PHP RFC: "var" Deprecation


This RFC proposes that var be deprecated in PHP 7.1 (in favor of public) and its functionality removed in PHP 8.0.

var would remain a reserved word in PHP 8.0 for potential future usage.

An upgrade tool is provided to automatically replace all instances of var with public. Code modified with this tool would be fully compatible with PHP 5, 7, and 8.


var is currently a simple alias for public. However, public provides more functionality than the limited subset that var supports. Because var only offers a duplicate yet limited subset of functionality, this RFC proposes the deprecation of var in favor of public.

PHP 4 introduced the var keyword as the only means to declare class properties. Later on PHP 5 added the public, protected, and private keywords for declaring these properties with a certain visibility level. To quote the documentation:

“The PHP 4 method of declaring a variable with the var keyword [was] supported for compatibility reasons (as a synonym for the public keyword)”

(emphasis added)

This alias was left intact for PHP 7.

public, protected, and private can also be used to declare static members and constants (coming in PHP 7.1) whereas var cannot.


Removes Duplication

This will eliminate duplicate functionality in the language. Both var and public behave identically for non-static member variables and therefore both are not technically needed (other than for backwards-compatibility).

''public'' Is More Useful

The only functional difference between var and public is that the latter also supports static members and constants (coming in PHP 7.1):

class Example
    public $foo;        // Works
    public static $foo; // Works
    public const FOO    // Works
    var $foo;           // Works
    var static $foo;    // Doesn't work
    var const FOO;      // Doesn't work

var is therefore a limited subset of public.

Ample Warning

PHP 8.0 is likely several years away. Deprecating this now (rather than later) would provide developers with sufficient notice that their code may need to be modified to work on 8.0.

Easy Upgrade Path

Because var is currently an alias for public, updating older code is as simple as replacing var with public everywhere it appears. A utility script has been provided with this RFC to aid with the transition.

Removes Legacy Functionality

var is a legacy feature from PHP 4 which has been superseded by the visibility keywords. It was kept in PHP 5+ for backwards-compatibility. Removing it would help clean up the lesser-used legacy bits of the language.

There is precedent for deprecating and eventually removing other legacy features (with modern equivalents) as part of major releases:

Low Usage

The top 10,000 packages on Packagist were analyzed (along with their dependencies) to determine the proliferation of var in the PHP ecosystem:

% Description Number of Packages
62% Use public only 6,221
27% Don't use public variables of any kind 2,665
4% Use var internally 448
4% Have a dependency which uses var 352
3% Failed to be analyzed due to misc. errors in the survey tool 335

Because dependencies may have already been counted as “packages using var internally”, the true utilization is somewhere between 4 and 8%.

The total number of public and var keywords were counted across every file of every package (including dependencies which may be counted multiple times):

  • 94% - public (1,650,084 instances)
  • 6% - var (98,745 instances)

The following packages are the “worst offenders”, making up 62% of the total number of var keywords found:

  • 22% - simpletest (22,116 instances)
  • 17% - phpseclib (16,648 instances)
  • 14% - mpdf (14,000 instances)
  • 9% - simplepie (8,745 instances)

Updating these packages would drop overall var utilization to 1.5 - 3.0%.

This survey confirms that modern PHP development has largely moved away from var. Accepting this RFC will therefore have minimal impact on the ecosystem.


It's Not Broken

There are no technical issues with the current implementation of var and therefore no urgency to remove it.

Breaks Backwards Compatibility

PHP 4 classes will no longer function as-is in PHP 8.0. Furthermore, any classes written in PHP 5.x or 7.x may also break in 8.0 if they use var. BC breaks should not be taken lightly.

No Functionality Benefit

This change does not introduce any new functionality for developers. Those who are not using var will see no impact. Those who do use var will need to update their code.

''public'' Is Not The Same

Some developers do not feel comfortable replacing var with public because they did not intend for those variables to explicitly be public. Although replacing var with public does result in the same functionality, it may unintentionally imply that those variables were explicitly intended to be public (which may not be the case).

Backward Incompatible Changes

PHP 7.1 - 7.x: usages of var will raise a deprecation notice but otherwise work as-is.

PHP 8.0: Usages of var will throw a parse error.

Upgrade Tool

An upgrade tool is provided which automatically replaces all instances of var with public. Code modified with this tool should be fully-compatible with PHP 5, 7, and 8.

RFC Impact



To Existing Extensions


To Opcache


Future Scope

Reserving the var keyword will allow it to be used for new functionality in 8.0 and beyond.


The vote is a simple Yes/No on whether to deprecate var in PHP 7.1 and remove its functionality from 8.0 (but reserve the keyword for future usage).

As this is a language change, this RFC requires a 2/3 majority to pass.

Voting started on 2016-03-24 and will end on 2016-03-31 at 12:30 UTC.

Deprecate `var` in 7.1 and remove it from 8.0?
Real name Yes No
aharvey (aharvey)  
alan_k (alan_k)  
andi (andi)  
bishop (bishop)  
brandon (brandon)  
bukka (bukka)  
bwoebi (bwoebi)  
chregu (chregu)  
colinodell (colinodell)  
daverandom (daverandom)  
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dmitry (dmitry)  
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iliaa (iliaa)  
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klaussilveira (klaussilveira)  
krakjoe (krakjoe)  
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lcobucci (lcobucci)  
leigh (leigh)  
leszek (leszek)  
levim (levim)  
lstrojny (lstrojny)  
marcio (marcio)  
mariano (mariano)  
mbeccati (mbeccati)  
mcmic (mcmic)  
mike (mike)  
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remi (remi)  
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sebastian (sebastian)  
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zimt (zimt)  
Final result: 31 23
This poll has been closed.

Patches and Tests


rfc/var_deprecation.txt · Last modified: 2017/09/22 13:28 by