Addressing ‘Bus Factor’, PHP Gets a Foundation

How many members of your team are so irreplaceable that if they were hit by a bus, your project would grind to a halt?

For PHP, that number is: two. (According to a post by PHP contributor Joe Watkins earlier this year that’s now being cited in Mike Melanson’s “This Week in Programming” column.)

“Maybe as few as two people would have to wake up this morning and decide they want to do something different with their lives in order for the PHP project to lack the expertise and resources to move it forward in its current form, and at current pace,” Watkins wrote at the time, naming Dmitry Stogov and Nikita Popov as those two. Well, last week, Nikita Popov was thankfully not hit by a bus, but he did decide to move on from his role with PHP to instead focus his activities on LLVM.

Also thankfully, Watkins’ article earlier this year opened some eyes to the situation at hand and, as he writes in a follow-up article this week, JetBrains (Popov’s employer) reached out to him at the time regarding starting a PHP Foundation. This week, with Popov’s departure, the PHP Foundation was officially launched with the goal of funding part/full-time developers to work on the PHP core in 2022. At launch, the PHP Foundation will count 10 companies — Automattic, Laravel, Acquia, Zend, Private Packagist, Symfony, Craft CMS, Tideways, PrestaShop, and JetBrains — among its backers, with an expectation to raise $300,000 per year, and with JetBrains contributing $100,000 annually. Alongside that, the foundation is being launched using foundation-as-a-service provider Open Collective, and just under 700 contributors have already raised more than $40,000 for the foundation.

One of the key benefits to creating a foundation, rather than sticking with the status quo, goes beyond increasing the bus factor — it diversifies the influences on PHP. Watkins points out that, for much of the history of PHP, Zend, the employer of Dmitry Stogov, has been a primary financial backer, and as such has had some amount of influence on the language’s direction. Similarly, JetBrains had increased influence during its time employing Popov on PHP.”To say they have not influenced the direction of the language as a whole would just not be true….” While Watkins says that everything has been above board and gone through standard processes to ensure so, influence is nonetheless indisputable, and that “The Foundation represents a new way to push the language forward…”

The current RFC process, JetBrains writes, “will not change, and language decisions will always be left to the PHP Internals community.”

And in addition, Watkins adds, “It provides us the mechanism by which to raise the bus factor, so that we never face the problems we face today, and have faced in the past.”

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