Composer platform dependencies#

What are platform dependencies#

Composer makes information about the environment Composer runs in available as virtual packages. This allows other packages to define dependencies (require, conflict, provide, replace) on different aspects of the platform, like PHP, extensions or system libraries, including version constraints.

When you require one of the platform packages no code is installed. The version numbers of platform packages are derived from the environment Composer is executed in and they cannot be updated or removed. They can however be overwritten for the purposes of dependency resolution with a platform configuration.

For example: If you are executing composer update with a PHP interpreter in version 7.4.42, then Composer automatically adds a package to the pool of available packages called php and assigns version 7.4.42 to it.

That's how packages can add a dependency on the used PHP version:

{
    "require": {
        "php": ">=7.4"
    }
}

Composer will check this requirement against the currently used PHP version when running the composer command.

Different types of platform packages#

The following types of platform packages exist and can be depended on:

  1. PHP (php and the subtypes: php-64bit, php-ipv6, php-zts php-debug)
  2. PHP Extensions (ext-*, e.g. ext-mbstring)
  3. PHP Libraries (lib-*, e.g. lib-curl)
  4. Composer (composer, composer-plugin-api, composer-runtime-api)

To see the complete list of platform packages available in your environment you can run php composer.phar show --platform (or show -p for short).

The differences between the various Composer platform packages are explained further in this document.

Plugin package composer-plugin-api#

You can modify Composer's behavior with plugin packages. Composer provides a set of versioned APIs for plugins. Because internal Composer changes may not change the plugin APIs, the API version may not increase every time the Composer version increases. E.g. In Composer version 2.3.12, the composer-plugin-api version could still be 2.2.0.

Runtime package composer-runtime-api#

When applications which were installed with Composer are run (either on CLI or through a web request), they require the vendor/autoload.php file, typically as one of the first lines of executed code. Invocations of the Composer autoloader are considered the application "runtime".

Starting with version 2.0, Composer makes additional features (besides registering the class autoloader) available to the application runtime environment.

Similar to composer-plugin-api, not every Composer release adds new runtime features, thus the version of composer-runtimeapi is also increased independently from Composer's version.

Composer package composer#

Starting with Composer 2.2.0, a new platform package called composer is available, which represents the exact Composer version that is executed. Packages depending on this platform package can therefore depend on (or conflict with) individual Composer versions to cover edge cases where neither the composer-runtime-api version nor the composer-plugin-api was changed.

Because this option was introduced with Composer 2.2.0, it is recommended to add a composer-plugin-api dependency on at least >=2.2.0 to provide a more meaningful error message for users running older Composer versions.

In general, depending on composer-plugin-api or composer-runtime-api is always recommended over depending on concrete Composer versions with the composer platform package.

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