This is part 6 of a 6 part series looking at the some of the wonderful features of PHP 5.5 and why it might remain a dominate web language for the future. This series was originally written for the Software Developer’s Journal.
Through this multi-part series we covered some of the great features that have made version 5.5 a solid branch of development. But where do we go from here? What kind of features is the PHP community toying with? Is PHP ever going to shake the stigmas of the past? We take a moment to comment on some of the features put forth in the dev channels and I offer my own little personal spin on why I think they may or may not work.
Well we have talked a lot about where PHP has been, where it is now with the latest features available in PHP 5.5, but what about the future? Will PHP morph into something less than ideal? Well that is really up to the user community. But for right now the focus seems to be on cleaning up the syntax by deprecating functions and introducing new ways to use existing constructs, improving security so that people can trust PHP with their data and enhancing performance to make sure that web applications are humming along.
In addition to those worthwhile goals, there is still much needed work to do when it comes to cleaning up the syntax and improving many of the facets of the language as a whole. One proposal that I had seen had to do with the handling of $HTTP_RAW_POST_DATA. If you are unfamiliar with this variable, it is set with the raw data submitted from a POST request (like submitting a form on a webpage). This data is often used to then populate the $_POST array that we all have come to know and love. The suggestion was to make a temporary stream and replace $HTTP_RAW_POST_DATA. This way you could read the raw post data directly from a stream, parse it as you like etc.
Now I don’t know how I feel about this exactly but given all the other things that can further the language I don’t know if something like this would be at the top of my list. PHP would greatly benefit from further advancements in their language consistency, maybe better handling around types and their use of special keywords or even taking a second look at all the addslashes / stripslashes type of functions. Functions like those only treat symptoms instead of the problem (luckily they are getting to work on some of that with the parameterized queries).
Another proposal that has been getting some attention is the speed by which PHP handles session data files. It has been mentioned that PHP is constantly rewriting PHP session files even if a tiny portion of the data has actually been modified. You can definitely tie this into the theme of performance optimization and I think taking a second look at this is worth something. If it is true, then PHP could greatly increase its performance when dealing with sessions. Only time will tell if this will actually make it into the next version.
I never said that PHP is perfect and it certainly has room to grow and improve. Perhaps some would agree that it has a LOT of room to grow, but I would say that in fact I think PHP’s little quirks are often a source of strength. Being able to bend some of the rules of traditional and “stuffier” languages has allowed PHP to tackle some pretty aggressive projects and provide unique solutions to complex problems. Given that the language serves as the backbone of many of the world’s most recognizable online platforms, it has proven that it can be a solid product when programmers take the time to learn the ins and outs of the language.
Either way, PHP continues to grow and serves as the foundation of much of the modern web. With millions of web sites using it every day across the globe, it must be doing something right. Be active in its future and make it what you want it to be. It went from a meager language about a decade and a half years ago to one that is handling the lion’s share of the web’s sites! PHP 5.5 continues the tradition of making PHP even better and I highly recommend you learn about it. It can only help your future career.
Well this concludes our 6 part series on the great features of PHP 5.5. I hope you had a chance to check out all the parts of this series and if not, be sure to go back and see what wonderful features were put into the branch of releases. This series was originally written for SDJournal and if you are looking for some content for your publication, be sure to give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know what you are interested in talking about whether it be web or desktop related. I am open to all ideas.
Thanks again for reading and be sure to check back often for more great discussions on programming, design and tips and tricks for your favorite programming languages. 🙂