RealTime IT News

XML-'Reloaded' PHP5 Released

Apache-backed PHP Group, which oversees one of the most popular open source scripting languages, officially released PHP version 5.0 Tuesday.

The release follows four betas and three release candidates dating back to June 29, 2003 before it was considered stable enough for the latest release.

PHP 5.0 includes numerous enhancements that further extend the functionality of the language. For example, XML support has been "completely redone" with extensions now focused around the libxml2 library.

SimpleXML, a new XML extension enhancement, enables easier access and manipulation of XML components as PHP objects. Where there's XML, Web services are usually found too. In that regard, PHP 5 includes a built-in SOAP extension that permits Web Services interoperability.

MySQL database users, known as prolific users of PHP, now get a new extension that supports MySQL 4.1, as well as some of its new features. For the first time, PHP now bundles with the SQLite database as well.

The developer community has seen some rumblings recently about whether MySQL's licencing scheme change might negatively impact various Linux distributions, including the Red Hat sponsored Fedora Project. However, it was unclear if the changes impacted the decision to bundle SQLite.

Zend, the commercial entity that is home to the PHP founders, also lends its name to one of the core new technologies inside of PHP5, the Zend Engine II. The new engine boasts a new object model that has been completely rewritten and is intended to improve performance. The release also features new class enhancements in order to enhance the functionality of PHP.

The long list of functional changes in PHP 5 has been a cause of concern for many developers, which was not lost on PHP 5 developers -- in particular one of the founders of PHP/Zend, Andi Gutmans.

"One of our design goals for PHP 5, was to keep backwards compatibility as much as possible," Gutmans wrote in a public post. "Actually, most PHP 4 sites run out of the box with PHP 5. If there are problems, there's a compatibility mode (configurable via php.ini) which makes the object-oriented model behave the same as in PHP 4."

He continued: "Bottom-line: Very few people will have problems doing the upgrade. Of course, you should thoroughly test your site before upgrading."

As an open source licensed scripting language, PHP has come to form a critical component for many in the open source community . PHP is usually the 'P' (though sometimes it may be python) in the popular LAMP acronym (L-inux, A-pache, M,ySQL, PHP) that defines modern open source development methodology.

According to Netcraft statistics for June 2004, PHP is currently in use on at least 16 million domains. PHP is run predominately on Linux-powered Apache Web servers as a compiled Apache module. Security space.com survey results peg PHP as the top Apache Module for June 2004 at 48.64 percent of its survey base.