With the new year starting the PHP project is being asked to decide about the PHP 5 support timeline.
While Aligning PHP 5.6 support timeline with the release date of PHP 7.0 seems like common sense to keep the support schedule continuous, there’s a big question whether to extend it further to an additional one year of security support till the end of 2018. This would make PHP 5.6, the last of the PHP 5 branch, to have 2 years of security support and de facto getting the same life span as PHP 7.0 would (ending support of both in Dec 2018).
But beside of support issues, this also affects adoption rate of PHP 7.0, serving as a catalyst due to end of support for the PHP 5 branch. My concerns are that with the additional security support the project would need to deal with the many branches (5.6, 7.0, 7.1, 7.2 and then to be 7.3 branch).
I think we should limit what we guarantee (meaning keeping only one year of security support till end of 2017), and encourage project members and the eco-system (e.g. Linux distributions) to maintain further security based on best effort.
This is already the case for out of official support releases like the 5.3 and 5.4 branches (examples for backports done by Debian: 5.3 and 5.4). And of course, we also have companies that make their money out of long term support (e.g. RedHat).
On the other hand, we should help the eco system in doing such extended support, and hosting backported fixes in the project’s git repo instead of having each Linux disto do the same patch work on its own.