There's a lot of speculation flying around about the Zend Framework; some positive, some not so positive. I'm getting a little bit sick of hearing people spread misinformation about it; I know that official news on the framework is pretty sparse, and that the speculation is mostly as a result of that lack of information, so I'm going to say a few words to try to improve the situation.

So, why yet-another-framework? Clearly, it's useful to have a standard library of components that you can drop into your applications. Why is Zend getting behind this? One of the major reasons is that, as PHP attracts larger and larger businesses, there is a greater need for such a component library. One big problem for big business is that it's pretty much impossible for them to determine just how "legal" the existing libraries are.

What do I mean by this? When you have an anyone-can-commit-or-submit policy, you have no idea where the newly contributed code has come from. How do you know for sure that it wasn't stolen from someone's place of work, or taken from an application without respecting its license? (eg: "borrowing" some code from a GPL app and shoving it into a BSDish framework, without changing the BSDish code to GPL).

It makes a lot of sense to control the repository and build-in accountability as part of the submission process. By having contributors sign an agreement that forces them to take responsibility for the code they commit, the framework and its users are now insulated from any potential legal recourse that might arise. And because the people committing the code are aware of that liability, they'll take greater pains to ensure that their code is legally allowed to be contributed. The end result is "Clean IP", and is immediately much more appealing to anyone that takes their business seriously.

Of course, you need some kind of accountable body to take care of the paperwork for the submission process, both in terms of processing new contributors and to be there in case of some kind of audit. If you're a business that takes legal matters seriously, are you going to trust a bunch of guys that probably haven't even met each other in real-life to maintain clean IP, or a company backed by other PHP related businesses?

Aside from clean IP, there are also questions of code reliability an stability; is the code any good, is the API going to be subject to wild changes between releases, what kind of testing and QA procedures are in place? Can you trust that they'll be adhered to?

So, there are a lot of business reasons behind the decision to create the Zend Framework, what about technical merit? Contrary to some of the hot air that's been blowing around the blogs, there is code already, and it's actually pretty good. Here's a directory listing from my CVS checkout, to give you a taste of what's already implemented:

   % ls                                                                          
   CVS            ZDBAdapter      ZLog             ZTemplate
   ZActiveRecord  ZException.php  ZPageController  ZUri
   ZController    ZInputFilter    ZSearch

There are plans for AJAX, SMTP, and web services components, among others. As you can probably deduce from the names, the components already implemented include the ActiveRecord pattern, some glue for MVC, flexible logging and templating and a security related input filtering class are also present. ZSearch provides document indexing capabilities, to make it easy to implement custom search engines for arbitrary documents stored in arbitrary storage containers.

One of the goals for the project is to keep every clear and simple to use, without forcing you to adopt the entire framework throughout your application; it doesn't impose itself on your app, and doesn't require any configuration files to deploy and use.

I'm not going to reveal any more about the code than this right now; one of the reasons that the code isn't open at the moment is to keep the initial work manageable and focused--too many cooks spoil the broth, as we they say.

So there were have a bit of a sneak peek and some background on the Zend Framework. It's undergoing active development, with multiple code and documentation commits going in daily. I can't give you any more detail on the schedule, you'll just have to stay tuned.

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