PHP 8.1: Top 6 Things You Should Know About the Latest Version of PHP
PHP 8.1: Top 6 Things You Should Know About the Latest Version of PHP

PHP 8.1: Top 6 Things You Should Know About the Latest Version of PHP

Any software update usually concerns security and performance. But with web and app development software and programming languages, things are quite different. A lot of emphasis is also on functionality, aesthetics and compatibility when it comes to rolling out an update. PHP’s latest update up to a large extent serves the same purpose. Having said that, the conventional practices of improving security and performance is also done with this latest 8.1 update. 

For WordPress users, the update may have happened automatically without their input if the auto-update was on. For everyone else who’s unfamiliar with the concept of PHP, it is a server side programming language that works in sync with HTML, CSS, JavaScript and database modules and forms frameworks like WordPress or Laravel to build websites. 

Why Should You Update PHP

Much like any other software update, the core reasons are speed, security and compatibility. Enhancing these three aspects makes the whole experience of using PHP. Any standard php development service provider can improve things like aesthetics, functionality and cross platform compatibility by just focusing on the three core aspects of a software or a programming language. Here are the three core reasons that may convince you to opt for the update at the earliest.

Speed

The core developers at PHP always work on improving the call of resources in the language. Better usage of the available resources makes the language more efficient. With every passing year, newer coding techniques and newer tools are emerging. Tasks that took lengths of coding in custom WordPress development are now done by simple steps. This leads to developers strengthening the utility of a language and as a subsequent to that, the overall speed is increased. 

Increased speed means better search rankings and your website can retain visitors as well. If a website takes too long to load, the visitor is likely to leave the tab either unattended or closed. 

Security

With higher popularity comes higher risk of being targeted. PHP currently powers more than 77% of the total websites worldwide. This invites a lot of threats and malware. With every release, developers at PHP try to introduce patches that cover the vulnerabilities that attracted the attacks. If you run a dated version of PHP in your website then it is likely that the older threats or methods to attack a website may still be relevant for your website and you may lose out on precious data and information from your website.

A more secure website works seamlessly and offers better data protection. In today’s day and age, data on a website is the most precious thing. 

Compatibility

PHP like WordPress is operated and run by its community contributors. This community is too strong for them to roll out important updates regularly. Despite that, third party innovations are always a step ahead. Plugins, themes and APIs have a shorter maintenance span and go through multiple updates. To optimize the features of these third party extensions, it is essential that the core programming language works at its optimum level. With an updated PHP, all your third party extensions work very smoothly and that level of compatibility enhances the overall user experience.

Compatibility issues can sometimes affect the overall speed of your website. Updating your PHP may result in some libraries, APIs and plugins launching faster which makes the whole website run faster.

6 Things You Should Know About the Latest PHP Update 8.1

To make the websites more secure, faster and better compatible with all third party services, PHP has rolled out a list of features that will keep them ahead of their rivals for years to come. Here are some of those features that you may want to ponder upon.

Enumerations

One of the vastly anticipated features in the update, Enumerations or Enums are now finally a part of PHP 8.1 update. Enums are types that have a predefined number of possible values. One of the biggest benefits of Enums is that despite them representing a collection of constant values, you can type those values manually as well. Enums, like Classes, can define methods in a program. Combined with the match operator, this can become a powerful and lethal feature.

Enums were widely available for all the programming languages. The PHP faithful were always pleading with the core team to introduce this feature which finally has become a reality with 8.1. 

Enumerations
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Read-only Properties

To avoid any errors while forming Classes, PHP has now introduced allowing making them read only. If there is an attempt to make any sort of change in a read only Class, it will result in an error. It is to be noted that the property of readonly can only be assigned from the scope where they are declared. It is also to be noted that this feature can only be initialized once for a Class. Once you initialize this property, it can’t be undone. 

This offers a great immutability to a Class. This way, the Class will return with the same value every time it is called because of being a readonly property. PHP claims that this is a great way to model value objects and data-transfer objects. 

Read-only Properties
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First-Class Callable Syntax

With the help of strings and arrays, PHP 8.1 introduces a feature called first Class callable syntax that overwrites any pre-existing encoding. This feature respects the already declared scope and acts as a cleaner closure. First Class callable syntax is also accessible by static analysis tools. With this feature, it is now possible to get a reference to any function in the program.

This feature is more or less a way of creating anonymous functions from the callable. It has the same semantics as Closure. One thing is to be noted here is that this feature cannot be used with nullsafe operator. Doing so will result in a compile-time error.

First-Class Callable Syntax
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New in initializers

With a very minor yet significant update, PHP 8.1 introduces initializers which are a state of a Class. PHP allows developers to create a Class with and without an initial state. An initial state could be a new expression that is allowed in parameter default values, attribute arguments, static variable initializers and global class constant initializers. This feature could appeal more to places that use Dependency Injection. 

This will result in a much cleaner and leaner code. For instance, if you want to instantiate your database service class, you will have to initiate connection dependency and inject the same at service class. Database connections are an ideal example because we end up using same concrete implementation most of the time. New initiation saves a lot of time and coding.

New in initializers
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Fibers

Fibers are blocks of codes that can be paused or called back to resume at any given point from anywhere in the stack. They are “primitives” to implement lightweight cooperative concurrency. You still need to create a loop for Fibers to provide concurrency. The advantage though is that they offer almost play and pause like functionality to share the same API.

Fibers essentially eliminate the need for the rather unpopular boilerplate codes. It is assumed that developers will use Fibers a lot to build libraries that don’t require any interactions with boilerplate codes. Affectionately called the “Green Threads”, Fibers are a low level mechanism that enables PHP to have maximum parallelism. It maintains its own stack of variables and state that can be interrupted without the whole stack getting affected. 

Fibers
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Pure Intersection Types

You can now use types of intersections that require a value to appear for multiple type constraints at the same time. The feature is pretty much similar to union types from the earlier version. The only difference between the two features is that with union types it requires the input to be of one specific type whereas with intersection, the input has to be of all the specified types. This feature of intersection is very effective while working with multiple interfaces. 

Just how union types were separated by “|”, intersection types are separated by “&”. This feature helps the program to define countable iterators which is essential for pagination. This feature will help developers gauge the session counts in the usage of an API by the program which earlier required declaring a custom interface.

Pure Intersection Types
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Conclusion

While Enums and Fibers are the standout features that look like they are going to be very popular among the developers, there are many other significant features that also make PHP 8.1 more powerful than the previous version. Features like Array Unpacking Support, Explicit Octal Numeral Notation, Final Class Constants and Never Return Type also have a significant impact on both the quality and length of codes. Shortening the length is never a motive for developers that practice full stack web development. But in doing so, you end up making your program more responsive and efficient which eventually makes it stronger and more secure. New releases and updates, especially major ones always leave the opinions in splits but as we have always witnessed, despite the nostalgia and familiarity, we must move on from the older versions for the sake of speed and security of our websites. 

Author :

My name is Nandan, the Owner at Gtech Web Infotech Pvt. Ltd.. I'm also a designer and developer. I've been working in the web development field for last 12+ years. Developing and implementing small to large-scale projects and everything in between. Currently working on a lot of CMS, dev-tooling projects. Furthermore focusing on combining Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with emerging technologies.

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