Building with Legos & PHP

Understanding the latest PHP 8.0 Update and What It Means for You

Tamrah Chalom

Category: Development


The new PHP update is here and already being put into practice. Pixel sat down with NJI’s Global Managing Director of Development, Claudio Meira, to find out more about this update.

What Is PHP?

  • PHP, or Hypertext Preprocessor, is a scripting language used to create dynamic, interactive websites. It is the primary programming language for the content management system (CMS) WordPress used to build many websites. It is open-source, meaning that its code is publicly accessible. 
  • Every year, PHP releases an updated version that is supported for three years. Each version receives active support for two years, transitioning to limited support for critical issues in its third year. At the conclusion of the third year, the version reaches its end of life and is no longer supported.

Why Are There Updates?

  • Software constantly adapts to maintain compatibility with changing requirements, fix bugs, enhance performance, and respond to technical evolution.  
  • PHP is no exception — PHP 8.0, released in November 2020, is significantly faster and more resilient against bugs than the previous version, 7.4. It also can handle 18.4% more requests per second. 
  • Other improvements PHP 8.0 offers include full compatibility with the latest version of WordPress, enhanced performance, improved development features, and reduced core file-related errors.

What Other Factors Affect Web Performance?

  • While the updated PHP offers several security and performance enhancements, the language is only as good as its code. NJI’s Global Managing Director of Development Claudio Meira explains, “PHP is like Lego bricks, allowing developers to build anything they want. The code developers build is the structure of the house. While the bricks are critical to the build, the house is only as sturdy as the layout and framework used. Even if the developer uses the best and latest Lego bricks, the house can still topple if not built correctly.” 
  • Other factors affecting website performance include the website’s hosting environment and the size of the webpage and its assets.

Which Platforms Use PHP Update?

  • Large platforms that use PHP include WordPressVIP, Pantheon, RackSpace, GoDaddy, AWS, Google Cloud, and DreamHost.
  • While none of these sites require a PHP update, PHP no longer supports version 7.4, so sites not switching to PHP 8.0 run the risk of errors and increased security vulnerabilities, and the site may stop working altogether.
  • Still, the overall adoption rate of PHP 8.0 is only 6.7%. One reason for this incredibly low adoption rate may be plugins. Many plugin codes are not compatible with PHP 8.0, meaning users will need to find new plugins to keep the same functionality. Another factor contributing to the low adoption rate may be a cultural resistance to change. Many companies delay upgrades for as long as possible out of fear of compatibility issues and service disruptions. Surprisingly, while the majority of PHP users are still on Version 7, 23% are still on Version 5, illustrating that some companies won’t upgrade unless absolutely necessary, despite numerous worthwhile benefits of the newer versions.

How Does NJI Practice Code?

  • At NJI, we build transformative, future-proof code to bring digital assets to life and create an unparalleled user experience. Our extensive library of customized frameworks developed over the past fifteen years allows us to deploy the highest level of performance, security, and scalability with a quicker turnaround time. The NJI website, along with all our client websites, are written in PHP and have been updated to the latest version. 
  • In order to achieve uniformity, readability, and maintainability, regardless of who writes the code, we use PHPCS, a tool that identifies violations of pre-defined PHP coding standards and detects malicious code and website vulnerabilities within PHP. 
  • We also submit our PHP code through a strict approval process consisting of line-by-line review by two engineers and a bot. During this review, we are looking for any security or performance issues and affirming that the code is secure, performant, and future-proof.

Should I Update PHP?

  • If your website is written in PHP, updating to version 8 is not only beneficial but also necessary. PHP 7 reached end of life on November 28 and is no longer supported. “Delaying an update is likely to lead to technical debt,” observes Meira. “It will lead you to a cycle of quick patches and continually needing fixes.” 
  • If your website is not compatible with PHP 8.0 because it was not built with future-proofed code, now is the time to rebuild it. While that may seem like an arduous task, the benefits far outweigh the cost. In addition to gaining a newly minted site with updated visuals and an improved user experience, advantages of a website rebuild include allowing you to future-proof your code so new features and adjustments down the road will take less time. It also gives you the opportunity to resolve existing issues and integrate newer plugins with more exciting features and animations. If your site is hosted on Drupal, now is an even more opportune time to rebuild, as a major Drupal upgrade is being released on December 14. 
  • NJI leverages the knowledge and skills of our developers to future-proof assets that we create or transform existing ones to deliver results. Still have questions? We’re listening. Feel free to reach out and to chat about your specific website needs. 

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