PHP RFC: Concepts to improve mysqli extension

This is a proposal to discuss possible ways of improving the mysqli extension.


As we all know mysqli was created as a replacement for the old mysql_* API. The core improvements over the old API were: support for prepared statements, object-oriented style, support for MySQL 4.1.3 and newer, automatic error reporting, and support for Stored Procedures, Multiple Statements, and Transactions. It was a huge step forward and it definitely contributed to a more secure web. But even then mysqli was only a very quick workaround. It is still a very thin wrapper around the MySQL C API. Some functions were added, some were removed, some functionality was never fully developed. Pretty much since PHP 5.6 mysqli extension has not been actively maintained. IMHO people pick mysqli either because they are not aware of PDO or because they are stuck with some legacy codebase. There's nothing inherently wrong with mysqli, but the numerous problems and limited functionality force people to use PDO instead.

This proposal is trying to address some of the most common pain points to make life easier for people who must use mysqli. Starting with concepts that would be the most beneficial/impactful I will try to present ideas on how we could improve this extension.


Exception error reporting mode should be the default one

Why is error reporting disabled by default? The reasoning behind this was probably to hide very sensitive information present in the error messages on production systems that have display_errors set to true. In hindsight that was not a smart decision. The feature went almost unnoticed and the most common solution to many mysqli-related Stack Overflow questions is to just make people aware of automatic error reporting. By silencing error reporting by default we only made matters worse, as people add or die($mysqli->error) to every mysqli function call unaware of the benefits of PHP error reporting.

Since PHP 8.0 PDO has exception mode enabled by default, it would only make sense to do the same for mysqli. PHP RFC: Change Default PDO Error Mode

Some users claim that silenced mode still makes sense as you can display a more user-friendly message instead, but this is a moot point. The information to the user should not expose any details about the underlying code problem. The mysqli error should be logged to a file in a secure location on the server. How the application handles exceptional situations is up to the programmer, but that logic should not be dependant on mysqli error reporting level.

Add bind-in-execute to mysqli

Mysqli prepared statements are painfully difficult to use. In comparison to PDO which has a bind-in-execute or per-placeholder binding by value and by reference, mysqli only has binding by reference using mysqli_stmt::bind_param() method. You must provide all bindings as a separate variadic argument to this function, keeping in mind that they all have to be passed by reference. Additionally, the first argument is a string composed of cryptic characters denoting cast type of each argument. On top of that, if you want to bind long binary string, you must call this method with dummy binding, and use mysqli_stmt::send_long_data() instead to bind the data in chunks.

There is a very simple way to make things better: add bind-in-execute to mysqli. mysqli_stmt::execute() doesn't take any parameters, which means we can extend it to accept an array just like PDO does. The data would be bound by value as strings. The proposal is described in more detail in the following GitHub PR #6271.

$mysqli->connect_error is a static property that can only be accessed as an instance property

These properties make very little sense as they are implemented right now. Both mysqli::connect_error and mysqli::connect_errno are implemented as static properties with function-variant equivalents. However, they can only be accessed using the object operator as instance properties. While this is not a very common problem, it does cause some headache for people who try to open two mysqli connections at the same time and have error reporting silenced.

I would propose to make these attributes as proper static attributes accessible via scope resolution operator (::). This would be the sanest solution, but the problem is that it would be a breaking change. If we implement this after proposal number 1 (Exception mode by default) then the potential impact would be much smaller.

Another solution would be to make them truly instance attributes. The big problem with this is that it would be incompatible with the functional variants. We would have to make these two functions expect $mysqli object as an argument, which not only would be a breaking change, but it would be impossible given the existence of mysqli_connect that doesn't return an object if the connection fails.

Functions to establish connection using mysqli are a mess

Let's break this point into smaller issues. At the moment we have at least 4 ways of opening a connection to the MySQL server and at least 2 ways of initializing mysqli object without connecting. Each one is slightly different than the other.

mysqli::init() is confusing, unnecessary, and not an alias of mysqli_init()

Despite what the documentation says, mysqli::init() is not an OOP version of mysqli_init(). In fact, such a claim makes absolutely no sense, given that mysqli_init() was meant to create an empty instance of mysqli without calling the connect method. In reality, mysqli::init() is just a thin wrapper for mysqli::__construct() with 0 arguments. Given the nonsensical nature of this method I am proposing to deprecate it in PHP 8.1.

The only valid use case for this method was in polymorphism, which can be replaced with a constructor.

class test extends mysqli
    public function __construct($host, $user, $passwd, $db, $port, $socket) {
        // parent::init();
        // change to:
        parent::real_connect($host, $user, $passwd, $db, $port, $socket);

See mysqli_init on php.net

"new mysqli()" doesn't open a connection with 0 arguments

At the moment PHP manual claims that all 6 parameters of mysqli::__construct() are optional with default values taken from INI settings. As you might have guessed that is not entirely true. The default values are in fact honoured, but at least 1 argument must be provided, even if that 1 argument is NULL. If absolutely no arguments are passed, then mysqli::__construct() behaves as mysqli_init(). Here are the workarounds if you want to store all the configuration details in INI:

// 1. Pass NULL as a sole argument.
$mysqli = new mysqli(NULL);
// 2. Call connect explicitely
$mysqli = new mysqli();
// 3. Use mysqli_connect() function
$mysqli = mysqli_connect();

''new mysqli'' and ''mysqli_connect()'' are not true aliases

The mysqli_connect() page claims that it is just an alias of mysqli::__construct(). It's not.

