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Facebook plans PHP changes

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On Tuesday, Facebook is expected to unveil changes to PHP, the language that helped make the social networking site a success - along with millions of other web sites.

SD Times has outed the planned change here. Facebook wouldn't provide details when contacted by The Reg but said it would make more details available Tuesday morning, Pacific time.

The changes have been described as either a re-write of the PHP runtime or a compiler for PHP.

A change to PHP would be Facebook's latest donation to the language, which has also had contributions from Microsoft and the former Sun Microsystems over the years.

PHP co-founder Andi Gutmans said that his company Zend Technologies was aware that Facebook has been planning a change, and told The Reg he thinks it will be "significant." But he wouldn't elaborate further.

"We have to see what come out," Gutmans said. "Generally speaking... I think there's been some good innovation at Facebook. I imagine some of it could help community PHP."

When it comes to run-times, there have been projects such as Caucho's Quercus - a Java implementation of the PHP language - and the Project Zero PHP runtime, but these have generally failed to get-traction. Gutmans said this was because open-source PHP has remained the industry's de-facto standard.

He's also not overly worried that what Facebook unveiled could lead to a fork of PHP, noting the community is not as political as, for example, the former Sun's MySQL community. He expects whatever Facebook announces to be under a community-friendly license, and said if it is innovative then he'd be happy to see it find its way into PHP.

He said developers would continue to get their PHP source from the community.

Gutmans noted Facebook might be introducing changes because of the scale of its operations and that changes in the language might help it cut the number of servers it needs.

"We've got to remember Facebook is a very different user - a very atypical user compared to the majority of users. The performance requirements at the scale they run is very different from even heavily loaded web sites that have tens or hundreds of servers. Saving 10 per cent can be thousands of servers," he said. ®

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