions

One of the most undeniable and visible advantages of the new PHPNG engine is the improvement in performance. PHPNG’s development team successfully refactored their Zend Engine and strives to provide remarkable improvement in memory. It also includes Just-In-Time (JIT) that provides the compilation done in run time – avoiding it to be done before the code execution.

A huge improvement in speed between PHP 5.6 and PHP 7 can be seen from the following benchmark tests for the WordPress versions, 4.1 and 3.6.

This concludes that fewer servers will serve the exact number of users when using PHP 7, but code will be executed just as quick if not quicker. PHP 7 has also managed to outdone HHVM.

3. Simplifies Error Handling

For PHP coders (until now), handling catchable fatal and just fatal errors was never an easy task. The newest Engine Exceptions allows you to replace such errors, keeping exceptions. Just in case the exception remains undiscovered, PHP will to return to the same fatal errors as they have in the 5.x version.

The newest Engine Exception object does not spread to the Exception Base Class. This cases backward compatibility and leads to two kinds of exceptions in terms of error handling:

1. Traditional exceptions

2. Engine exceptions

In order to allow the developers to catch both errors, PHP 7 gives a whole new shared Parent Class, named as Base Exception.

4. 64-Bit Windows Systems Support

For those who didn’t know, PHP is a vital member of LAMP stack. This concludes that LINUX is their native environment, but it is possible to use PHP on Windows system as well. The 5.x version does not provide the 64-bit integer as of yet.

On the other hand, PHP 7 is set to change this by launching their consistent support to 64-bit, meaning that it will give both natives the support of large files and 64-bit integers. It gives developers the confidence of running language on their 64-bit Windows system as well.

5. New Operators: Null Coalescing and Spaceship

PHP 7 has introduced two new operators; Spaceship and Null Coalescing.

Spaceship operator is also known as the three-way comparison operator and runs under the Combined Comparison Operator name. If the left is smaller, it returns to -1, if both are equal, then it is 0 and if the right is smaller, then it returns to `1. Spaceship is already the part of programming languages like Ruby and Perl.

Null Coalescing operator has two question marks (??) as its notion. It is used to see when you are looking for something which exists or doesn’t. In case nothing exists, it will return to its default value.

The Coalesce operator returns to the result of the initial operand, if there was any and is not null.

6. Gives out Accurate Type Declarations

Did you ever think about preventing the unintended return values through the return of a function type? If you did, it previously wasn’t possible, but now it is. The new PHP 7 allows developers to boost the quality of the code through the return type declaration’s help.

For example, through the simple use of foo() function, it will return an array.

To improve the feature even more, PHP 7 has introduced four new type declarations for the scalar types:

1. Bool
2. String
3. Float

These new scalar types allow the website owners and developers to denote the expecting Booleans, strings, floats and integers which may return. These PHP 7 introduced scalar types also augment Type Hints – allowing the developers to force the parameters of type after the PHP 5.X version. This is a whole new thing and perhaps, also one of the biggest advantages for the web developers, if they use it correctly.

7. Addition of Anonymous Classes

With the benefit of adding Java and C+, PHP 7 allows programmers to add any anonymous class to their code. For those who do not know, an anonymous class is a class that has no name. Nonetheless, the object being instantiated has similar functionality as the named class object.

The Syntax is similar to the previous traditional PHP classes – just that the name is missing.

If you know how to properly use the anonymous classes, then you can speed up the execution time and the coding. It is wise to use anonymous classes just for the execution and in times when there is no need for a class to be documented.

8. Facilitates Imports from the Same Namespace

Group Use Declaration will be a God-send for those who are looking forward to importing a number of classes from the same namespace. The new Syntax save typing time, makes the code easier on the eyes as well as tidier and also cuts verbosity.

It also makes the reading through and the debugging codes since the group has declarations to identify the number of imports that come from the same module.

9. Provides You with A lot of Space

The main aim of PHP 7 was to set up free space in order to provide improvements in this version. This is why it was important to get rid of the deprecated functionalities, along with the unsupported, old Server extensions and APIs. This largely helped in giving out free space.

In PHP 5, the removed items are deprecated for some time. However, if you are thinking about running your old PHP version app, PHP 7 may break the code.

Knowing how advance PHP 7 is, this was just the tip of the iceberg. There will be a number of more changes and enhancements in the next PHP version. You might come across a number of bugs, but that is all the part of your PHP development and you will learn more.

10. Some Other Changes:

PHP 7 features

But, where is PHP 6?

After getting acquainted with the exciting features of PHP 7, you would definitely want to know why PHP moved to version 7 from version 5. What happened to version 6? Well, PHP 6 was an experimental project that was officially started in 2005 and unfortunately abandoned in 2010. One of the main reasons behind the termination of version 6 was technical difficulties faced by PHP core developers during the implementation of language-integrated Unicode.

Meanwhile, people around the web adopted the name PHP 6 and started writing books and developing resources related to version 6. Since there might be confusion between the former attempt and the current development work, the PHP core team was compelled to seriously think about the name of the new major release. And finally, the development team decided to skip the logical number 6 and launch the new version under the name of PHP 7.

Who Spearheaded the Development of PHP 7?

The development of PHP 7 was spearheaded by Dmitry Stogov, Xinchen Hui, and Nikita Popov. These three developers created an experimental branch of PHP that they originally called PHP Next Generation, often abbreviated as PHPNG. The PHP community embraced this new branch of the scripting language, as it offered significant improvements in performance, and continued to develop it into the stable version of the language now known as PHP 7.

PHP 7 has been through several months of beta testing and was finally released in its stable form in December 2015, just one month after the predicted release date.

Wrapping Up:

It’s clear that the new version of PHP boasts many new & exciting features and now its more efficient. PHP 7 cater to the need of present website. If you also want to develop your website on PHP 7 or have any query related to the this new version, you can contact PixelCrayons: A leading PHP web development company in India.

Hailing from the heart of India, Prateek Tiwari is an IT enthusiast who loves to write blogs on latest IT trends and technologies.

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  • bubenda

    it was obviously meant the ZendEngine:
    “Zend Framework is an open-source C based engine …”