PHP RFC: Implement new DOM Living Standard APIs in ext/dom


Working with XML (HTML) documents is a necessary task for many web applications and the dom extension implements a standardized API that was previously specified by a w3 group into 3 DOM Levels. Since then the standard has evolved and is now a Living Standard similar to HTML 5 and continuously evolving and maintained by the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group (WHATWG).

Because the new API provides much improved traversal and manipulation APIs than the old API we propose to add the new methods to the existing ext/dom API. Specifically we think this is a better solution to providing them in userland, because

  1. ext/dom + DOMDocument are an implementation of the DOM Standard, so we should continue to support it with evolving versions.
  2. the added methods are a huge value add for users/developers. Workarounds exist but are usually complex and hard to find for both newcomers and experienced developers that don't work with the dom extension everyday.


Implement new DOM Living Standard APIs for ext/dom

This RFC proposes to adapt the current DOM standard changes to the PHP langauge by introducing new interfaces and public properties that simplify traversal and manipulation of DOM elements.

interface DOMParentNode
    /** access to the first child of this node that is a DOMElement */
    public readonly ?DOMElement $firstElementChild;
    /** access to the last child of this node that is a DOMElement */
    public readonly ?DOMElement $lastElementChild;
    /** counts all child nodes that are DOMElements */
    public readonly int $childElementCount;
    /** appends one or many nodes to the list of children behind the last child node */
    public function append(...DOMNode|string|null $nodes) : void;
    /** prepends one or many nodes to the list of children before the first child node */
    public function prepend(...DOMNode|string|null $nodes) : void;
class DOMDocument implements DOMParentNode {}
class DOMElement implements DOMParentNode {}
class DOMDocumentFragment implements DOMParentNode {}
interface DOMChildNode
    /** Returns the previous node in the same hierachy that is a DOMElement or NULL if there is none */
    public readonly ?DOMElement $previousElementSibling;
    /** Returns the next node in the same hierachy that is a DOMElement or NULL if there is none */ 
    public readonly ?DOMElement $nextElementSibling;
    /** acts as a simpler version of $element->parentNode->removeChild($element); */
    public function remove() : void;
    /** add passed node(s) before the current node */
    public function before(...DOMNode|string|null $nodes) : void;
    /** add passed node(s) after the current node */
    public function after(...DOMNode|string|null $nodes) : void;
    /** replace current node with new node(s), a combination of remove() + append() */
    public function replaceWith(...DOMNode|string|null $nodes) : void;
class DOMElement implements DOMChildNode {}
class DOMCharacterData implements DOMChildNode {}

Implementation choices

We deviate from the DOM Living Standard in some details, because it is written for Browser/Javascript implementations and the concepts cannot all be transferred 1:1 to PHP ext/dom.

The living standard implements DOMParentNode and DOMChildNode as “traits” or mixins and doesn't provide interfaces for them (as Javascript has no interfaces). This might make more sense with the primary language target (JavaScript), but for PHP it makes more sense to have the functionality available through an interface, so that code can test for $node instanceof DOMParentNode for example.

The living standard contains an intermediate trait (interface) DOMNonDocumentTypeChildNode that defines the previousElementSibling and nextElementSibling properties. This is introduced in the living standard to provide backwards compatibility with browser/web implementations, which are not our concern. In addition PHP interfaces cannot declare properties, so it wouldn't make sense to add this empty interface. For this reason this interface DOMNonDocumentTypeChildNode will not be introduced and the properties are instead declared on each class implementing DOMChildNode directly.

In the standard DOMDocumentType is also a DOMChildNode. The use of this is extremely limited, because the doctype is on the same level as the root element and traversal between both has a very limited use case.

The querySelector and querySelectorAll methods defined on the DOMParentNode interface are not implemented and the methods omitted fromt he interface, because of their underlying complexity (using a CSS query selector parser). We recommend to leave implementations of comparable functionality to userland libraries such as PhpCss or Symfony CSS Selector.

Not adopting Nodes For Now

The old DOM Level 1-3 standards did not automatically adopt nodes into the current document when they got passed, instead a WRONG DOCUMENT error was thrown. The new DOM Living standard changed this by modifying the behavior to automatically adopt nodes.

- Old behavior (See Exceptions): https://www.w3.org/TR/DOM-Level-2-Core/core.html#ID-184E7107 - New behavior: https://dom.spec.whatwg.org/#concept-node-pre-insert

In PHP API terms this essentially is the difference between this current approach:


And it would simplify to the following if all manipulation APIs would automatically adopt nodes:


To put the behavior of the new methods in line with existing appendChild, insertBefore and replaceChild behavior, the new methods will also throw WRONG DOCUMENT errors for now. Relaxing this constraint could be done in another step.

Backward Incompatible Changes

Code using registerNodeClass to overwrite DOM classes can be affected IF they already implement the new functionality in a way that doesn't satisfy the behavior or signature of this proposed code changes.

Proposed PHP Version(s)

PHP 8.0

RFC Impact


No effect on SAPIs.

To Existing Extensions

The dom extensions API is changed in a mostly backwards compatible way (only adding new properties/methods). Breaking is code using registerNodeClass that adds child classes that also implement the new methods, but use a different signature.

The new functionality can all be implemented entirely using the already available libxml2 datastructures, so no changes to the libxml2 dependency is nceessary.

To Opcache

No effect on Opcache.

Patches and Tests


The pull request is mostly finished and only refactorings need to be done.


Voting requires 2/3 majority and closes on 25th November 2019 UTC 23:59:59

Accept changes to DOM API to add support for new methods added in WHATWG groups DOM living standard?
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Final result: 37 0
This poll has been closed.


- DOM Living Standard Document https://dom.spec.whatwg.org

rfc/dom_living_standard_api.txt · Last modified: 2020/08/01 23:39 by carusogabriel