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The New Life of PHP – The PHP Foundation

During PHP’s 26-year history, the language has been actively developed by a huge number of people, such as Rasmus Lerdorf, Zeev Suraski, Andi Gutmans, Nikita Popov, and many, many others. In 2021, PHP is in for another round of evolution.

Nikita Popov switches focus from PHP

Nikita started working on PHP in 2011 when he was still in high school. He made his first contribution in PHP 5.5. During his 10 years in the PHP world, Nikita implemented innumerable features, bug fixes, and improvements to the development process of the language.

Nikita has worked on PHP at JetBrains for close to three years, managing to accomplish a lot during that time. Three major releases – PHP 7.4, PHP 8.0, and PHP 8.1 – include many of his contributions from that period.

Besides PHP, Nikita has long been a contributor to Rust and LLVM. And just like PHP, when it grew from a hobby to a real job, Nikita has decided to focus his professional activities on LLVM.

Nikita is leaving JetBrains as of December 1 and will spend significantly less time on PHP. As sad as it is to see him go, we congratulate Nikita and wish him every success in his new journey!

Thank you, Nikita, for everything you’ve done for PHP! Your work is truly appreciated by millions of PHP developers.

The bus factor

Losing one of the main contributors to PHP is a blow to the community, because he is the bearer of a lot of knowledge and expertise. It puts the language that powers 78% of the Web in a fragile position. Not to mention an overwhelming burden on the maintainer, which unfortunately in the world of OSS often leads to people burning out.

In May 2021, right after Joe Watkins published his Avoiding Busses blog post, we started discussing the idea of a PHP Foundation. It’s not something new and has been floating around for a long time. We talked to Joe and several other members of the PHP community, including Sebastian Bergmann and Stefan Priebsch (PHPUnit, thePHP.cc), who had already attempted to start a similar foundation in 2019.

Additionally, Zend by Perforce has been committed to PHP and contributed key initiatives to the PHP language for more than 20 years, including the PHP 5 object model, the opcode cache, the PHP 7 engine, and the JIT compiler. By continuing to fund full-time and part-time developers on the PHP project, Zend has helped ensure the ongoing prosperity and modernization of the PHP language, and its continued use for mission-critical application development.

We were proceeding rather leisurely, thinking that the problem was not critical. However, Nikita’s decision forced us to intensify our work on the foundation.

The PHP Foundation

After numerous conversations with members of the community as well as a number of companies that have vested interests in PHP, we are glad to announce that the following companies will all be joining forces to form a PHP Foundation:

The PHP Foundation will be a non-profit organization whose mission is to ensure the long life and prosperity of the PHP language.

To get off to a faster start and to reap the benefits of the Foundation right away, we have decided to do it via Open Collective: opencollective.com/phpfoundation.

Open Collective is a foundation-as-a-service provider that handles the legal and accounting aspects. Open Collective is trusted by many open source projects, including Vue.js, Open Web Docs, webpack, Yii Framework, and others.

With the projected donations from all the participating companies so far, we expect to raise about $300,000 per year. JetBrains intends to contribute $100,000 annually.

We expect to be able to pay market salaries to PHP core developers. The more we collect, the more developers will be able to work full-time on PHP.

Please consider joining the sponsors and helping PHP thrive!

 

Foundation administration

Initially, a temporary administration will be put in place, with the composition of the permanent administration to be decided once the Foundation is up and running. The temporary administration will facilitate the establishment of the Foundation’s rules and bylaws.

The temporary administration will include representatives of sponsors and a group of PHP fellows: Rasmus Lerdorf, Dmitry Stogov, Joe Watkins, Sara Golemon, Derick Rethans, Sebastian Bergmann, and Nikita Popov.

 

Foundation activities

Funds collected by the Foundation may be used to engage the services of PHP contributors in order to further advance the development of the language. The primary task of the Foundation will be to fund developers to work on PHP.

The Foundation and anybody who receives funds from it will be required to abide by the Code of Conduct.

 

Selection for funding

Any contributor to php-src may apply to the Foundation for funding.

The Foundation is looking to fund both part-time and full-time developers, and other sources of income do not preclude you from contracting with the Foundation. The positions are not permanent and may be canceled upon agreement of the Foundation administration.

The application period begins immediately and will last 28 days.

Please apply using this form: https://forms.gle/mk52v6FphaYr6yMS8.

Initially, the temporary administration will collaboratively use their expertise to decide who should get funding.

What’s next

Once the developers are selected, the temporary administration will formalize and document the working processes with the help of PHP community members.

The current RFC process will not change, and language decisions will always be left to the PHP Internals community.

You can follow the updates from the PHP Foundation at opencollective.com/phpfoundation and @ThePHPF.

To learn more about the work of the PHP Foundation, get involved, or inquire about other ways to contribute, please email phpfoundationofficial@gmail.com.

How you can help

If you want to help the Foundation and the development of PHP, please consider the following options:

1. If you are a PHP core developer, please apply.

2. Donate to the fund at the OpenCollective opencollective.com/phpfoundation. Please note there aren’t any bonuses for doing so yet except for supporting the PHP Foundation and the PHP core development.

3. If your employer uses PHP, let your management know about the opportunity to support PHP.

4. Spread the message on social media using the #ThePHPFoundation hashtag and mentioning @ThePHPF.

FAQ

Q: Why do bad things happen to good languages?
A: The loss of a major contributor to the language will be felt by everyone involved. However, PHP will endure, and the Foundation is the best way to ensure that. Every cloud has a silver elephpant.

Q: Where can I buy this silver elephpant?
A: TBA 🙂

Q: Can I donate via GitHub Sponsors?
A: Not just yet. We plan to add such an option soon.

Q: How much funding can I apply for?
A: You can apply for a 20%, part-time position, or more, up to a full-time position.

Q: What is the Foundation’s operational scope?
A: Our initial scope of operations is narrow so as to maximize the chances of successfully addressing our immediate concern – that there are not enough core developers working on PHP.
In our first year or two, our only priority will be the hiring of core developers. Eventually, after our immediate concern has been resolved, the Foundation will be prepared to expand the scope of operations to include the hiring of developers dedicated to non-core projects. Beyond that, we may expand our focus to include community-oriented projects.

Q: How long will the board have to formalize the operating procedures?
A: The Foundation aims to formalize its operating procedures within 6 months.

Q: Does this have anything to do with Rasmus’s birthday?
A: No, the Nov 22 date is just a coincidence. Nothing to do with Nikita’s birthday either, which is off-by-one, Nov 23.

Thanks

Special thanks go to the PHP community members who helped make this all happen – Joe Watkins, Stefan Priebsch, Sebastian Bergmann, Sara Golemon, Larry Garfield, Alexander Makarov, Nicolas Grekas, Ben Ramsey, and many others.
Thank you, folks!