It has been more than two years since the last major release of PHP, with PHP 5.3 debuting in June of 2009, which means it's almost time for a new major release.
PHP 5.4 is currently in beta and will make multiple improvements over the current PHP 5.3 release.
"There are a lot of improvements in PHP 5.4, especially around performance and memory use," Andi Gutmans, CEO of Zend told InternetNews.com. "The fact that we've given it the beta name, it means the product is already pretty complete. The community feels good about what's in there."
In 2010, Gutmans said that PHP 5.4 would lower PHP's memory footprint by as much as 35 percent. In PHP 5.4, developers will also be able to turn the
MB string on and off, so the multibyte support will be available without having to recompile PHP. According to Gutmans, that will provide a significant advantage to companies that want to have a common build.
From a security point of view, Gutmans noted that Magic Quotes, which in the past has been considered to be a security concern, will reach end-of-life in PHP 5.4.
In PHP 5.3, the most significant new feature was the introduction of namespace support, which is a way to encapsulate classes and other PHP items. The namespace support was a big change for developers, but there likely isn't going to be the same type of big ticket item in the PHP 5.4 release.
"With PHP 5.3, if you want to take advantage of the namespace support, it essentially mandated a rewrite, or at least substantial changes," Zeev Suraski, CTO of Zend told InternetNews.com. "PHP 5.4 will be more evolutionary than PHP 5.3, so it won't mandate a rewrite of code."
Zend Framework 2.0
The Zend Framework, which currently is in beta, is also set for a 2.0 release in 2012. Gutmans noted that his team has worked to make the Zend Framework (ZF) 2.0 release faster and more extensible.
According to Suraski, the main focus of Zend Framework 2.0 is to take full advantage of PHP 5.3 as well as making it easier to use.
"Developing applications in ZF 2.0 will be significantly easier than ZF 1.0," Suraski said. "You can create an application with just a few lines of code in a really elegant way."
Suraski added that Zend Framework in general is something that will help PHP developers to build more secure applications as well.
"Generally speaking, if you take advantage of Zend Framework, then a lot of the common issues that you get in applications just go away," Suraski said. "For example, if you use the database component instead of creating your own queries, then SQL injection goes away."