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PHP Version History: Brief Timeline of the World’s Most Used Backend Language

Updated on June 20, 2023

10 Min Read
php versions

Over the years, PHP has remained the top choice for web developers due to its straightforward structure and ease of use. With versions ranging from PHP 1.0 to PHP 8.x, PHP is the most widely used language for web development.

However, PHP 8.x, the latest version, has solidified its position as the leading language in the field. As of March 2023, an impressive 77.5% of all websites still rely on PHP, demonstrating its continued superiority on the internet.

The PHP community thrives with different frameworks like Laravel, CodeIgniter, Symfony, and more, contributing to PHP’s authenticity and positioning it as a leading force in web application development.

In this article, I’ll explain the importance of PHP version history, its various versions, performance and security considerations, and feature comparisons, and provide a detailed overview of PHP versions that have been released till now.

Importance of PHP Version History

The journey began in 1994 with the birth of PHP/FI (Personal Home Page/Forms Interpreter), created by Rasmus Lerdorf, who released its first version in 1995. Since then, PHP has evolved significantly, with PHP 3 introducing advanced features like the Zend Engine.

PHP version history serves as a roadmap highlighting the progress and improvements made to the language over time. Each new release brings enhanced features, bug fixes, security patches, and performance optimizations.

Developers can use these advancements to build more efficient, secure, and powerful web applications by staying up-to-date with the latest PHP versions. The PHP version history provides insights into the evolution of the language itself.

Keeping track of PHP version history also plays a crucial role in ensuring the security of web applications. As vulnerabilities are discovered and patched, upgrading to newer PHP versions incorporating these security fixes is essential.

Neglecting to update PHP versions leaves applications susceptible to known security risks, potentially exposing sensitive data and compromising the system’s integrity. In short, the PHP version history is a valuable resource for developers to stay informed.

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Brief Timeline of PHP Versions

Let’s take a quick journey through the timeline of PHP versions to understand how it has evolved over the years.

PHP Version Release Date Support EOL
1.0 June 8, 1995
2.0 November 1, 1997
3.0 June 6, 1998 October 20, 2000
4.0 May 22, 2000 June 23, 2001
5.0 July 13, 2004 September 5, 2005
5.1 November 24, 2005 August 24, 2006
5.2 November 2, 2006 January 6, 2011
5.3 June 30, 2009 August 14, 2014
5.4 March 1, 2012 September 3, 2015
5.5 June 20, 2013 July 10, 2016
5.6 August 28, 2014 December 31, 2018
7.0 December 3, 2015 December 3, 2018
7.1 December 1, 2016 December 1, 2019
7.2 November 30, 2017 November 30, 2020
7.3 November 28, 2019 December 6, 2021
7.4 August 28, 2019 November 28, 2022
8.0 November 26, 2020 November 26, 2023
8.1 November 25, 2021 November 25, 2024
8.2 November 24, 2022 November 24, 2025
8.3 November 23, 2023 November 23, 2026

Please note that the mentioned support EOL (End of Life) dates for version 8.x are approximations and may be subject to change.

Major PHP Versions to Date

Now, let’s look at the evolution of PHP versions and the range of features they have introduced over the course of their development.

PHP/FI (June 1995)

Initially known as Personal Home Page (PHP), PHP/FI was written in C-language as a PERL/CGI script toolset.

Features of PHP/FI

  • Built-in support for mSQL, DBM, and Postgres95 databases
  • User-defined functions and cookies

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PHP/FI 2 (November 1997)

PHP/FI 2 introduced form handling and HTML embedding, allowing HTML tags to be used within PHP code.

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PHP 3 (June 1998)

PHP 3 was a significant rewrite that added limited object-oriented support and extensibility through a modular approach.

Features of PHP 3

  • API Extension
  • Object-Oriented Support
  • Introduction of Zend Engine

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PHP 4 (May 2000)

PHP 4 enhanced runtime execution, web server abstraction, superglobals, and improved resource handling.

Features of PHP 4

  • Enhanced runtime execution
  • Introduced Superglobals
  • Web server abstraction layer
  • Object overloading support
  • Output buffering support

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PHP 5.0 (July 2004)

PHP 5.0 focused on language maturity and introduced PDO extension, rewritten XML functionality, and upgraded Zend Engine.

Features of PHP 5.0

  • PDO extension for database connectivity
  • Rewritten XML functionality
  • Upgraded to Zend Engine II

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PHP 5.1 (November 2005)

PHP 5.1 brought bug fixes, new built-in functions, improved data code handling, and support for custom auto loading.

Features of PHP 5.1

  • Support for custom autoloading
  • Over 400 various bug fixes
  • Significant performance improvements
  • Improved time zone support

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PHP 5.2 (November 2006)

PHP 5.2 introduced enhanced error message concept, input filtering extension, JSON support, and upgraded bundled SQLite.

