July 16, 2007 5:00 PM PDT

End of the line for PHP 4

End of the line for PHP 4
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The end is in sight for the 7-year-old but still popular version 4 of PHP, open-source software that lets servers create customized Web pages such as online catalog pages or a list of search results.

"The PHP development team hereby announces that support for PHP 4 will continue until the end of this year only," project organizers said on the PHP Web site on Friday. "We will continue to make critical security fixes available on a case-by-case basis until Aug. 8, 2008."

The announcement came on the third anniversary of the launch of PHP 5, and project programmers said they want to focus on the upcoming PHP 6. PHP 4 was released in 2000.

"This announcement ensures the whole ecosystem moves forward together," including those who build PHP, those who use it directly, those who employ it in higher-level applications such as Drupal or Joomla, and the Web site hosting companies that let customers use PHP, said Andi Gutmans, co-founder and co-chief technology officer of Zend, a start-up that commercializes PHP. PHP 5 "answers the challenges of building modern Web applications: Web services support, Ajax, XML, object-oriented programming."

But retiring widely used software can be difficult, as Microsoft found when trying to end support for Windows Me and Windows NT 4. Not everybody is eager to see PHP 4 fall by the wayside.

"PHP 5 has been, from an adoption point of view, a complete flop. Most estimates place it in the single-digit percentages or at best the low teens," Matt Mullenweg, the founder of the WordPress blogging software and site, which uses PHP, said on his blog. "Now the PHP core team seems to have decided that the boost their failing product needs is to kill off their successful one instead of asking the hard questions: What was it that made PHP 4 so successful?...Why wasn't PHP 5 compelling to that same audience? Are the things we're doing in PHP 6 crucial to our core audience or simply 'good' language problems to solve?"

In an interview Monday, Gutmans disputed the PHP 4 popularity statistics, saying that 80 percent of Zend's customer base has already moved to PHP 5 and that the PHP community was "conservative" in choosing the date for ending PHP 4 support.

"What we find is that everyone who is doing active development has already migrated," Gutmans said. "What's skewing the numbers is there are lot of legacy applications on PHP 4 that just work, and nobody wants to change them."

Yahoo and Facebook, two prominent PHP users, have moved to PHP 5, Gutmans said, in part because of better performance.

"The end-of-life date for PHP 4 inside Yahoo is much more aggressive than the public date," said Rasmus Lerdorf, the original PHP author and now a Yahoo programmer.

Ending PHP 4 support is driven by practical necessity, Lerdorf added. "We are an open-source project with limited resources. With PHP 6 on the way, we don't have the resources to support three different versions of PHP at the same time," he said.

Gutmans also argued that PHP, while changing, still places a premium on being accessible. "Our foremost goal is ease of use," though another is "expanding the language, making it more suitable to some of the new trends in the Web space like Web services and Ajax," Gutmans said. "We constantly have to balance those. Our decision-making always leans toward ease of use."

One reason for ending PHP 4 support is to focus on PHP 6, which Gutmans said is due in about a year.

PHP 6 features include better international abilities, in particular support for Unicode character sets that include not just Roman alphabets but also Arabic, Korean, Chinese and many others. Another feature is better security.

"Certain features we decided not to support anymore. We believe they can lead to bad security practices," he said. "We'll make it clear to users how to make migration easy."

See more CNET content tagged:
PHP, Zend Technologies Ltd., AJAX, Web service, ease of use


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Fork this!
We are talking about Open Source Software. If the community wants to use PHP-4 for the next 100 years, we can. Anyone who wants to continue developing PHP-4 is free to fork it into a new project.

Open Source Software forks all the time. The forks that get used grow and become stronger. Other forks tend to slowly fade away, or get relegated to a nitch like OS/2 (Just had to get a friendly jab in at the commander).

In the end, well written code will be easy to port. Badly written code should be rewritten anyway.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Forget It
Who cares about PHP. Open source users don't know what they're missing. I was an open source fan when I couldn't afford proprietary stuff, but now that I can, I've realized why the software costs what it does.

ASP.NET rocks and SQL Server is a 1000 times better than MySQL.

5..4..3..2..1.. Open Source community up in arms :)
Posted by maverick_nick (205 comments )
Reply Link Flag
If you are running IIS your system is wide open.
I can see someone using IIS to self publish chocolate chip cookie recipes. I would not use it in a professional environment. I would not picture anyone running Microsoft SQL Server.

If you must run proprietary SQL run Oracle. It is great for high volume applications, and does not have the inherent insecurities of the Microsoft products.

If you are in a professional environment, you need to run Unix, or a Unix derived operating system. That is more true for servers, and most true for anything related to the internet.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
Does any one care?
PHP is a very flawed language, in design and security and its attraction to amateurs is the second leading cause of Internet insecurity(of cousre, MS is #1).

The only P in Lamp not worth using is PHP. Python is great, Perl annoys the crap out of me, but is still pretty good.

Ruby on Rails is better designed, easier, and more secure. Deploying Rails apps needs to improve though.

JSP is not the easiest API around, but isn't that bad and is a good performer and secure.

ASP? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA Yeah, lock your self into MS and pay the price in terms of money, loss of choice, performance and security woes.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Lots of people care
PHP is hardly a flawed language. Its a very successful language. Users of Python, Ruby, and other lesser languages are just jealous over PHP's success... just like unpopular high school girls are jealous of the prom queen.

PHP is no more or less secure than any of the other languages designed for web use. PHP does give you a lot of rope you can hang yourself with if you''re a newbie. But good programmers have little problem securing PHP based applications. And its hard to question PHP's productivity.
Posted by LuvThatCO2 (187 comments )
Link Flag
PHP4 still KING!
"What we find is that everyone who is doing active development has already migrated," Gutmans said. "What's skewing the numbers is there are lot of legacy applications on PHP 4 that just work, and nobody wants to change them."

Thats simply a lie. PHP5 hardly registers among PHP users. This guy is talking about Zend *customers*, not PHP users in general.

What was it that made PHP 4 so successful?...Why wasn't PHP 5 compelling to that same audience? Are the things we're doing in PHP 6 crucial to our core audience or simply 'good' language problems to solve?"

Thats the key - PHP5 offered little past some features of academic interest, but of little practical value. The benefits of moving to PHP5 are far outweighed by the risks associated with trying to update a large application. PHP5 suffers too much from a 'we wish we were just like java' disease.
Posted by LuvThatCO2 (187 comments )
Reply Link Flag
now a days PHP is so most demand-able in usa......
Posted by andolasoft (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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