The Afup organizes the PHP Forum on October 25 and 26 in Paris. The president of the association analyzes the evolution of the language and its adaptation more and more pushed to the needs of companies.
At the end of the year PHP 7.3 will be released. Three years after the release of version 7, which marked a revival of the language, what are the basic trends in the evolution of PHP?
After the turn initiated a few years ago towards a language more adapted to the company, PHP continues on its way. The language is adopting new features at a fast pace, oriented towards the quality of the code and the architecture. For example, the integration of the Argon2 algorithm in 7.3 for a better security (for example on the storage of passwords) as well as the appearance of typed properties in PHP 7.4 which will allow to improve the typing in the object designs of applications (PHP 7.2 had seen the appearance of the typing of the arguments of functions).
In France, and more widely in Europe, the Symfony framework has been widely used by companies for several years. How do you explain the reasons for such a success?
Symfony has been a major player in the PHP ecosystem for a long time: version 1.0 of the framework was released in 2007, and version 2, its major rewriting, in 2011. Thanks to its involvement withinteroperability projects such as the FIG (Framework Interoperability Group), and its seamless integration with the ecosystem ( Symfony Flex, for example, integrates the framework with Composer, PHP’s de facto package manager), Symfony is present on all fronts. Add to that an exceptional code quality, a democratic and community-oriented operation, a complete and easy-to-access documentation, as well as a support and training offer from the framework creators, and you get the recipe for success for an open-source project.
A few years ago, the language was perceived as not very adapted to the constraints of a company and had an image of a language for beginners. Today PHP has been adopted by many large groups. Microsoft is also a loyal sponsor of the community and actively works around PHP. How did this evolution happen?
The appearance and development of major open-source players such as Symfony, Laravel, Composer, etc., in the PHP ecosystem as well as the efforts of the PHP-FIG around interoperability and the core team on the progression of the language via the RFC system has allowed a rapid and surprising evolution of the language. The integration of functionalities aiming at improving the robustness and the performances of the language are not foreign to it. The more robust and powerful a language is, the more companies stand to gain. Interoperability initiatives ensure that companies can maintain their code bases and developers.
PHP is one of the few tools that is entirely governed by its community, without a leader imposing his authority on the direction to adopt. How does this work in practice?
The system by which the language evolves is not unique, but it is remarkable. New features of the language are proposed to the core team in the form of RFCs (Request For Comment), usually accompanied by a patch showing the implementation of the feature. These RFCs are discussed at length by the core team and the community and are updated in accordance with the feedback. Finally, the RFC is put to a vote. If the vote passes, the feature is integrated into the language. This way of working allows a fast but controlled evolution of the language.
The PHP Forum has been in existence for over 15 years. What are the highlights of this 2018 edition?
Geoffrey Bachelet is a web developer, specialized in PHP and Symfony, since 15 years. He is also the founder of the development agency Vanoix and a developer at Ubisoft Montreal.