An Empirical Study of PHP Feature Usage: A Static Analysis Perspective


PHP is one of the most popular languages for server-side application development. The language is highly dynamic, providing programmers with a large amount of flexibility. However, these dynamic features also have a cost, making it difficult to apply traditional static analysis techniques used in standard code analysis and transformation tools. As part of our work on creating analysis tools for PHP, we have conducted a study over a significant corpus of open-source PHP systems, looking at the sizes of actual PHP programs, which features of PHP are actually used, how often dynamic features appear, and how distributed these features are across the files that make up a PHP website. We have also looked at whether uses of these dynamic features are truly dynamic or are, in some cases, statically understandable, allowing us to identify specific patterns of use which can then be taken into account to build more precise tools. We believe this work will be of interest to creators of analysis tools for PHP, and that the methodology we present can be leveraged for other dynamic languages with similar features.

Proceedings of the 2013 International Symposium on Software Testing and Analysis (ISSTA 2013)
Mark Hills
Mark Hills
Associate Professor

My research interests include programming languages, program analysis, and software engineering.