PHP API Framework: 10 BEST for REST API Development in PHP

php rest api frameworks

All set to develop Rest APIs in PHP? The first thing you need to get hold of is a lightweight PHP REST API framework.  A framework in any language is not a necessity but a means to increase productivity and get things done faster with a minimal risk of deviating from the standards and best practices.

You can develop REST APIs using plain php but that would be a lot more effort, time consuming and prone to deviating from standards, and definitely calls for a lot of testing.

Why Use a PHP REST API Framework ?

Developing Restful web services is more like an art that thrives on best practices without many established rules or standards. The only standard to follow while developing REST web services is HTTP and for that reason it is much easier to deviate from standards and best practices.

Frameworks keep developers in the boundaries and makes it much easier to develop in accordance with best practices and helps increase adoption. You get ready to use libraries, components, separation of logic and abstraction from security concerns without doing anything much around these areas.

PHP REST API Frameworks like Silex, Slim, Zend Expressive and Lumen etc. make development easy and fun. I have been evaluating PHP Rest API frameworks over the past few weeks and the outcome is the list of 10 best micro PHP frameworks available in the market as of today.  

PHP web frameworks have an ecosystem of their own in the world of web development. PHP frameworks are used to build websites and web applications of all sizes... Read More

Slim Framework - REST API Development

Slim framework is arguably the best php micro-framework out there in the wild that lets you develop complex APIs and web applications with ease.

Slim micro php framework is a great option for developers who love to build APIs and applications grounds up with full control and flexibility. Modular and scalable architecture allows developers use what is needed, nothing more and nothing less.

Slim is built keeping in mind industry standards and fully supports PSR-7 HTTP message implementations that makes it an absolute breeze to work with HTTP headers, cookies, message methods, body, status codes and URI.

You get a powerful router with Slim that makes HTTP requests mapping with route callbacks a piece of cake. Concentric middleware and dependency injection gives you a complete control on HTTP manipulation and external tools usage respectively.

Slim framework boasts of a great and helpful community with documentation as clean and complete as any commercial grade product.

Read more about Slim here at - Slim PHP REST API Framework

Silex - REST API in PHP

Inspired by philosophy behind Sintara, Silex is a powerhouse packed in a small package. Silex is built on the strong foundation of Symfony components, it utilized Pimple also.

Creating single file apps is an “in thing” and the micro PHP frameworks like Silex makes development an absolute breeze. The key pillars on which Silex works are –

  • Concise and intuitive API
  • Extension system built using micro service container Pimple
  • Request and Response abstraction using HTTP Kernel of Symfony makes app testing easy
  • Controllers and routers mapping in one step.

Silex is the creation Igor Wieldler and Fabien Potencier - the brain behind Symfony framework. It is available free to use under MIT license and can be downloaded here – REST API Framework for PHP - Silex

Lumen - REST API Framework from Laravel

Lumen is powered by the most successful PHP framework of all times - Laravel. Lumen is amazingly fast micro framework that can be used to build APIS and Laravel based services.

When it comes to requests handling, Lumen competes with best and the fastest of the frameworks like Slim, Silex and Phalcon. Lumen works the best when it comes to developing components and projects that intend to use power of Laraval with a speed boost.

Micro services are intended to be loosely coupled components that are built independent of each other but used in conjunction (or standalone) in multiple project, as required. This is where Lumen shines the best.

Check out this post for a quick introduction of Lumen - Introducing Luman.

Read more about Lumen here at - Lumen Framework

PHPSX

PSX is one of the latest entrants in the world of micro frameworks and dedicated for building REST APIs. PSX is the creation of Christoph Kappestein and was release back in mid 2016.

PSX is one of the most sophisticated and cleanly built PHP framework that covers complete API lifecycle by providing tools to generate automatic documentation, API versioning, testing, serialization and validation etc.

Few reasons you would like PSX PHP REST API framework are -

  • RAML, OAI schema specifications - auto generation
  • Documentation - auto generation
  • Collection of independent components
  • JsonSchema for incoming data validation
  • POPOs for incoming and outgoing data  - psx/data library

Read more about PHPSX here at - PHPSX - Develop REST API in PHP

Guzzle

Many of the project needs include fetching data from external resources by using REST, SOAP and other means and that is why we need to develop and deploy web services. While working in PHP, developers get a native cURL for HTTP handling but that can be a bit intimidating for the beginner developers. Guzzle an independent framework is a great choice as an HTTP client when you do not intend to use cURL.

It is a PHP HTTP client that makes it easy to send HTTP request and web services integration with third parties.

