PHP is an open-source general-purpose scripting language for web development. Many of the largest websites are using PHP, including Facebook, Wikipedia, and WordPress. This server-side programming language can also be used to create applications, eCommerce software, customer relationship management systems, and more.
According to W3Techs, PHP is still the most popular server-side programming language. It takes almost 80% of the market! This means that every fifth website you open uses PHP.
Why are there so many versions of PHP?
Just like smartphones or software, PHP gets its regular updates to become better, faster, and more effective. Each new PHP version introduces new features that make developers’ lifes easier. As for now, the newest PHP version is 8.1 – it was released last November.
PHP has been majorly updated seven times, therefore there are seven versions of the language, each of which has its subversion*. The newest version is called PHP 8.1. Despite the fact that there’s a newer and a faster version out for more than half a year, the most used version remains PHP 7.
Versions 8.0 and 8.1 are not that popular yet. But that’s just a matter of time. Expectedly, when support for PHP 7.4 is over, more developers will have the motivation to move to PHP 8.1 and experience its powerful features.
*The 6th version was never released. PHP 5.6 was followed by PHP 7.0.
Comparison of versions
Currently, there are three supported versions of PHP – PHP 7.4, PHP 8.0, and PHP 8.1. Here’s a side-to-side comparison between them:
- readonly properties
- Intersection types
- never return type
- final class constants
- array_is_list function
- cURL improvements
|- named arguments
- union types
- constructor property promotion
- match expression
- nullsafe operator
- improvements in the type system and error handling
|- arrow functions
- support for typed properties
- custom object serialization
- unpacking inside arrays
- weak references
- improved type variance
Which version to use
It’s always best to update PHP to its latest version. This way, you make sure your website is as bug-free, safe, and effective as possible. Here are the main reasons to use the latest or at least currently supported version:
- Security. The actively maintained versions will always be the most secure options for your website. They are regularly updated for security threats. Meanwhile, the older versions keep getting weaker every month.
- Performance. Each new version of PHP works better and faster than its predecessors. They process more requests per second and offer more powerful features to developers.
- Support. In supported versions, the protocols are being continuously monitored. They are regularly updated to remove bugs and configuration failures.
So, do you need to update your version of PHP manually every year? Not if you’re using fully managed hosting solutions that’ll do it for you! At ASAP Lab, we regularly update all of our software and hardware to provide the best service to clients.