A figure looks through a pair of binoculars with PHP on the lenses, representing planning a PHP migration
May 23, 2024

PHP Migration Trends to Watch in 2024

State of PHP

PHP migration ensures your application has the most up-to-date features, security improvements, and performance benefits available. However, despite the advantages of upgrading PHP versions, many teams delay the process due to the possible disruptions and associated challenges.

With over twenty years of experience supporting PHP applications, Zend is dedicated to providing the information and context necessary for considering, planning, or implementing a PHP migration. As a part of our annual PHP Landscape Report, we surveyed over 500 PHP developers and administrators from around the world about their PHP version adoptions, migration plans, and more.

In this blog, we examine the current landscape of PHP version adoption, explore how companies approached or are approaching 2024 migrations, and inspect pain points preventing successful migration. We then discuss what the data means for your applications in the coming year.

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PHP Version Usage: Understanding the Current Landscape

We began our survey by asking participants to identify PHP versions currently used within their applications so that we could create a full image of the current landscape. This included the option to select multiple choices.

As reflected in the chart below, the version with the highest reported rate of adoption was PHP 8.2 at 57.17% of responses. It was followed by PHP 8.1 at 53.67%, PHP 7.4 at 47.73%, and PHP 8.0 at 34.79%. These four leaders were followed by PHP 7.0-7.2 with 18.36% of participants reporting usage, PHP 7.3 with 16.08%, and PHP 5.6 or earlier with 15.91%.

Chart displaying which versions of PHP survey participants used in their PHP applications.
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

Looking at our data, we found that over half of all surveyed teams are using an end-of-life PHP version, marking a decrease of 7.31% from our 2023 report. Other notable year-over-year decreases include:

  • PHP 7.4 usage dropped by 22.88%
  • PHP 7.3 dropped by 32.35%
  • PHP 7.0-7.2 dropped by 45.08%

Additionally, we saw adoption of PHP 8.x versions climb 56.68% year over year, while adoption of PHP 7.x versions dropped 31.04% and adoption of PHP versions 5.6 and earlier dropped 49.44%. We likewise observed a rise in EOL PHP usage for companies with under 100 employees (55.56%), and a drop for companies with over 100 employees (52.73%), as is displayed in the chart below.

Chart displaying PHP version adoption segmented out by various criteria
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

As we are currently in the second year where the only-community supported versions of PHP are in the 8 series, we expected to see some shifts and changes. When the last major release cycle occurred (PHP 5 to PHP 7), it took until version 7.3 or 7.4 before we observed significant migration from PHP 5. With PHP 7 to PHP 8, we’re experiencing a faster uptick in PHP upgrades. We believe this is due to the lower-impact backwards incompatible changes introduced with PHP 8 compared to PHP 7.

Read the Full 2024 PHP Landscape Report

The PHP ecosystem is constantly evolving and adapting. Keep your team informed and up to date on the top trends, technologies, and challenges for PHP applications in 2024 by reading the complete findings of our annual report.

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Once we understood our participants’ current PHP usage, we wanted to learn more about the details of their migration efforts. We asked teams to share if they’d completed a migration within the last twelve months as well as if they plan to update PHP versions in the next twelve months. For those who have completed a migration, we also asked which PHP versions they migrated to and from.

PHP Migrations Within the Last 12 Months

In our first survey section, we examined organizations who have completed PHP migrations in the past twelve months. A majority of respondents (72.28%) reported a migration. However, we did find that larger companies were more likely to have completed a migration compared to their smaller counterparts (78.28% vs. 68.50%). Segmenting further, we found that companies with over ten developers were far more likely to have completed a migration compared to teams with under ten developers (80.12% vs. 69.19%).

We also noted that larger companies were more likely to adopt community-supported versions. We expect this is due to having more staff capable of maintaining applications and providing compatibility updates. 

A chart displaying survey responses answering if their team completed a PHP migration in the last 12 months. The data is then segmented by company size and number of developers.
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

How Containerization and Orchestration Impacted PHP Migration

We were curious how containerization and orchestration technologies impacted PHP migration in 2024. Based on the responses, we noted that organizations utilizing these tools were more likely to have completed a migration than those who did not. This aligns with our findings regarding organization size and migration habits, as larger companies tend to have the resources available to take advantage of container and orchestration technology.

Chart displaying responses regarding companies using container and orchestration technologies
Chart displaying responses from companies not using container and orchestration technologies
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

Regarding PHP migration, we find that containers and orchestration tools help achieve results in testable and repeatable ways, as migrations not only involve ensuring that the code works correctly on the new version but also infrastructure provisioning and configuration. Often, changing a PHP version in such systems is a small change in configuration, and the results can then be tested in existing CI/CD pipelines.

Finally, we strongly feel that container adoption and usage of orchestration tooling helps organizations, regardless of size, be more successful in PHP migrations while also contributing to greater application security practices.

