A few moments ago I pushed the buttons and PHP 5.3.29 came out. As this is the final release for 5.3 it is a good time to look back. PHP 5.3's history starts somewhere in 2005. We knew what a pressure point of PHP was - a language made for solving The Web Problem needs a good Unicode story. So some developers went deep into that complex area and created a prototype version of PHP with Unicode support from deep within the engine. As this was a big and pressing issue and the need was obvious and the solution looked promising it was quickly areed on making that the base for a future PHP 6. And then time passed, initial enthusiasm passed and the sheer amount of work became obvious. Two years in we noticed that the ongoing PHP 6 work blocked other work - new features couldn't be added to 5.2, the current version at that time, and adding them to (at that time) CVS's HEAD.
For solving the blocking issue we decided to create an intermediate release, pacing in all the things piled up, so on 2007-09-26 we branched off a CVS branch PHP_5_3.
Branching of PHP 5.3 set lots of enthusiasm free, and people started creating features and going into heated debates about the direction we should take so I was happy when Lukas volunteered to assist in the release management as Co-RM, playing a big role in making PHP 5.3, one of the most feature rich PHP releases, a huge success which was declared stable two years after branching of on June 30th 2009!
In those two years of development, from branching of till releasing 5.3.0 stable, we saw 5,338 commits by 83 committers (also committing work by other contributors without direct commit access) seeing 10,125 files being changed, with 1,089,600 insertions and 270,921 deletions (including tests and and generated files like parsers etc.) PHP 5.3 introduced many things many PHP developers see as normal and can hardly remember not using - things like namespaces or anonymous functions. It also introduced goto, late static binding, nowdoc, ?:, exception linking fileinfo, intl, mysqlnd, ... while also being a massive boost in performance. A massive release.
While trying to release 5.3.0 we noticed issues in our process. Notable things were that we, for a long time, didn't have a fixed cut of date and couldn't offer a promise when the next release will come. As a consequence people tried hard to push features in, as they feared having to wait a few years for the net release. In consequence a stricter release process with yearly releases etc. was created. Which lead to PHP 5.4 and 5.5 being almost on time and the upcoming PHP 5.6 being well on track.
Now development of 5.3 didn't stop with 5.3.0 but saw 29 bugfix releases with 7,554 commits from 152 comitters (due to the move to git in between a single committer might be counted multiple times, on the other hand more "external" contributor's names are being kept) and seeing 4,862 files being changed, 376,187 insertions and 207314 deletions.
On the personal side being the release master of PHP 5.3 gave me the opportunity to travel between Moscow and California and teaching different audiences in multiple languages about the great work, which was done mostly by others. (Check the ChangeLog to see whom to thank for your favorite feature!)
But now it's time to close that chapter - as of now PHP 5.3 is not supported anymore and the different RM teams and contributors are making PHP even better than PHP 5.3 ever was, as we can see in existing and previews of future releases.