I am in Chicago this week, attending HostingCon 2007.
I'm not really attending the sessions actually. I'm mainly here to talk with the hosting companies about how we can better run b2evo on their shared hosting plans. Because that's actually how most b2evo users run it! (Ok, I'm also here to visit Chicago, which btw is pretty impressive... in many ways... but you'll have to check out my personal blogs for that kind of stuff ;))
One issue, of course, is to make installation as seamless as possible. Most of our hosting partners already offer easy installation method through cPanel + Fantastico Deluxe. However, in many cases there is room for improvement and we'll work on that. More on this later...
The other big thing, of course, is PHP 5!
You may have heard about the PHP group abandoning support for PHP4 at the end of the year. (Was bound to happen...)
You may have heard about the gophp5.org initiative. (Feels like a guerilla operation to me...)
And you may have read about some popular software strongly sticking to PHP4. (Huh!? What about supporting NCSA Mosaic?)
I'm sort of in the middle...
On the one hand, I reckon that the PHP 5 features would make the development of b2evolution easier and that it would even improve performance in some situations.
On the other hand, I also reckon that PHP 5 is not enabled by default on mosts hosts and that trying to use it involves more setup work on the user's shoulders.
And finally, I'm pretty disappointed with the PHP group who created the PHP4 vs PHP5 incompatibility problem in the first place. I still strongly believe there would have been an easy solution to the upgrade path.
(At this point I have to plead guilty for introducing my own lousy upgrade issues on some previous versions of b2evolution. However, I pledge to make upgrades easier after 2.0.)
Anyway, the PHP5 situation being what it is, my belief is that we can work it out with the hosting companies!
Having talked this through with a couple of them it turns out that:
- They all support PHP5, but in different ways. BlueHost has it enabled by default (nice!). Most of the others support it optionally. Sometimes you have to request it from tech support, but most of the time you can enable it through .htaccess or your own php.ini ... that is, if you're geeky enough for that kind of stuff! Anyway, the bottom line is: there is no standard way to enable PHP5 from one host to another.
- Mosts hosts actually did not realize that it is an issue to the development of software apps... since we somehow managed to still make it run on PHP4 so far.
- Many hosts actually did not realize that the lack of a standard mechanism to switch to PHP5 is a problem for seamless install.
- Many hosts actually did not realize that all PHP applications today, including b2evolution of course, do already work on PHP5 as well as PHP4.
After discussing this thoroughly with several hosts, I do believe there will be an acceptable consensus: most hosting companies seem to be willing to start to roll out PHP5 by default for all new accounts, a couple of months from now. (The current customers would still need to ask their tech support to be upgraded).
So I do have hopes that PHP5 will actually make it mainstream this year at all major hosts (and that the smaller ones will automatically follow). If it doesn't... We could still join the gophp5 "guerrilla" thing. However, I'd really like not to force PHP5 on the users as long as it requires an extra step in the install process.
Regarding b2evolution 2.0: we're still compatible with PHP4 of course. I personally run half of my servers on PHP4 and the other half on PHP5, just to make sure it works on both ;)
Now, being in the US with the tiny laptop makes it much harder for me to actually wrap up that 2.0 release... but I haven't given up yet! Stay tuned ;)