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PHP Migration Trends by Version

We then asked respondents who indicated they performed a migration in the past twelve months to disclose which PHP version(s) they had migrated from and to. It is worth nothing, however, that PHP 8.3 was not included as a potential option as it had not been released by the launch of our survey.

Two charts displaying PHP teams responses to questions regarding which PHP version they migrated from and to.
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

Looking at our results, the top PHP versions participants migrated from were PHP 7.4 (54.59%), PHP 5.6 or older (25.81%), and PHP 8.0 (25.06%). Rounding out the top five were PHP 7.2 and PHP 7.3, at 19.35% and 17.37% respectively.

We noted that the top PHP migration destinations were all PHP 8.x versions, with PHP 8.2 leading at 56.33%. PHP 8.1 and PHP 8.0 followed at 46.04% and 21.34% respectively. Lastly, 15.63% of respondents stated that they had performed a migration to PHP 7.4 in the past twelve months.

Chart displaying PHP migration patterns from versions 5.6 and older.


Two charts, one showing migration trends from PHP 7.4 and the other showing migration trends from PHP 8.0
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

Examining the data reported by teams who migrated off PHP versions 5.6 and older, we found the top three migration destinations were PHP 8.2 (22.23%), PHP 8.1 (20.24%), and PHP 7.4 (18.6%). For teams who migrated from PHP 7.4, the top migration destinations were PHP 8.2 (42.11%), PHP 8.1 (39.32%), and PHP 8.0 (18.58%). Lastly, looking at teams who migrated from PHP 8.0, the top choice was PHP 8.2 at 54.74%, followed by PHP 8.1 at 45.26%. 

We always recommend that organizations deploying PHP applications be on versions under community support. However, we note that for those on older PHP 7 or PHP 5 versions, the logical waypoint for migrations is to upgrade to PHP 7.4. Getting to this version and addressing language deprecations will set your business up for success when preparing for a migration to PHP 8.

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Forward-Looking PHP Upgrade and Migration Plans

To forecast upcoming PHP migration trends, we asked participants to share their plans regarding PHP upgrades and migrations in the next twelve months. 68.17% of respondents indicated that they plan to upgrade in the coming year, and 23.33% reported no migration plans at the time of the survey.

Chart showing plans to migrate PHP versions in the next twelve months, including segmented charts displaying data separated by company size and those who completed a migration within the last 12 months.
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

Segmenting the data by company size, we saw two minor shifts between large and small companies, following the pattern of larger companies being more likely to pursue migration compared to their smaller counterparts. 

Additionally, we found that 71.61% of teams who had completed a migration were planning another in the next year. A further 7.79% indicated that while they have a migration planned, it will not occur in the next twelve months. 

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PHP Migration Pain Points

Upgrading PHP versions leads to improved security, performance, compliance, and more. But despite the many advantages, migration involves many moving parts. To understand the pain points impacting PHP teams, we asked survey participants to share the most time-consuming component of their last PHP upgrade. Responses were limited to a single selection per respondent.

Chart displaying answers surrounding the most time-consuming component of previous PHP upgrades
Source: 2024 PHP Landscape Report

Refactoring and Testing nearly tied for the most reported time-consuming element of migrations, carrying 37.31% and 37.12% of responses respectively. Trailing behind by a significant margin were Infrastructure Provisioning (9.23%), Planning (9.04%), and Compliance Renewals (3.65%). The remaining 3.65% of participants selected Other, with dependencies noted as the most time-consuming element of the participants’ last migration.

While Refactoring and Testing were neck and neck as the top pain point for all respondents, when segmenting responses by teams who had migrated off of PHP 7.x versions, we noticed that Refactoring (42.75%) was selected at a higher rate than Testing (35.69%), climbing above the 37.31% noted in the non-segmented results.

Chart displaying pain points for PHP teams who migrated off PHP 7.4
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Final Thoughts

With the aggressive lifecycle of PHP versions, PHP migration and adoption is an unavoidable eventuality for teams to tackle. Migrations are often completed in stages, with organizations moving to an intermediary version before arriving at their target version. With each stage of this process taking months or years, upgrading PHP versions can become an expensive, lengthy, and stressful process.

Despite these challenges, PHP migrations remain a necessary and recommended part of maintaining your PHP application. The PHP release cycle has adopted a regular cadence that includes a yearly feature release, with each such release receiving two years of active support with two additional years of security-only support—a recent change from the previous release cycle, which included only one additional year of security-only support. This churn means that migrations should occur every two to three years at minimum to keep your application secure, compliant, and performing at a high level.

One way to simplify the upgrading process is to partner with an experienced team of PHP experts, such as Zend. Doing so will ensure no detail is missed, disruptions are kept to a minimum, and long-term costs are managed as much as possible.

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Additional Resources

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