1. mysqli_connect() returns false if the connection fails. This leads to a very strange wording in the manual for mysqli::__construct():

Returns an object which represents the connection to a MySQL Server, or false on failure.

The signature for mysqli::__construct() claims that it returns void as all constructors do. This leads a to a large number of users falsely believing that this will work:

$mysqli = new mysqli('localhost') or die(mysqli_connect_error());

2. You can call mysqli_connect() with 0 arguments and it will connect, but it won't connect if you instantiate an object by passing 0 arguments. As described above mysqli::__construct() will not attempt connection if no arguments are provided. If they are true aliases then this behaviour should be identical.

3. The whole notion of functional aliases for constructors is quite strange. They might be equivalent in functionality, but they are not the same thing. Consider the following scenario:

class my_mysqli extends \mysqli{
    public function __construct() {
        // the only possible way to connect is to call ''mysqli::connect()'' method like:
        // or trigger parent constructor followed by ''mysqli::real_connect()''
        // (technically it can also be ''parent::init()'' followed by ''parent::connect()'' or any mix thereof)
        // It can even be this monster:
        [$this, \connect::class]();
        // but there is no way to call ''mysqli_connect()''
$mysqli = new my_mysqli();

Constructors cannot have functional aliases in a true sense as 1 to 1 replacements. mysqli_connect() should rather be described as a wrapper function, with its functionality more or less desribed as a following PHP function:

function mysqli_connect(/* 6 params */) {
    $mysqli = mysqli_init();
    if ($mysqli->real_connect(/* 6 params */)) {
        return $mysqli;
    } else {
        return false;

The documentation should be improved and stop calling the function and the constructor as aliases.

mysqli_init() and mysqli_real_connect() are weird aliases that do not match OO style.

mysqli_init() has the exact same behaviour as new mysqli()(with 0 arguments) but it does not accept any arguments. The below two lines of code are identical:

$mysqli = mysqli_init();
$mysqli = new mysqli();

mysqli_real_connect() is very similar to mysqli::connect() with the following differences:

  • mysqli::connect() returns void whereas mysqli_real_connect() returns bool
  • mysqli_real_connect() has one more parameter called $flags
  • mysqli::real_connect() does not initilize the object on its own, while mysqli::connect() will initilize it if it isn't yet.

mysqli_real_connect() has the OO-style variant too, which is confusing. The name of the function does not help to explain what is the difference between this and connect method. The extra parameter could be added to mysqli::connect() and the method could be made to return a boolean. The last point I would consider more of a bug than a feature. I think the object should be initialized by mysqli_real_connect() also.

Given that all functions are very similar you can also mix & match as long as you don't need that 7th parameter. For example.

// 1. new mysqli and real_connect
$mysqli = new mysqli();
// 2. mysqli_init and connect
$mysqli = mysqli_init();


These functions need some refactoring. I see no reason to have so many confusing functions with tiny differences. It makes both implementation and documentation unnecessarily complicated and it does not help users make the right decisions and avoid mistakes.

  1. Make mysqli::connect() and mysqli::real_connect() aliases (and later remove mysqli::real_connect()). They should really be the same thing. mysqli::connect() should return boolean and have the same number of arguments.
  2. Remove mysqli::init() as it is the weirdest one of the bunch. Since it is nothing more than an alias of mysqli::__construct() this makes it completely unnecessary. Of course, we would have to make mysqli::real_connect() initialize the object just like mysqli::connect() does (see 1st point).
    1. CMB69 has suggested that it should be a static function, but I find it revolting to have a static method as an alias of the constructor for absolutely no reason. After all, we have the OO-style equivalent already: the constructor.
  3. Align the behaviour of mysqli_connect() with new mysqli(), so that they both work the same with 0 arguments. We should also let them accept the 7th argument to make them the same as mysqli::real_connect()/mysqli_real_connect().
  4. We could either keep mysqli_init() as an alias of mysqli constructor with 0 arguments, or remove it completely in favour of mysqli_connect() with 0 arguments. The main purpose of these functions is to let people set options before connecting. This could then be achieved with code like this (assuming point 3+4):
    // 1. initialize object
    $mysqli = mysqli_connect();
    // 2. set options
    mysqli_options($mysqli, MYSQLI_OPT_READ_TIMEOUT, 42);
    // 3. connect

    But since we can't really change mysqli_connect() or get rid of mysqli_real_connect(), the above example looks strange and will not sell (there's no benefit in removing mysqli_init()). Therefore we should keep the procedural version as is.

