PHP may have been around for a while, but it’s still an important Web development tool. Building on a declarative model of programming, PHP extends the familiar HTML syntax with additional commands and functions, adding in-line programming and extensions to your Web content. That model has made it an important part of many content management systems, providing a framework for managing database-delivered content and formatting pages using dynamic templates.
Many of those CMSes run inside corporate firewalls, hosting intranets and internal collaboration tools. So it’s not surprising to see that the official Windows builds of PHP come from Microsoft, as one of its longest-running open source projects.
But all good things come to an end, and Microsoft recently announced that it wouldn’t produce an official build of PHP 8 for Windows. Until now it’s been delivering Windows releases as binaries and source code on windows.php.net for IIS and other Windows Web servers. However, that will stop in the future, as the team delivering Windows PHP builds moves on to other projects as PHP 7 goes through its support lifecycle.
What does this policy change suggest for the future of PHP on Windows? And, more importantly, what are the alternatives if you want to take the opportunity to change the way you work?
First, and most crucial, PHP for Windows will not disappear. It’s very clear that there’s more than enough demand for someone to continue building and distributing a Windows version of PHP beyond PHP 7. Microsoft won’t directly contribute resources and servers for the builds, but more than likely, it will donate licenses and servers to the PHP project to ensure that, at the very least, a Windows build will come out of the automated PHP CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery) process.
It’ll be up to the PHP team to develop a set of Windows skills to ensure that the right tests are being run and that code is optimized correctly, by ensuring that the right build settings are used in Visual Studio. Although that shouldn’t be too hard, it’s not the same as having dedicated resources from one of the largest software companies in the world.
Alternatively, there are other Windows versions of PHP, built by a mix of third-party companies with their own PHP tools and from volunteers building from the open source codebase. If you want support, then you should probably choose a commercial PHP version, whereas open builds are ideal for putting together a Windows PHP development environment.
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