PHP 8: It's Time to Upgrade the Web

Julia Koelsch // Product Support
PHP 8 logo referencing migration schedule

PHP is the programming language that powers the internet as we know it today. Nearly 80% of all websites use PHP in some way. PHP is the language used by WordPress and Drupal, two of the most popular open-source Content Management Systems (CMSs), contributing to its widespread use. PHP is easy to learn, and PHP-based websites are easy to get running on popular website hosting platforms.

PHP is like other programming languages in that it releases major updates every few years, minor updates more frequently, and point releases as needed for minor maintenance and security updates. Major version updates are planned years in advance and provide the core developers a window in which to add new features and remove old ones. Technology changes rapidly, and programming languages need frequent updates to remain relevant.

PHP 8.0 and end of life

PHP 8.0 is the most recent major PHP version. It came out in November 2020, and 8.1 followed a year later. PHP’s version support policy specifies that each release is actively maintained for two years and receives security updates for one additional year. This means PHP 7.4, the previous major version, will no longer be supported after November 2022. Any site running on web servers with old versions of PHP could be at risk of security holes.

PHP 8 contains many features that developers are excited about, but even if you aren’t a web developer, there are reasons to look forward to 8.0. This PHP version includes improved error handling and performance, so websites using PHP 8 should be faster and more stable than ever before.

Because major version updates can change or remove syntax, it’s essential to plan and schedule updates, allowing plenty of time to test and update any code that no longer works. At Spry Digital, we carefully monitor updates of WordPress and Drupal (the primary CMS we support) to understand when they plan to begin support for new PHP versions. With that knowledge, we define our support schedule accordingly so that we allow plenty of time to update PHP in development environments, test websites, address anything we find during testing, and update live sites.

PHP Version Release Calendar


WordPress PHP upgrades

WordPress has been adding support for PHP 8 since the 5.6 release in 2020, shortly after PHP 8 came out. The core codebase is fully functional on PHP 8 (although you may still see some deprecation notifications in your server logs). However, plugin support for PHP 8 is entirely up to the plugin authors, so it’s essential to review all installed plugins to ensure they have been tested and work in PHP 8 environments.

Drupal PHP upgrades

Drupal 9 recommends using PHP 8, and Drupal 10 (coming out later this year) requires PHP 8.1, so current Drupal codebases must run on the latest versions of PHP. Given that Drupal 9 and 10 need at least PHP 8.0, the odds are good that the Drupal modules used by current D9 websites work well with PHP8, but any custom code should be reviewed and thoroughly tested. The Drupal community still supports Drupal 7 for security updates. Since keeping PHP up to date is a security concern, the community is working to keep D7 up to date with PHP. PHP 8 is supported now, and work is currently in progress for 8.1.

If you don’t have a trusted partner maintaining your website and are wondering what to do, reach out! Spry can provide guidance and perform security audits to determine any updates needed to keep your website secure.