Features of PHP 5.2

  • Improved memory manager
  • Increased default memory limit
  • New extensions with JSON, Zip
  • Input filtering extension
  • Upgraded bundled SQLite

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PHP 5.3 (June 2009)

PHP 5.3 added powerful features like namespace support, late static binding, jump labels, and Nowdoc support.

Features of PHP 5.3

  • Namespace support
  • Late static binding support
  • Jump labels and Nowdoc support
  • Deprecation of call-time pass-by-reference and safe_mode

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PHP 5.4 (March 2012)

PHP 5.4 introduced traits, short array syntax, improved parse error messages, and support for a binary number format.

Features of PHP 5.4

  • Trait support
  • Short array syntax support
  • Improved parse error messages
  • Binary format support
  • Deprecation of mysql_list_dbs()

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PHP 5.5 (June 2012)

PHP 5.5 brought new features like generators, bundled ZendOptimizer, and a new password hashing API.

Features of PHP 5.5

  • Generators added
  • Bundled ZendOptimizer
  • New Password Hashing API
  • Introduction of the ‘finally’ keyword
  • Deprecation of ext/MySQL, intl, and mcrypt functions

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PHP 5.6 (August 2014)

PHP 5.6 introduced constant expressions, an interactive debugger (Phpdbg), improved character encoding, and enhanced file upload capabilities.

Features of PHP 5.6

  • Constant expressions
  • Interactive debugger (phpdbg)
  • Improved character encoding
  • Improved file upload capabilities
  • Deprecation of calls from incompatible contexts and certain encoding settings

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PHP 7.0 (December 2015)

PHP 7.0 significantly improved scalar type declarations, return type declarations, null coalescing operator, and spaceship operator.

Features of PHP 7.0

  • Scalar type declarations
  • Return type declarations
  • Null coalescing operator
  • Spaceship operator
  • Deprecation of PHP 4 style constructors and static calls to non-static methods

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PHP 7.1 (December 2016)

PHP 7.1 introduced nullable types, void functions, symmetric array destructuring, class constant visibility, and asynchronous signal handling.

Features of PHP 7.1

  • Nullable types
  • Void functions
  • Symmetric Array Destructuring
  • Class Constant Visibility
  • Asynchronous Signal Handling
  • Deprecation of eval options

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PHP 7.2 (November 2017)

PHP 7.2 added password hashing, a new object type, method overriding and deprecated the autoload() method and create_functions.

Features of PHP 7.2

  • Password Hashing
  • New Object Type
  • Method overriding
  • Deprecation of autoload() method and create_functions

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PHP 7.3 (December 2018)

PHP 7.3 introduced features like trailing commas in function calls and flexible heredoc/nowdoc syntaxes.

Features of PHP 7.3

  • Trailing comma
  • Flexible Heredoc and Nowdoc Syntaxes
  • PCRE2 Migration
  • JSON_THROW_ON_ERROR

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PHP 7.4 (November 2019)

PHP 7.4 brought typed properties, underscore numeric separator, and minor improvements.

Features of PHP 7.4

  • Typed Properties
  • Underscore Numeric Separator
  • Minor Improvements

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PHP 8.0 (November 2020)

PHP 8.0 introduced union types, JIT compilation, constructor property promotion, match syntax, and named parameters. You can check out our blog on PHP 8 to learn more.

Features of PHP 8.0

  • Union Types
  • JIT Compilation
  • Constructor Property Promotion
  • Match Syntax
  • Named Parameters

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PHP 8.1 (November 2021)

PHP 8.1 added enums, fibers, never return types, intersection types, and readonly properties.

Features of PHP 8.1

  • Enums
  • Fibers
  • Never Return Type
  • Intersection Types
  • Readonly Properties

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PHP 8.2 (December 2022)

PHP 8.2 introduced readonly classes, DNF types, null, false, and true types, sensitive parameter redaction support, and a new random extension.

Features of PHP 8.2

  • Readonly Classes
  • DNF Types
  • Null, False, and True Types
  • Sensitive Parameter Redaction Support
  • New Random Extension

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PHP 8.3 (Upcoming Release)

PHP 8.3, the active development branch, is currently the target for new RFCs (Request for Comments). It is scheduled to be released towards the end of 2023.

PHP has continually evolved to meet the demands of web development. From its origins as Personal Home Page (PHP) to the latest release of PHP 8.2, the language has significantly improved features, performance, and usability.

These advancements have solidified PHP’s position as a top choice for web development, enabling developers to create robust and efficient applications.

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PHP Performance Enhancements

A significant aspect of PHP version upgrades revolves around enhancing performance. As previously mentioned, delivering fast and reliable experiences at scale is crucial for applications and websites.