Some Of the key capabilities of Guzzle PHP Micro Framework include -

  • Same interface for synchronous and asynchronous requests handling
  • Option to write transport agnostic code without any dependency on cURL, sockets, non-blocking event loops and PHP streams.
  • PSR-7 compliant interfaces allows you to include PSR-7 compliant libraries
  • Easy to build query strings, using cookies, streaming large data uploads and downloads etc. and much more.

Read more about Guzzle here at - Guzzle Overview

Api-platform.com

This one is the last in this list but is growing at a speed that even the developers of api-platfrom.com would not have thought about. API-platform focuses more on API first projects development and helps create web applications that are flexible and extensible.

The popularity of api-platfrom.com can be gauged from the fact that some of the largest companies like Ranault, Alstom and theFork etc. use it in their web projects.

Some of the key features of API-platfrom.com are as below -

  • Helps you create CRUD API in minutes
  • Automatic swagger documentation generation
  • Built using Doctrine and Symfony
  • Schema.org data model generation
  • Data validations and error handling
  • Docker integration
  • Pagination, Sorting and Filtering
  • Caching for speed
  • CORS and OAuth Support
  • and much more

Check out API-platform here at - API Platform for web services development in PHP

Zend Expressive

Middleware is at the core of any web application and Zend Expressive is one of the most powerful middleware micro frameworks for PHP, out there in the wild.

Built on top of Stratigility, Zend expressive is the PSR-7 middleware framework that lets you use the tools you love. No hard dependencies, include tools and components as you like - nothing more and nothign less..

Key features of Zend Expressive include -

  • Support for multiple routers including Aura, FastRoute, Zend router,
  • Composer based installer for easy installations
  • Support for multiple template engines including Twig, Plates and ZF2’s PhpRenderer

Read more about Zend Expressive here at - Zend Expressive

Phalcon

Phalcon PHP is a full stack framework and offers all the features that you need to build application of any scale. Phalcon also happens to be the fastest frameworks in the PHP world, being written in C instead of PHP, it loads in the RAM as PHP module and provides blazingly fast performance.

Reason to list Phalcon in the list of micro frameworks is the ease with which you can use this framework to develop REST APIs, it easily outshines many of the specially written frameworks meant for APIs development.

Some  of the key reasons that makes Phalcon rank much higher among  micro frameworks are  –

  • Modular approach that lets you use only required features
  • Great documentation and a vibrant growing community
  • Blazingly fast framework written in C as opposed to most other frameworks that are written in PHP

Read more about Phalcon here at - Phalcon Framework for PHP

Fat free framework

Fat Free Framework is an absolutely minimalist framework with code size of only around ~70kb and is built with the philosophy of simplicity, code elegance, structural components, scalable design, better performance and development productivity.

Though the code base of fat free framework is minimal, it intends to do something mid-way between micro frameworks like Slim, Silex, Lumen etc and the full stack frameworks like Symfony, Yii, and Zend etc. 

Read more about Fat Free Framework here at - Fat Free PHP Framework

Flight PHP

Flight PHP is another simple and scalable micro php framework that makes building Restful web apps a piece of cake. Flight PHP is one of those few PHP micro frameworks that are getting updated actively by the community and loved by developers.

The only thing that flight tries to manage for you is routing and class loading by means of provided tools and leaves anything and everything else on you.

Some of the key capabilities of Flight PHP framework include -

  • Logical routing system for handling requests
  • Clean and efficient variables setting
  • Filters for methods, both before and after calls
  • Efficient Views handling and classes registration.

Check out Flight PHP REST API framework here at - Flight PHP REST API Framework

Conclusion

Though there are many full stack PHP frameworks that offer all feature and tools required to build applications of all sizes and complexity but still specialized PHP REST API frameworks are in great demand.

One key reason for the popularity of these micro rest api frameworks is the focused approach and doing the best they intend to do, which is building REST APIs. These frameworks do not carry any code overhead and focus on speed. The code overhead is so low that you can easily club any REST API framework with any other full stack framework in your project.

When the requirement is to build only REST APIS or micro services components, then these frameworks fit the best.

The REST PHP API Frameworks like Slim, Silex, Lumen, Guzzle, PHPSX etc. are among the best available in the market as of today and are getting regular upgrades to support latest features. You can explore some of these to narrow down on to one for your next project. 

Do share you experience with REST API frameworks via comments. Cheers!

About The Author: noeticsunil

Sunil is the founder and contributing editor at noeticforce.com. He writes about anything and everything that makes modern mobile apps, web apps and websites possible. Passionate about coding in any language including Python, Swift, JavaScript, PHP, Java, Android & iOS dev, not excluding CSS/HTML. 

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