PHP 5.4 aspires to elegance

The newly released version of PHP features performance improvements and syntax refinements

PHP, one of the most widely used languages for building websites, has been updated with a number of improvements to ease development and speed performance.

"Essentially, most of the new features don't radically change the language, just refine it," said Zeev Suraski, one of the principal contributors to PHP as well as CTO of PHP software vendor Zend Technologies. "What you could do before, you can do in an easier, more elegant way now."

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For developers, the PHP syntax has been streamlined for easier usability. A new method, called Traits, will enable developers to reuse code. The array syntax has been simplified. Improvements have been added to allow PHP work better with the JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) data exchange format. PHP 5.4 includes native support for Asian languages, eliminating the need for programmers to compile a special version of PHP to present content in those languages.

Much work has also been done on this version PHP to improve performance. Thanks to some code refactoring, PHP can now support up to 40 percent more users on the same server. "We've reduced memory consumption. When you have a popular Web site, it's all about density--how many requests per second can your server take. Typically the real limiter is memory. By reducing memory consumption, you can increase density," Suraski said

PHP is used by approximately 5 million developers around the world, primarily for building Web pages with content that is routinely updated or changed, as well as for building Web applications. It is the sixth most widely used programming language worldwide, according to the most recent monthly estimate by the Tiobe Group.

In conjunction with this release, Zend also has released the third beta version of Zend Framework 2, which includes support for PHP 5.4. Zend is also testing a PHP hosted service, called the Zend Developer Cloud.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's email address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com.

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