In my work, I mainly use PHP 5.6 and 7.2. To learn more about the subject area, I decided to find out how the development of PHP was going from 5.0 to 7.2.

To structure the information, I decided to write this post about the most noticeable changes between versions. I hope this post will be useful for someone too. All documentation links are at the end.


PHP 5.0

In July 2004 PHP 5.0 was released. This version introduced a set of cool changes. For me, the most important changes are object-oriented programming enhancements. Thanks to this, object-oriented development has significantly increased its influence in PHP.

PHP 5.1.x and PHP 5.2.x

New features:

  • A complete rewrite of date handling code, with improved timezone support.
  • Significant performance improvements compared to PHP 5.0.X.
  • PDO extension is now enabled by default.
  • New functions in various extensions and built-in functionality.

PHP 5.3.x

New features:

  • Support for namespaces has been added.
  • Support for Late Static Bindings has been added.
  • Support for jump labels (limited goto) has been added.
  • Support for native Closures (Lambda/Anonymous functions) has been added.
  • There are two new magic methods, __callStatic() and __invoke().
  • Nowdoc syntax is now supported, similar to Heredoc syntax, but with single quotes.
  • It is now possible to use Heredocs to initialize static variables and class properties/constants.
  • Heredocs may now be declared using double quotes, complementing the Nowdoc syntax.
  • Constants can now be declared outside a class using the const keyword.
  • The ternary operator now has a shorthand form: ?:.
  • Dynamic access to static methods is now possible:
class C {
   public static $foo = 123;

$a = "C";
echo $a::$foo;
class MyCustomException extends Exception {}

try {
    throw new MyCustomException("Exceptional", 112);
} catch (Exception $e) {
    /* Note the use of the third parameter to pass $e
     * into the RuntimeException. */
    throw new RuntimeException("Rethrowing", 911, $e);
  • A garbage collector for circular references has been added, and is enabled by default.

PHP 5.4.x

New features:

  • Support for traits has been added.
  • Short array syntax has been added, e.g. $a = [1, 2, 3, 4]; or $a = [‘one’ => 1, ‘two’ => 2, ‘three’ => 3, ‘four’ => 4];.
  • Function array dereferencing has been added, e.g. foo()[0].
  • Closures now support $this.
  • <?= is now always available, regardless of the short_open_tag php.ini option.
  • Class member access on instantiation has been added, e.g. (new Foo)->bar().

PHP 5.5.x

New features:

  • Support for generators has been added via the yield keyword. Generators provide an easy way to implement simple iterators without the overhead or complexity of implementing a class that implements the Iterator interface.

A simple example that reimplements the range() function as a generator (at least for positive step values):

function xrange($start, $limit, $step = 1) {
    for ($i = $start; $i <= $limit; $i += $step) {
        yield $i;

echo 'Single digit odd numbers: ';

 * Note that an array is never created or returned,
 * which saves memory.
foreach (xrange(1, 9, 2) as $number) {
    echo "$number ";

echo "\n";
  • finally keyword added
  • foreach now supports list()
  • empty() supports arbitrary expressions
  • array and string literal dereferencing
  • Function array dereferencing has been added, e.g. foo()[0].
  • Closures now support $this.
  • <?= is now always available, regardless of the short_open_tag php.ini option.
  • Class member access on instantiation has been added, e.g. (new Foo)->bar().

PHP 5.6.x

New features:

  • Constant expressions
  • Variadic functions can now be implemented using the … operator, instead of relying on func_get_args().

PHP 7.0.x

New features:

  • Scalar type declarations
  • Return type declarations
  • Null coalescing operator
  • Spaceship operator (<=>)
// Integers
echo 1 <=> 1; // 0
echo 1 <=> 2; // -1
echo 2 <=> 1; // 1

// Floats
echo 1.5 <=> 1.5; // 0
echo 1.5 <=> 2.5; // -1
echo 2.5 <=> 1.5; // 1
// Strings
echo "a" <=> "a"; // 0
echo "a" <=> "b"; // -1
echo "b" <=> "a"; // 1
  • Constant arrays using define()
  • Anonymous classes
interface Logger {
    public function log(string $msg);

class Application {
    private $logger;

    public function getLogger(): Logger {
         return $this->logger;

    public function setLogger(Logger $logger) {
         $this->logger = $logger;

$app = new Application;
$app->setLogger(new class implements Logger {
    public function log(string $msg) {
        echo $msg;


PHP 7.1.x

New features:

  • Nullable types

Type declarations for parameters and return values can now be marked as nullable by prefixing the type name with a question mark. This signifies that as well as the specified type, NULL can be passed as an argument, or returned as a value, respectively.

  • Void functions
  • Symmetric array destructuring

The shorthand array syntax ([]) may now be used to destructure arrays for assignments (including within foreach), as an alternative to the existing list() syntax, which is still supported.

  • Class constant visibility
  • iterable pseudo-type
  • Multi catch exception handling
  • Support for keys in list()
  • Asynchronous signal handling

PHP 7.2.x

New features:

  • New object type

function test(object $obj) : object
    return new SplQueue();

test(new StdClass());
  • Abstract method overriding
  • Password hashing with Argon2
  • Extended string types for PDO
  • Support for extended operations in LDAP


In this article, I tried to describe all the most important changes that have been made to PHP from 5.0.

See also