SPL Namespace


The present RFC suggests a new namespacing system, based on the association of a namespace to a physical path.

A new instruction: spl_namespace

spl_namespace($namespace, $path) declares the association of a namespace to a physical path.

spl_namespace ('PEAR::HTML') // links PEAR::HTML to PEAR/HTML
spl_namespace ('PEAR::HTML','some/where/else') // links PEAR::HTML to some/where/else

Use with spl_autoload

After a spl_namespace($namespace, $path), all subsequent spl_autoload(…) that refer to $namespace will include the class file by changing directory to $path.

spl_namespace('Foo1::Foo2', 'some/where');
spl_autoload('Foo1::Foo2::MyClass');    // this will include some/where/MyClass.php

But spl_autoload will then not only require the file, it will also prefix all the user classes/interfaces inside, with the namespace provided (Foo1::Foo2::).

So, taking the example above, if MyClass.php contains:

Class MyClass {
  function compute(MyOtherClass $x)
      $a = new AgainAnotherClass;

then PHP will silently parse it as:

Class Foo1::Foo2::MyClass {
  function compute(Foo1::Foo2::MyOtherClass $x)
      $a = new Foo1::Foo2::AgainAnotherClass;

Note that PHP internal classes and absolute-namespaced classes ($x = new ::Foo3) are not affected.

Use with spl_autoload_register

The behaviour is the same, except that, just before executing the callback function, the parser changes directory to the physical path of the namespace.

spl_namespace("Foo1::Foo2", "some/where");
spl_autoload_register(array("Foo1::Foo2::Autoloader", "autoload"));
// When Foo1::Foo2::Autoloader::autoload() is called, PHP has CD to /some/where 

In the example above, every class succesfully autoloaded by Foo1::Foo2::Autoloader will be prefixed by Foo1::Foo2::, as well as all the code inside that class.


* The namespacing system becomes more consistent. It does no longer belong to the class (or the interface) to define its full qualifying name. It belongs to the element that requires it to assign its final position in the namespace.

* It becomes possible to namespace old existing code without even modifying it. No need to add a namespace at the beginning of every file.


  • If an autoloader, for a given classname, includes a different file depending on the value of a global variable, there's no longer unicity
  • spl_autoload_register() will generally be present in the same file as the autoloader class, so changing directory is not really usefull, since we'll already be positionned in the correct directory.

Practical usage

A large OO application generaly requires multiple librairies, present in different parts of the filesystem. Hence, a typical PHP file of a large app using SPL namespaces could be structured that way:

spl_namespace(...);          //
spl_namespace(..., ...);     // Definitions of all the namespaces used in the application
...                          // (this could form a common include file)
spl_namespace(..., ...);     //
spl_autoload(...);      // 
spl_autoload(...);      // All the classes to autoload
...                     // (or include files of autoloader classes)
spl_autoload(...);      //
use PEAR::HTTP::Request;      // A couple of namespace imports required by the file
use Foo1;
Class MyClass {

What if?

What if the autoloaded file contains a require or an include?

The code is treated exactly the same way as the code in the autoloaded file (it is required and all its user-class-code is automatically prefixed).

What if the autoloaded file contains a spl_namespace() ?

Namespaces are concatenated, unless they are absolute (like ::foo). Paths are concatenated as well, unless they are absolute (like /abc/def).

/ClassA.php :

spl_namespace('Foo', 'foo');
Class ClassA
  function foo()
    $server = new Foo::ClassB;

/foo/ClassB.php :

spl_namespace('PEAR::HTML::AJAX', '/HTML/AJAX');
Class ClassB
  function __construct()
      $html = new HTML_AJAX_Server;

spl_autoload('PEAR::HTML::AJAX::HTML_AJAX_Server') will include /HTML/AJAX/HTML_AJAX_Server.php, because the path (/HTML/AJAX) has been defined as absolute in spl_namespace.

If the starting trailing slash was missing, the file foo/HTML/AJAX/HTML_AJAX_Server.php would have been included instead.

Regarding namespaces, the full qualifying name of HTML_AJAX_Server is Foo::PEAR::HTML::AJAX::HTML_AJAX_Server (concatenation of Foo and PEAR::HTML::AJAX) That's how a root level code would gain access to HTML_AJAX_Server.

The current namespacing use() instruction (or a new spl_ one) could then be used to shorten the writing.

However, if in ClassB.php, you had instead:

spl_namespace('::PEAR::HTML::AJAX', '/HTML/AJAX');

Then the full qualifying name for HTML_AJAX_Server would remain: ::PEAR::HTML::AJAX::HTML_AJAX_Server (no concatenation with foo::, since ::PEAR::HTML::AJAX is an absolute namespace)

What if the autoloaded file contains a namespaced class?

Let's take the above example again.

ClassA autoloads Foo::ClassB with an spl_autoload(“Foo::ClassB”)

And here is /foo/ClassB.php :

Class ClassB extends PEAR::MDB2::Driver::Common {

Then PEAR::MDB2::Driver::Common will silently be prefixed, to become Foo::PEAR::MDB2::Driver::Common.

However an absolute namespace is never prefixed, under any circumstances:

Class ClassB extends ::PEAR::MDB2::Driver::Common {

So Class B will inherit from ::PEAR::MDB2::Driver::Common, and not from Foo::PEAR::MDB2::Driver::Common

What if PHP fells on a namespaced code, not preceded by any spl_namespace() (or if any of the previous spl_namespace have defined the namespace used) ?

The current namespace implementation applies.

What if namespace and spl_namespace register the same namespace?

To be discussed. A general rule could be that, once a class/interface has been autoloaded by spl_autoload, the SPL namespacing mechanism takes precedence over the “normal” namespacing system.

What if two spl_namespace() register the same namespace ?

If the two physical paths turn out to be the same, all is well; the second spl_namespace is just ignored. Otherwise, PHP raises a fatal error when it meets the second spl_namespace. An absolute rule is that two namespaces should never point to two different physical locations. But the same location can be linked to two different namespaces (see the following point).

What if two spl_namespace() register the same path ?

This should not be a problem: at the autoload, PHP will prefix the nesting classes with a different namespace, and thus will consider them as different.

→ This can lead to a potential waste of resource, since the same library, required in two different locations of an application, could be loaded twice, under a different namespace. But an optimization could be introduced (by keeping track of all the autoloaded classes/files, the parser could notice that a class has already been autoloaded under a different namespace, and could use the one in memory, through silent namespace conversions)

Proposal and Patch

Nothing needs to be patched here. Just use this template at your discretion.

Rejected Features

Automated voting system.


rfc/spl-namespace.txt · Last modified: 2017/09/22 13:28 (external edit)