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What happens on 28 November 2022 as far as PHP 7.4 support is concerned?


We read a lot of advice on The Joomla! Forum™ and elsewhere about the end of support for PHP 7.4 set to occur on 28 November this year.

Website owners should always be alert to what’s happening around them and, particularly, what may affect their web hosting environment and the companies they do business with. To put this another way, website owners should try to be proactive and take reasonable precautions to safeguard their websites.  More importantly, people should not panic.

Let’s establish a very clear understand of what we’re discussing:  when 28 November 2022 arrives does it mean that people’s websites will suddenly go “belly-up” and cease to work?  The simple answer is no; it means nothing of the sort.

If you are running Joomla websites using PHP 7.4 (or even older versions than that), you’ve probably seen the nag-screen notice appearing in the backend of your website (assuming you occasionally log in to the backend of your J! website from time to time) that looks something like this:

PHP 7.4 end of life notice

So what does this actually mean?  It means that your webhosting provider will not be getting updates for PHP 7.something after that date. That’s all it means.  It could, however, herald a policy change in the webhosting company’s business plan concerning how long the company will continue to offer PHP 7.x to their customers.  Will this happen on 28 November 2022? I would be very surprised if it did!

It may happen that your webhosting provider will withdraw the availability of PHP 7.x within a year or two. I'm surprised that my webhosting provider still offers PHP 5.6 (although I would never use it myself) and PHP 5.6 was end of life nearly four years ago! I’m even more surprised that people are still running J! 1.0 (which uses PHP 4) and they're still asking questions about it!

It’s possible that your webhosting provider may “upgrade” the version of PHP that you have been using to something else.  Anything is possible, isn’t it?

And, by the way, if you happen to be using an older version of PHP with your Joomla website, the notice looks different—it appears as an error!

PHP 5.6.40 end of life error

The curious wording—“we have detected”—does not mean that the Joomla project is sniffing around websites that are using unsupported versions of PHP!  Although the EOL notice about PHP 7.x is legitimate and should be taken seriously, it doesn’t mean that your website is at risk of imminent failure. The message is simply good advice (which people can choose to follow or ignore as they wish) to inform you that perhaps, one day, your website may be at risk of failure. It doesn’t mean that if you have a problem after 28 November 2022 that you will not be able to ask questions at The Joomla! Forum™ about using J! with unsupported versions of PHP.

There is no error in using versions of PHP that are no longer supported. Some people, however, may have problems using supported versions of PHP with their Joomla websites as I’ve tried to summarise in the following table:

 PHP version J! 3.x (w/o extensions) J! 3.x (with extensions) J! 4.x (w/o extensions) J! 4.x (with extensions)
< 7.2.5  > 75% certainty
50/50 chance
Almost certain to fail
Almost certain to fail
7.2.5 - 7.4.29 Reliable
50/50 chance
Reliable 50/50 chance
8.0 >75% certainty
50/50 chance
50/50 chance
8.1 May work if you set error reporting level = "Simple" or "None" <50% chance
>75% certainty
<50% chance
8.2 Almost certain to fail
 Almost certain to fail
May work if you set error reporting level = "Simple" or "None" <10% chance of success

 Green  is good,  Red  is bad and other colours are a “lucky dip”.

So, what happens after 28 November 2022? Life goes on, that’s what happens! End of life as far as support for PHP 7.4 is concerned does not translate into end of life for your website.

So next time you read the advice that says “PHP 7.4 will reach end of life on 28 November this year” just remember it’s just good advice.

Do I still use PHP 7.x with my J! websites?  Yes! Do I use PHP 8.x with my J! websites?  Yes! Will I continue to use PHP 7.x with my J! websites after 28 November this year. Of course I will!  Am I worried: well, not really.  My websites are a hobby (for the most part) and if my websites suddenly collapsed and died I would do something else. Don’t panic: life goes on.

This article is an expansion on the author’s previously published work at The Joomla Forum™

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