The future of PHP 5.3 support

One of the great challenges in developing Perch is dealing with a vast array of different hosting environments that the software needs to run on. From a client’s old $5-a-month shared hosting account to a cutting edge cloud-provisioned virtual server, the same Perch codebase needs to run in vastly disparate conditions.

To keep Perch easy to deploy, we try our best to put in the extra effort to keep things working in all environments – even really old and bad ones. We understand that it’s inconvenient if you come to make a site live and realise that the client’s hosting is just too old to support the software you’ve built their site on. We have to draw the line somewhere, however, as at a certain point it becomes irresponsible for us to be enabling use of insecure versions of PHP by maintaining support, and it also holds back the product from being able to embrace new features and optimisations.

As a compromise, Perch has always supported the most recently end-of-lifed version of PHP. That is to say, when the PHP project declare a version dead and stop offering security patches, that becomes our minimum supported version. We believe that strikes a balance between not being too inconvenient for old hosting, but also not holding the product back too much. As such, when security fixes ended for PHP 5.3 in the middle of 2014, that became the minimum version for Perch 2.5.

There are some exceptions, however. Perch Runway has always required PHP 5.4. The new Perch Shop requires PHP 5.4 also. Security updates ended for PHP 5.4 in the middle of 2015, and as such, Perch 2.9 will require PHP 5.4 or greater.

For some of you, that means that you’ll not be able to update to Perch 2.9 on your hosting. That’s because your hosting is old and insecure. Sorry, but you’re either going to need to update your hosting or not stick with the version of Perch you’ve got.

The good news is that each version of PHP gets better and faster. The current version of PHP is version 7 and it’s significantly faster than previous versions. That means your website will perform better for your customers without you really doing anything.

If you’re looking at updating, go with PHP 7 if it’s available. PHP 5.5 is about to be end-of-lifed this summer, so the version of PHP 5 to go with is PHP 5.6. (There was no PHP 6.)