PHP Manual Masterpieces

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Mar 3

Nothing Is Deprecated, Everything Is Permitted

Blogging something real quick while I maybe look to see what kind of fun factor I can get out of the Mt. Gox leak:

It is absolutely 100% true that PHP, the platform, has finally deprecated a bunch of Dumb Stuff, and in some cases has even gotten past the deprecation stage to remove the Dumbest Stuff completely. This is good! This is great.

But that doesn’t mean PHP, the community, is suddenly absolved of the problems those misfeatures brought in the first place. For one thing, most PHP deployments are not continuously upgrading to the newest version of PHP or even the newest stable. The last time I wanted to test something, I had to pull PHP and compile it from scratch because the features in question weren’t in Debian yet. However, some people were already saying that the assorted changes in PHP 5.4 meant I couldn’t pick on those things anymore, before 5.4 was available through standard package distribution!

More critically, though, is that the amount of PHP code in production which is old will always exceed that which is new. The normal lifecycle of a piece of code is to write it once, make notable adjustments once or twice, and put it on minimum maintenance forever until the website goes away. The majority of commercial PHP code that I have seen with my own eyes clearly dates to the PHP 4 era or was written by someone who stopped learning in the PHP 4 era, which was the perfect storm of popularity and screwed-up-ness. This code did not magically get better when it was acknowledged that certain language features were bad news. It stayed more or less exactly the same. It’s still running.

Old code does not magically improve. New code is often written with reference to old code. Heck, new code is often literally just copy-pasted from a forum comment written in 2003. PHP’s misfeatures will persist many years past the official attempt to fix them. And that’s terrible :(