  5. We should optionally deprecate and remove mysqli::set_opt() and mysqli_set_opt. This is an alias of mysqli::options()/mysqli_options().

I realize that the whole mess comes from the fact that we try to maintain both OO and procedural style. My proposal therefore is aimed to keep the two ways of opening the connection as clear as possible reducing inconsistencies and confusion. The below examples should respectively be the recommended way for opening and setting connection options with OO and procedural style:

// OOP
$mysqli = new mysqli(); // <- 0 arguments
$mysqli->options(MYSQLI_OPT_READ_TIMEOUT, 42);
$mysqli->connect('localhost', /** the other 6 arguments **/); // connect instead of real_connect
// Procedural
$mysqli = mysqli_init();
mysqli_options($mysqli, MYSQLI_OPT_READ_TIMEOUT, 42);
mysqli_real_connect($mysqli, 'localhost', /** the other 6 arguments **/);

The shorthand form without setting options would stay as it is now. However, we would have to split the documentation for mysqli::__construct(), mysqli::connect() and mysqli_connect() to have separate pages.

libmysqlclient support - untested and unmaitained

PHP has been pushing for the use of mysqlnd for years. While it is still possible to compile PHP against libmysql client, and Nikita has spent some time fixing the support, the truth is that the libmysql support has been in decline ever since mysqlnd was released. The native driver offers more and often better. We have the full control of mysqlnd and its implementation including fixing bugs, memory handling, adding new features and error reporting. As of now, de jure compatibility makes fixing some stuff in mysqlnd more limited and difficult.

We should consider dropping the support for libmysql client in the near future. It would make maintenance of the mysqli extension easier, considering the number of people willing and capable of actively maintaining it.

The never-finished features

I include this section for completeness but as of now I have no clue what should be done about them and how to improve these functionalities.

mysqli::get_warnings() and mysqli_warning class

The functionality works as is. Nikita has recently removed the part of the code that was never finished. While the functionality never actually got finished, the way it works now is fine as is.

mysqli::savepoint and mysqli::release_savepoint()

As far as I know, these two methods don't actually do anything useful. I suppose the idea was to abstract some SQL functionality but given that the function name is the same as the actual SQL command I really don't see the point. The development should be ironed out, or the functionality should be deprecated and removed.

Async queries

I believe this functionality mostly works. At least the example given in PHP manual works, albeit I have a lot of questions about that example. It seems this is only available for mysqlnd and only for normal queries. Prepared statements are not supported. I assume this is meant to aid in running parallel queries on multiple mysqli connections, but given that queries are mostly executed using prepared statements, this is a very niche feature. If it would be possible to execute prepared statements asynchronously and if it would be any easier than it is now, this feature could come quite handy.

Backward Incompatible Changes

  • Existing code that does not explicitly set the mysqli error mode and relies on the silent mode will be affected by this change. This code can be updated by explicitly setting the mysqli error mode to silent. e.g.
  • connect_error and connect_errno no longer accessible using object operator (->)
  • mysqli::init() will be deprecated and removed. Code that relied on it in polymorphism will have to replace calls to it with parent::__construct()
  • mysqli_connect() will not open a connection with 0 arguments passed.


  • Aliases mysqli::set_opt() and mysqli_set_opt will be deprecated (PHP 8.1) and removed (PHP 9.0)
  • mysqli::real_connect() will get a deprecation notice.

Proposed PHP Version(s)

Most changes should go into next PHP 8.x, but some of the described changes can only be made in the next PHP x

RFC Impact



To Existing Extensions

If we are going to drop support for libmysql client in mysqli then this should be a global change. It would affect PDO_MySQL as well as any other unbundled extension that is currently compiling against libmysql client.

To Opcache


New Constants


php.ini Defaults


Open Issues

Unaffected PHP Functionality

The signature of certain mysqli functions/methods will be affected with optional parameters, but this should not impact any existing functionality.

  1. mysqli_execute()/mysqli_stmt_execute()/mysqli_stmt::execute() will gain an additional optional parameter of type array.
  2. mysqli_connect()/mysqli::connect()/mysqli::__construct() will gain an optional 7th parameter.

The existing prepared statement parameter binding will remain unaffected. There will be no change to mysqli_stmt::bind_param().

The existing procedural style connection will remain the same. The only potential difference would be that mysqli_connect() with 0 arguments no longer opens the default connection.

Opening the connection while setting options before will remain the same in procedural form. Setting the connection flags will also remain the same with the only difference that it will now become available using the normal connect() method too.

Future Scope

Proposed Voting Choices

The RFC is just a concept at the moment. For voting purposes, the details will need to be ironed out and each proposal voted on separately.

Patches and Tests

I will try to create patches for the mentioned changes, but since I am very inexperienced I would appreciate if a volunteer would like to help in implementing them.





Rejected Features


rfc/improve_mysqli.txt · Last modified: 2020/12/30 18:27 by dharman