PHP 7 & its compatibility with WordPress

August 24, 2017

Every new version of PHP brings some improvements and the possible fixes to the issues faced with the previous version. PHP 7, being no exception to this, brings in performance improvements along with extremely reduced memory consumption.

Its New Zend engine 3.0 equips your app with up to 2x faster performance and 50% better memory consumption when compared to PHP 5.6 and this allows you to serve a larger number of concurrent users without having to add any hardware.

Some of the new features available in PHP 7 are:

  • Scalar type declarations
  • Return type declarations
  • Null coalescing operator
  • Spaceship operator
  • Constant arrays using define()
  • Anonymous classes

Performance improvements in PHP 7 are in terms of:

  • Improved bandwidth (The number of requests handled per second)
  • Lower latency for concurrent users
  • 75% fewer instructions with the same result
  • Significant performance gains

The reasons to upgrade to PHP 7 are:

  • encourages users to always use the latest version of PHP for improved security and performance.
  • PHP 7 enforces better coding standards.
  • The latest PHP version can run significantly faster than its predecessors, which will improve your site’s speed as well.

The latest WordPress releases are optimized for PHP 7 and have been fine-tuned to leverage PHP 7’s latest features. According to Zend, “One WordPress request on PHP 5.6 executes just under 100 million instructions, while PHP 7 alone executes 25 million to perform the same job”.

There are many reports on the Web that assert an incredible boost in the WordPress Application performance when it is hosted on PHP 7.

In PHP, while introducing its new version:

  • some extensions may have been removed
  • some functionality or some extensions may have been deprecated
  • some functions may have been changed

While WordPress is compatible to PHP 7, not all its themes and plugins necessarily are compatible to it and therefore, the plugin and theme developers need to take care of all the backward incompatible changes there are.

Before making the move to PHP 7, you should spend time with your WordPress to identify all the incompatibility issues existing if any and attempt to find a fix for all those since once the upgrade is made, you can just not go back to the legacy systems anymore. This is the reason why upgrading to PHP 7 has still been kept as a choice and has not been mandated yet. So, in short, the move to PHP 7 should be considered only once you are prepared with everything ranging from plug-ins to themes to the hosting server that’s compatible to the version 7.

Use of PHP Compatibility Checker

Any WordPress based website can make use of WP Engine PHP Compatibility Checker to verify the PHP version compatibility. This plugin checks the code of the theme and plugin within your WordPress file system to provide you with a detailed compatibility report with the issues that need to be fixed. Among these compatibility issues, there are some errors and some warnings. It gives you a list of the files along with the line number of the code that have any compatibility issue along with the details such as the reason of incompatibility with the PHP version in question.While detecting the compatibility issues, this plugin does not require to execute the plugin code or the theme code of your application and so, it gives you no idea on issues pertaining to the runtime compatibility.

WP Engine now supports PHP 7. So, if you are looking to make your move from WordPress to PHP7, the use of PHP Compatible Checker plugin is recommended since it helps you a great deal to determine which all plugins, themes, etc. are ready for PHP 7 and which all of these elements have issues to be resolved before migrating to PHP7.
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