In part three of his wishlist for PHP 6 Stephan wrote that he would like to see annotations built into PHP 6 directly. I disagree with him about that. Annotations can be done in userland, without any problems. He already gave some examples of projects that accomplished this task. But if you look at them you see that every project has a different solution on how to implement annotations for PHP which leads to the problem that if you use different projects in your own application you have to handle all their ways of treating annotations. Annoying, isn't it?
In my notes to some reactions occured when announcing Stubbles I already wrote about the lack of specifications in PHP, and obviously I'm not the only one who would encourage such specifications. Specifications would solve the problem of different incompatible solutions. They would define interfaces, and all you have to do is programming against this interfaces, leaving the choice of which solution to use up to the user of the application or depending on concrete stuff you are doing. Of course, this is not limited to annotations. It could be applied on everything that can be done in userland.
How specifications can be created and handled has not to be invented, the Java Community Process can give us a lot of hints for that. Such a process, applied to PHP, can as well give us a new way of handling for the PHP internals, but that is up debate for the core developers once such a process is established.
The defined interfaces of those specifications could be part of the Standard PHP Library, where I would like to see more interfaces and less concrete classes as well, so everybody can rely on the interface to be there (because SPL is part of PHP by default). In the concrete example it would also mean less work for the core PHP developers because adding some new interfaces to the SPL should be easier to accomplish than real native support for annotations. However I think this will raise the need for namespaces.
The question about who should handle the process and provide the infrastructure for it is not that difficult. It not has to be necessary Zend or the PHP group like Stefan Koopmanschap suggested, it can be a group of motivated PHP developers as well. The more interesting question is whether such a project would be supported by both of them. It could only be successful if supported by them. I think it would be interesting to initiate and create the process (anyone else interested?), but of course it doesn't make any sense if it doesn't get the support by the PHP group, Zend and other PHP companies and PHP developers.