PHP 5.3: Why We’re All Late to the Party

It’s been almost a year since the PHP 5.3 branch was released to the PHP community, and yet we’re all still in the shadow of PHP 5.2.  If you’re just a faithful customer wondering why your host isn’t getting with the times, I’ll tell you exactly why: We don’t stock enough diapers to keep up with that ish.

Let me talk about you, the common website owner, that runs a simple Drupal or WordPress site.  You didn’t sign up with your host to go around in circles over compatibility problems that could have been avoided by your host doing a little research. As a programmer, I would hold it to any site owner to check their site’s requirements and the offerings of their host before they unnecessarily waste a lot of time and money, but as a system administrator I frown upon shared hosting providers offering software with known compatibility issues just to be able to advertise as the “latest and greatest”. The latest isn’t always the greatest, and it won’t be until the community catches up with what the greatest has to offer.

I’ve had numerous discussions with my superiors about whether to upgrade to PHP 5.3, and the end result is pretty much the same – we’re just not ready. And neither are our customers, or the developers of the applications they use.  And trust me – this is normal. We all went through the same thing when PHP 4.2 came out, and again with PHP 5, and again with PHP 5.2.  That being said, this is why all the good hosts are now also holding off jumping on the PHP 5.3 bandwagon:

  • Lack of compatibility:  Many open source applications and frameworks (such as Drupal, Joomla, Magento, and even parts of WordPress) are not fully compatible with PHP 5.3 yet
  • No Zend Optimizer or Zend Guard support
  • It’s not required for PCI compliance yet, which is one of the main reasons why hosts upgrade PHP on their servers

PHP 5.3 does have a lot of new features and functions to offer, and it will eventually wiggle its way into mainstream hosting –  it’s just not ready for the shared hosting population yet until everyone else catches up.  Most hosts (including IMH) will still offer PHP 5.3 as an optional upgrade for customers on VPS or Dedicated servers, or as an optional move to a server that has that version. In the meantime, start upgrading your applications and keep tabs on your softwares’ developers to find out when php 5.3 support will be available.  PHP 5.2 will likely become obscure near the end of 2010 or early 2011 in favor of 5.3, and you should be ready when it is.

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