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aY PHP 5.2 support ends just as its adoption begins

Note: This article was originally published at Planet PHP on 23 July 2010.
Planet PHP

In case you missed it, the PHP team has just released 5.2.11, which effectively ends support for the 5.2 branch:

This release marks the end of the active support for PHP 5.2. Following this release the PHP 5.2 series will receive no further active bug maintenance.

The logic behind this decision isa puzzling.

Several large projects-WordPress and Drupal among them-recently announced that they intend to push support for 5.2 into their products with their next major release. For example, Drupal 7 will accept 5.2 features, and the WP folks are just working on EOL'ing their support for PHP 4.

This means that a large number of people are just beginning learning, using and stress-testing PHP 5.2. Remember-these projects have very large user bases, so even moving a small percentage of adopters over to a different platform means a big shift. Perhaps-just perhaps-it might be better to reconsider canning 5.2. If, from a technical perspective, the move from 5.2 to 5.3 is an easy one, there is a huge psychological barrier to finally adopting 5.2 only to have it yanked from under your feet.

The real issue at hand, however, is the fact that these large user communities are not engaged in the PHP world, and vice-versa. Ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Drupal and WordPress integrators and developers is bad for both PHP and for those products; we should, instead, try our best to open a dialogue between all the communities that are centred around PHPAand ensure that everyone's interests are properly represented.

This is not to say that the fact that WP has only now decided to move to PHP 5.2 should necessarily affect the progress of PHP, nor that the PHP developers should take a aowe don't need youa attitude toward projects that are based on the language. Ultimately, it's up to these projects if they want to actively contribute back to PHP or not, and that is the only way for them to effectively affect the development of the language itself.

However, PHP development is too unevenly connected to downstream adopters. Some-particularly framework makers-have an unusually high level of participation in deciding how PHP evolves, and that needs to change.

At least year's WDC, a small conference organized by Microsoft, I made this very same point and managed to bring a room full of developers into complete disarray in less than five minutes-which means that, in addition to the fact that my ability to drive a bunch of people up the wall in no time flat has not changed over the years, there is plenty to talk about.