During 2014 and 2015, a new major PHP version was developed, which was numbered PHP 7. The numbering of this version involved some debate among internal developers. While the PHP 6 Unicode experiment had never been released, several articles and book titles referenced the PHP 6 name, which might have caused confusion if a new release were to reuse the name. After a vote, the name PHP 7 was chosen.
The foundation of PHP 7 is a PHP branch that was originally dubbed PHP next generation (phpng). It was authored by Dmitry Stogov, Xinchen Hui and Nikita Popov, and aimed to optimize PHP performance by refactoring the Zend Engine while retaining near-complete language compatibility.
By 14 July 2014, WordPress-based benchmarks, which served as the main benchmark suite for the phpng project, showed an almost 100% increase in performance. Changes from phpng are also expected to make it easier to improve performance in the future, as more compact data structures and other changes are seen as better suited for a successful migration to a just-in-time (JIT) compiler. Because of the significant changes, the reworked Zend Engine is called Zend Engine 3, succeeding Zend Engine 2 used in PHP 5.