Rasmus Lerdorf Talks PHP 5.6, 6.0 and Beyond

Rasmus Lerdorf likes to joke that he’s the most famous programmer from Greenland that we’re likely to meet this month.  Truth is, the creator of PHP is one of the great legends of open source.  The software he created is one of the most widely used technologies for server-side web programming. We were fortunate to catch up with Rasmus at the WePay office, listen to his talk on the present and future of PHP.

His presentation is available here.  It covers PHP 5.5, PHP 5.6 and web deployment.  Rasmus also responded to questions from the audience about PHP 6.0.

The hot topics were performance, security, web deployment, compatibility with different PHP versions, and his perspective on Facebook Hack.

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Here’s a sample of the great discussion that Rasmus had with the audience.

Q: Tell us about the direction of PHP, in particular PHP 6.

Rasmus:  First, I want to emphasize that PHP is driven by the needs of developers.  People will present features, including test cases.  If it’s reasonable, then the feature will get into PHP.  It’s not about my wishlist. I don’t have a team of developers. This is a community of developers building PHP for other developers.

Q: But, if you did have a feature wish list, what would you wish for?

Rasmus: If I had a wishlist, I would probably wish to clean up the internal API. It’s gotten a bit nasty over the years. The other thing is of course, performance.  

Q: What about backward compatibility?  I’m worried that PHP might go down the path that Python went down with Python 3 not compatible with Python 2.

Rasmus: We’re not planning a Python type of break. Chances are that anything that breaks in PHP 6 will be features that resulted in pretty hard warnings in PHP 5, which means that it wasn’t in the best interest of the developer to do that in the first place. No drastic changes are planned in PHP 6.

Q: What’s your take on the static code analysis?

Rasmus: Etsy uses static analysis. I would love to see it. The community is hoping to get Facebook to release their static analysis system as a standalone tool. This type of tool would make it much easier to be compatible between PHP 5.x and PHP 6.

Q: Any thoughts on Facebook Hack?

Rasmus: Facebook has done some amazing things. That said, not all of their work is going to be applicable to the entire PHP community. If we’re going to put new features into PHP, it has to be something that is good for the developer, not a special case for a specific company.