PHP was designed for web development as a server-side scripting language in 1995 but, because of its versatility and ease of use, it is also used as a general-purpose programming language.
The code for PHP is often embedded within HTML. It is usually realized as a component in the web server processed by a PHP interpreter. The code for PHP can also be executed within a Command-Line Interface (CLI) to create standalone applications with their own graphical user interface (GUI). PHP has been a favorite of various Content Management Systems (CMS) including Magento, Drupal, TYPO3, WordPress, Joomla and various others.
The latest iteration of PHP is its version 7 and it’s been filled with many advancements over the previous versions. The latest version has been improved from the ground up. The engine, Zend, which has powered older versions of PHP has been updated from Zend 2 to Zend 3 with a significant reduction of dependencies and improvements in zend-servicemanager and zend-eventmanager performance.
These improvements combined with optimization of memory use make the execution of code a swift process and fewer servers are needed to handle similar user traffic. According to some benchmarks, the processing time has reduced to less than half for the execution of similar code.
PHP 7 types and classes
PHP 7 has also introduced scalar type hints (integers, Booleans, strings and floating points) which allow the developers to have a better consistency of any function/method interface. The type hints ensure the consistency in input, PHP 7 has also introduced a way to ensure consistency in the output as well by introducing Return type declarations.
Anonymous classes have also been introduced in Version 7 of PHP. Anonymous classes are helpful when we want to create a single instance of an object. PHP 7 now allows you to define a new anonymous class and instantiate that object inline. The method to check if a value has been set previously involved the returning of that value by using ‘isset’ command multiple times but it can now be checked in a very simple way by the use of the null coalesce operator.
Another new feature is the improvement in the use of the ‘spaceship operator’ which returns a value from a choice of three probable options instead of the earlier two which consisted of just true and false. The new values now tell whether the two compared values are equal, or which one of the two is greater than the other one.
There have been improvements in the Error Handling of PHP in the latest version. Previously, fatal errors didn’t use to invoke the error handler but simply stopped the script from execution which displayed the blank white screen to the user. In the new version, though, an exception will be thrown instead of stopping the script from execution when it encounters fatal and recoverable errors.
There were many different ways of generating random numbers in the PHP 5 but none of them were secure, however, the CSPRNG (Cryptographically Secure Pseudo Random Number Generator) uses the operating system’s random number generation making these numbers more secure.
Many other features have also been added to version 7 of PHP including the support for emoji but the best thing so far has been the improvements in speed and security.