Empty $childNodes Property

Objects of the DOMDocument, DOMNode, DOMProcessingInstruction, DOMComment, DOMText, DOMCdataSection, and DOMNotation classes have a $childNodes property. According to the DOM Level 2 Core, DOM Level 3 Core, and the DOM Living Standard standards, $childNodes must always be an object of DOMNodeList. Even if there are no child nodes, in which case the DOMNodeList object should be empty, of course. Due to a bug, however, $childNodes was wrongly set to null when there are no child nodes. This bug has been fixed in PHP 7.3.16 and PHP 7.4.4.

For an example, let us have a look at DOMImplementation:

$dom  = new DOMImplementation;
$type = $dom->createDocumentType('html');


Executing the code shown above with PHP 7.3.16 (and newer) and PHP 7.4.4 (and newer) will print the output shown below:

object(DOMNodeList)#3 (1) {

Executing the same code with earlier versions will print the output shown below instead:


SimpleXML and Mathematical Operations

The simplexml extension provides a very simple and easily usable API for working with XML. You can, for instance, use the simplexml_load_string() function to load an XML document from a string into a SimpleXMLElement object. For some inexplicable reason, mathematical operations can be performed on these objects:

$xml = simplexml_load_string(
    '<?xml version="1.0" ?><root>1.5</root>'

var_dump(2 * $xml);

Executing the code shown above with PHP 7.3 and newer will print the output shown below:

object(SimpleXMLElement)#1 (1) {
  string(3) "1.5"

Mathematical operations did not always work on SimpleXMLElement as shown above. Prior to PHP 7.3 values were always treated as integers:

object(SimpleXMLElement)#1 (1) {
  string(3) "1.5"

2 * 1.5 is, of course, not 2. The "1.5" string contained in the text node of the XML element represented by the SimpleXMLElement object was interpreted as an integer, the .5 part was cut off, and 2 * 1 was calculated.

Since PHP 7.3, mathematical operations involving SimpleXMLElement objects treat the text as an integer or float, whichever is more appropriate. At the end of the day, performing such operations is a case where the phrase “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” applies. We highly recommend that you do not use the simplexml API at all. It can be good for implementing a quick, one-off script, but it is not suited for long-lived software in our opinion. Have a look at the xmlreader extension for read-only processing of XML. xmlwriter is a good choice for simple use cases of creating XML documents. And dom is the API of choice for all other use cases.