How to bump Minimal PHP Version without Leaving Anyone Behind?

Last week we introduced Prefixed Rector by Default. The main advantage of this release is that you have a single package to install, with no conflicts and minimal PHP version.

Rector can be used on PHP 7.1+ platforms. Yet, we bumped a minimal version to PHP 8. Is that a BC break?

Isn't that an irony that a tool that focuses on instant upgrades of legacy codebase wants to require the latest PHP as a minimum in composer.json? Aren't developers using PHP 8 the group of people that would never use Rector? Why upgrade to PHP 8 if we already have it?

In last post, we shared a new architecture of development and distribution repository. In short, this is the current situation:

1. Development Repository

This is a repository where you can send pull-request and change the code. We can use development dependencies to change the code and test Rector rules with PHPUnit, Rector, ECS, and PHPStan.

Its current composer.json:

    "name": "rector/rector-src",
    "require": {
        "php": ">=7.3"

This package cannot be installed through composer require rector/rector-src, as it's not designed for end-users. If we would make a cake, it's a <těsto> :)

2. Release Repository

This repository is read-only and published from rector/rector-src. It's for developers who want to use Rector in their projects like:

composer require rector/rector --dev

How is it different from rector/rector-src? It's prefixed and downgraded to PHP 7.1. It includes the dependencies from /vendor, which are prefixed and downgraded too. Do you know PHAR? This repository is similar, just unpacked.

It's current composer.json:

    "name": "rector/rector",
    "require": {
        "php": ">=7.1"

Single PHP Version bump Leads to Chain of BC Breaks

Bumping a minimal version in a package usually means that every package user must upgrade their PHP version to use the new package.

E.g., if/when Symfony 6 will require at least PHP 8 and you will still have PHP 7.4, you need to upgrade your PHP first to PHP 8, and only then can you install Symfony 6. At first, it seems like one step task, but there a fractal of traps behind the first corner.

If you upgrade the PHP version, all the packages in your vendor have to work on the new version. The new PHP version is usually connected to a major package release (e.g., Symfony 5 → 6). And what does major package release mean for changes? There will be BC breaks.

One package changed single PHP version requirement and soon you have to take a 3 months windows to upgrade your whole project and its dependencies.

Require min. PHP 8?

Despite this, we decided to bump the min PHP version for the Rector code base to PHP 8.

     "name": "rector/rector-src",
     "require": {
-        "php": ">=7.3"
+        "php": ">=8.0"

"What? Are you serious?"

Yes. Now look more carefully at the composer.json change. It's not rector/rector, but rector/rector-src.

"So no changed for us end-users? We will still be able to use Rector on PHP 7.1. Even you build it in PHP 8?"


"That's amazing!"

Yes, it is.

How can Symfony 6 require PHP 8 and run PHP 7.1?

How can the PHP community benefit from this release model? Let's look at about use case we talked about before.

Symfony 6 will require PHP 8. But some people are stuck on the PHP 7.x version because their project is on a single server with 50 other projects (or any other valid reason).

Yet, they would love to use Symfony 6 features. Why? One reason for all - every single minor release has few super cool DX improvements.

So how can we do that for both groups?

Monorepo Combo!

We're lucky here, as the Symfony repository is using monorepo architecture. That means all the developments happen in symfony/symfony, and packages are split into smaller read-only repositories:

  • symfony/console
  • symfony/event-dispatcher
  • ...

Can you see the pattern Symfony, PHPStan, and Rector share?

We can add a "middleware" operation, thanks to the way the split happens on release. This middleware operation will downgrade code from PHP 8 to PHP 7.1, and the tag will be published with code on PHP 7.1.

Per-PHP Versions

"So if Symfony 6 is out, there will be only PHP 7.1 version? What if I have 2 projects and I want to make use of PHP 8 native code?"

No worries. Each release should have per PHP version tag.

  • Do you want to install Symfony 6 with PHP 8? Not a problem.
  • Do you want to install Symfony 6 with PHP 7.1? Yes, we can do that

"How do we have to install a package that fits our version? Will there be symfony/console-php71?"

That would be a way to go, but it would only bother users with learning new packages names for implementation detail they don't care about. That's why we merged rector/rector and rector/rector-prefixed.

Composer Semver to the Rescue

Instead, we can use simple tagging, adding the last 2 digits to the state PHP version.

  • 6.0.0 - native release without downgrade - no need to version
  • - downgraded release to PHP 7.1
# on PHP 8
composer require symfony/console:^6.0
...installing symfony/console:6.0.0

# on PHP 7.1
composer require symfony/console:^6.0
...installing symfony/console:

This way, if any package will require symfony/console:^6.0, they will always match the current set of features.

For now, it's just an idea. Yet we already can see working prototype examples in the PHP world. PHPStan is using this release approach since 0.12. This week Rector and ECS has joined.

The question is not "how can we do it",
but "who will be next"?

Happy coding!