Each PHP version consistently introduces performance improvements, even in minor releases. For instance, PHP 7.3 showcased double-digit performance enhancements in popular PHP-based web content management systems, ensuring optimized execution.

Advanced Security Measures

As PHP evolves through different versions, the corresponding security measures also evolve to address emerging vulnerabilities.

Given that PHP is commonly used in publicly accessible applications, the potential attack surface can be substantial. Consequently, PHP actively addresses security vulnerabilities by releasing patches and hotfixes regularly, particularly for Long-Term Support (LTS) versions.

Furthermore, PHP versions improve compatibility with different security and encryption standards while minimizing the challenges of upgrading to newer versions. This continuous effort ensures the protection of client and application data and enhances overall security.

Current Stable Version of PHP

The current stable version of PHP is 8.2.6, which was released on May 9, 2023. PHP is a dynamically and weakly typed programming language. It is primarily implemented in the C language, with some components written in C++.

Key features of PHP 8.2 include:

  • Readonly Classes: PHP 8.2 introduces the ability to define classes as readonly, preventing modifications to their properties after instantiation.
  • DNF Types: PHP 8.2 adds Disjunctive Normal Form (DNF) types, allowing multiple types to be specified for a single parameter or return type.
  • Null, False, and True Types: This version introduces dedicated types for null, false, and true, providing more precise type annotations.
  • Sensitive Parameter Redaction Support: PHP 8.2 offers built-in support for redacting sensitive parameters in stack traces, enhancing security and privacy.
  • New Random Extension: PHP 8.2 introduces a new extension called “random” that provides enhanced functionality for generating random numbers and managing random sources.

These features contribute to PHP’s ongoing development and improvement, offering developers increased flexibility, security, and performance in their PHP applications.

Update to the Latest PHP Version

To update your PHP version to the latest 8.2 version on Cloudways, follow these simple steps:

  • Log in to the Cloudways Platform.
  • Select your server, which will redirect you to the Server Management.
  • Navigate to Settings & Packages → Packages.
  • Locate your current PHP version and click the Edit button next to it.
  • From the drop-down menu, select PHP 8.2.
  • Click Save.
  • Voila! Your PHP version will be updated to 8.2 in no time.

Following these steps, you can effortlessly upgrade your PHP version on Cloudways and take advantage of the latest features and improvements.

Summary

PHP version showcases its continuous evolution and adaptation to the ever-changing web development landscape. We anticipate new features and enhancements in PHP 8.3 that will further empower developers and expand the capabilities of the language.

PHP’s vibrant community and dedicated development team ensure that the language remains at the forefront of web development trends. It demonstrates its commitment to performance, security, and developer productivity with each new version.

So, let’s stay tuned and see what PHP 8.3 has in store for us, as it opens up new avenues for building dynamic and feature-rich web applications. Whether you’re a developer or an enthusiast, keeping up with the latest developments in PHP hosting can help you leverage the full potential of this exciting new version.

Q1. Are there any compatibility issues when upgrading from older PHP versions to newer ones?

A. Compatibility issues may arise when upgrading from older PHP versions to newer ones, especially if there have been significant changes in syntax, deprecated features, or modifications in default behaviors.

Reviewing the PHP migration guides and release notes for each version to understand potential compatibility issues and necessary code adjustments is essential.

Q2. When was PHP first released, and who created it?

A. PHP was initially released in June 1995. It was created by Rasmus Lerdorf as a set of Perl scripts to track visits to his online resume.

Over time, PHP evolved and gained popularity, eventually leading to new version development with expanded functionalities and improved performance.

Q3. Which version of PHP is the best?

A. Based on our test results of different PHP versions, PHP 8.0 emerged as the clear winner with a remarkable loading time of 164 ms, showcasing its excellent performance and efficiency.

Q4. When did PHP 7.4 reach the end of life?

A. PHP 7.4 reached its end of life on November 28, 2022.

Q5. What is in the latest PHP version?

A. The most recent version of PHP is PHP 8.2, which was released on November 24, 2022.

Q6. How many versions of PHP are there?

A. There have been multiple versions of PHP released since its inception. There have been various major versions, including PHP 1.0, PHP 2.0, PHP 3.0, PHP 4.0, PHP 5.0, PHP 7.0, PHP 8.0, and so on. Each major version is further supplemented with minor releases and updates.

PHP Version History: An Infographic Journey

PHP Version History_Infographic Part 1
PHP Version History_Infographic Part 2
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Abdul Rehman

Abdul is a tech-savvy, coffee-fueled, and creatively driven marketer who loves keeping up with the latest software updates and tech gadgets. He's also a skilled technical writer who can explain complex concepts simply for a broad audience. Abdul enjoys sharing his knowledge of the Cloud industry through user manuals, documentation, and blog posts.

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