Take a Look at the New Features of PHP 8

By | January 5, 2021

PHP is a well-known server-side scripting language that empowers web developers and designers to create powerful and dynamic websites with ease. PHP is a tool that allows these websites to interact and exchange information with databases stored all over the internet. PHP is a must-learn skill for all web design firms, and is best used for making web-based applications.

Even though it started out as a small personal project of the Danish-Canadian techie called Rasmus Lerdorf, PHP has become immensely popular. This is mainly due to its simplicity, consistency and versatility. Many versions of PHP have been rolled out since 1994, and the latest one – PHP 8 was rolled out only a few days ago on November 26, 2020.

Here are some of the newest and coolest features afforded by PHP 8, which are the primary reasons why almost 80% of all server-side websites use PHP as a script.

1. Just-In-Time Compilation: Just-In-Time (JIT) compilation, also known as dynamic translation is one of the most exciting features provided by PHP 8. While normal compilation processes work on the code before execution, JIT compilation processes the code exactly during runtime. PHP 8 has a new framework that allows web developers to take advantage of the new and improved JIT compiler.

In many scenarios, the JIT compiler will increase the efficiency of web development teams. According to developers working on PHP, the introduction of a JIT compiler will provide a very substantial performance improvement to those websites who adopt the new script. JIT compilers are going to be especially beneficial for websites that have to do some sort of mathematical operations.

2. Addition of the ‘match’ expression: PHP 8’s library has been updated to include the “match” expression, which is functionally similar to the previous “switch” expression. However, match is a much needed upgrade over switch – because it has the ability to accept and return values. The semantics of the ‘match’ expression are also considerably safer than those of the latter.

You must keep in mind that the ‘match’ expression only supports single-line statements, which is why you will also not need to use a “break;” statement along with it. It will reduce the complexity of your code and help to improve modularity as well. The biggest advantage that the ‘match’ statement offers users is its comparable compact nature and versatility.

3. Named Arguments: Another substantial change that was included in PHP 8 is that of named arguments. Now, developers will be able to specify functions that have only required arguments – and remove the ones that are optional. This feature allows developers to construct complex functions that have arguments which are order-independent and self-documented. Such functions can be called quite simply.

While executing your code, you will be able to call functions and arguments based on their name – as opposed to their position. You will also be able to improve the performance of your website by enabling it to skip default values in an arbitrary way. The biggest benefit of named arguments is that it makes the parameter positions completely insignificant.

4. Constructor Property Promotion: This is a very neat feature that will allow you to define and initialize your functions and constructors without complicating your code too much. Property promotions allows developers to find a clean way in which they can define and initialize all of their property values. Properties can now be treated the same way as function parameters.

As a result, you will no longer need to define properties both in the class and in the body of the constructor function. The complexity and obfuscation of your code will also decrease and it will become significantly more readable and simple. Your programming style will also become more flexible as you won’t have to worry excessively about user errors.

5. Null Safe Operator Introduction: In previous versions of PHP, the null coalescing operator had to be used many times while implementing method calls. Intermediate checks would have to be implemented at every step of the way, which would make the code very complex and hard. The null safe operator is a new functionality that supports method calls without checks.

In short, you will no longer need to verify each chain statement while you are making method calls. The null safe operator will make sure that the chain aborts and returns a null value if the evaluation of any one element fails. There is no reason to check if chain elements exist during compilation. This drastically increases the compilation time.

6. Consistent Type Errors: Type errors are probably the most commonplace errors that developers have to deal with while working with PHP. Consistent error messages are vital to the proper development and execution of good quality PHP code and websites. PHP 8 equips all of its internal functions to throw consistent type errors if the validation of the argument fails.

7. Introduction of ‘Throw’ Expression: In earlier versions of PHP, ‘throw’ was a statement and not an expression – meaning that it couldn’t be used across the board. In PHP 8, throw has been changed to an expression – allowing its usage in any valid context where expressions are permitted. This feature is very useful as it makes PHP coding more versatile.

8. Addition of Weak Maps: First, you should know what a weak map is. In PHP, a weak map is a collection of objects that have been referenced “weakly”. In other words, a weak reference does not protect data objects from being sent to the garbage section. PHP 8 allows users to add weak references and strengthen their overall code.

9. Some Syntactic Changes: PHP 8 has also introduced some basic syntactic changes that will make coding easy for the developer. For example, one of the major changes is the introduction of trailing commas in the parameter list. These commas can be added as parameters, function methods, closures and more.

These are the best new features of PHP 8, which will drastically improve the performance and error handling capabilities of the server-side script. As time goes on, PHP continues to improve and provide its massive user base with some of the best features.

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