06 February 2013

Back in July 2012 we started issuing a warning message when you were using our software with PHP 5.2. In that message we were saying that in the coming months PHP 5.2 support would be dropped. The time has come. All Akeeba software releases starting February 2013 will not support PHP 5.2. In fact, they cannot run on PHP 5.2 at all. If you try installing one of those releases on a site running on PHP 5.2 you will get an error message that the installation was aborted. This is done on purpose, trying to avoid an unfortunate upgrade from causing grave issues on your site. You will have to upgrade your server to PHP 5.3 or later.

Now, before you pick up your torches and pitchforks, please let us explain why we decided to drop PHP 5.2 support.

PHP 5.2 is a dead release. It became end-of-life on January 6th, 2011 when the final version, PHP 5.2.17, was released. As the PHP website reads on that page:

If you are using these releases, you are strongly urged to upgrade to a current version, as using older versions may expose you to security vulnerabilities and bugs that have been fixed in more recent versions of PHP.

This is exactly the case with PHP 5.2, a version of PHP which is end of life for over 2 years. As a matter of fact, just a mere days after it became end of life a major security flaw was detected. It was fixed in PHP 5.3 but not in PHP 5.2. If you are using PHP 5.2 you are exposed to known security threats which are being used to attack web sites. The nature of these attacks means that your server's firewall and/or a security component (like Admin Tools Professional) cannot protect your site. If you are using PHP 5.2 your site will be hacked. The question is not if, but when. So, using PHP 5.2 hurts your site's security.

The current PHP versions at the time of this writing are PHP 5.4.10 and PHP 5.3.20, both released in December 2012. PHP 5.3 is approaching the end-of-life mark itself, whereas PHP 5.4 is now officially considered mature. So, using PHP 5.2 is, practically, being two major releases behind; in the software timescale that's an eternity.

On top of that PHP 5.2 lacks several features necessary for modern software development, like late static binding. To cut a long story short, if we kept on supporting PHP 5.2 we could no longer maintain our software in a way that is consistent with our commitment to providing up-to-date and easy to use software. We'd be stuck in the Stone Age until we reached a point that we could no longer provide new features and updates. So, using PHP 5.2 doesn't allow efficient software development.

PHP 5.2 is also slow. Really slow. According to our tests, PHP 5.2 is six to seven times (600% - 700%) slower than PHP 5.3 on the same hardware. No joking! For example, our test sites backs up at 2 minutes 23 seconds on PHP 5.2 and just 31 seconds on PHP 5.3. Same site, same configuration, same hardware. We run the test 5 times and the time was always the same, down to the second. That's a huge speed difference. Remember that search engines rank faster loading sites first. So, using PHP 5.2 hurts your search engine rankings.

Many of you might be wondering what they can do if their host is still on PHP 5.2.

There are hosts which still offer PHP 5.2 by default but do support PHP 5.3 or 5.4 as an option. On these hosts you can ask them for the proper way to upgrade to PHP 5.3. Usually it's a configuration option in your site's control panel or in your .htaccess. Please do. Joomla! 2.5 and all of its extensions are PHP 5.3 ready. Joomla! 3.0 and later actually requires PHP 5.3; you can't use it on older PHP versions.

IMPORTANT: Some hosts claim that the only alternative to PHP 5.2 they can offer is PHP 6. DO NOT USE THAT! PHP 6 was supposed to be the next release after PHP 5.2 but its development was halted and PHP 5.3 was released instead. PHP 6 is pre-alpha, unstable software which will break your site. If your host didn't explain this to you you must switch hosts immediately; apparently there are some hosts which don't bother if they screw you up, as long as you're paying them for the privilege.

Even worse, there are still hosts which do not offer you any way to use PHP 5.3 or later. These hosts must be avoided at all cost. It means that the hosting company doesn't care about investing the minimal amount of time required to properly setup their machines and ensure your security. Do you really want to trust them with your site? Would you tolerate a kindergarten serving stale food to your child? It's the same question. If you're stuck on such a host we strongly recommending moving to a decent hosting company. We have compiled a short list of quality hosts you might want to consider. The list is by now means exhaustive; these are simply the hosts we have personally tried. Here you go, in no particular order:

None of those links are affiliate links and there are no discounts for you or any benefit for us. It's an honest list of hosting facilities we actually like, have tested and found perfectly compatible with Joomla!, our extensions and extensions by major Joomla! extension providers.