fast implementation of Protocol Buffers for use in PHP
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PHP Protobuf - Fast PHP Protocol Buffers implementation


Protocol Buffers are a way of encoding structured data in an efficient yet extensible format. It might be used in file formats and RPC protocols.

PHP Protobuf is PHP implementation of Google's Protocol Buffers. Parsing and serialization is provided by ProtobufMessage class which is entirely implemented in extension providing high performance.

PHP Protobuf is highly portable and has no external dependencies. Compiler is written from scratch in pure PHP. Extension has no OS-specific requirements.

Extension is PECL-compliant so compilation is easy. All that is needed are PHP developer tools (i.e. phpize).



Use protoc-php.php script to compile your proto files. It requires extension to be installed.

php protoc-php.php foo.proto

Specify --use-namespaces or -n option to generate classes using native PHP namespaces.

php protoc-php.php -n foo.proto


If a proto file is compiled with a -n / --use-namespaces option a package is represented as an namespace. Otherwise message and enum name is prefixed with it seperated by underscore. The package name is composed of a respective first-upper-case parts seperated by underscore.

Message and enum name

  • underscore seperated name is converted to CamelCased
  • embedded name is composed of parent message name seperated by underscore

Message interface

PHP Protobuf module implements ProtobufMessage class which encapsulates protocol logic. Message compiled from proto file extends this class providing message field descriptors. Based on these descriptors ProtobufMessage knows how to parse and serialize messages of the given type.

For each field a set of accessors is generated. Methods actualy accessible are different for single value fields (required / optional) and multi-value fields (repeated).

  • required / optional

      get{FIELD}()        // return field value
      set{FIELD}($value)  // set field value to $value
  • repeated

      append{FIELD}($value)       // append $value value to field
      clear{FIELD}()              // empty field
      get{FIELD}()                // return array of field values
      getAt{FIELD}($index)        // return field value at $index index
      getCount{FIELD}()           // return number of field values
      getIterator{FIELD}($index)  // return ArrayIterator for field values

{FIELD} is camel cased field name.


PHP does not natively support enum type. Hence enum is compiled to a class with set of constants.

Enum field is simple PHP integer type.

Type mapping

Range of available build-in PHP types poses some limitations. PHP does not support 64-bit positive integer type. Note that parsing big integer values might result in getting unexpected results.

Protocol Buffers types map to PHP types as follows:

| Protocol Buffers | PHP    |
| ---------------- | ------ |
| double           | float  |
| float            |        |
| ---------------- | ------ |
| int32            | int    |
| int64            |        |
| uint32           |        |
| uint64           |        |
| sint32           |        |
| sint64           |        |
| fixed32          |        |
| fixed64          |        |
| sfixed32         |        |
| sfixed64         |        |
| ---------------- | ------ |
| bool             | bool   |
| ---------------- | ------ |
| string           | string |
| bytes            |        |

Not set value is represented by null type. To unset value just set its value to null.


To parse message create message class instance and call its parseFromString method passing it prior to the serialized message. Errors encountered are signaled by throwing Exception. Exception message provides detailed explanation. Required fields not set are silently ignored.

$packed = /* serialized FooMessage */;
$foo = new FooMessage();

try {
} catch (Exception $ex) {
    die('Parse error: ' . $e->getMessage());

$foo->dump(); // see what you got


To serialize message call serializeToString method. It returns a string containing protobuf-encoded message. Errors encountered are signaled by throwing Exception. Exception message provides detailed explanation. Required field not set triggers an error.

$foo = new FooMessage()

try {
    $packed = $foo->serializeToString();
} catch (Exception $ex) {
    die 'Serialize error: ' . $e->getMessage();

/* do some cool stuff with protobuf-encoded $packed */


There might be situations you need to investigate what actual content of the given message is. What var_dump gives on message instance is somewhat obscure.

ProtobufMessage class comes with dump method which prints out a message content to the standard output. It takes one optional argument specifing whether you want to dump only set fields. By default it dumps only set fields. Pass false as argument to dump all fields. Format it produces is similar to var_dump.


  • foo.proto

      message Foo
          required int32 bar = 1;
          optional string baz = 2;
          repeated float spam = 3;
  • pb_proto_foo.php

      php protoc-php.php foo.proto
  • foo.php

          require_once 'pb_proto_foo.php';
          $foo = new Foo();
          $packed = $foo->serializeToString();
          try {
          } catch (Exception $ex) {
              die('Upss.. there is a bug in this example');

php foo.php should produce following output:

Foo {
  1: bar => 1
  2: baz => 'two'
  3: spam(2) =>
    [0] => 3
    [1] => 4


PHP Protobuf does not support repeated packed fields.

IDE Helper and Auto-Complete Support

To integrate this extension with your IDE (PhpStorm, Eclipse etc.) and get auto-complete support, simply include stubs\ProtobufMessage.php anywhere under your project root.