PHP 7, released in 2015, marked a significant leap forward in the world of web development. It brought a plethora of improvements, making it the most efficient and powerful PHP version to date. Here's why PHP 7 stands out as the best PHP version:

1. Unmatched Performance

PHP 7 introduced the Zend Engine 3.0, which revolutionized performance. Benchmarks revealed that PHP version 7 was almost twice as fast as its predecessor, PHP 5.6. This leap in speed was crucial for handling the increasingly complex and dynamic web applications of today.

2. Reduced Memory Usage

PHP 7 was designed to be more memory efficient. It could execute the same tasks with considerably less memory, allowing servers to handle more simultaneous requests. This reduction in memory usage translated to cost savings for businesses hosting PHP applications.

3. Scalar Type Declarations

PHP 7 introduced the ability to declare the data type of a variable, enhancing code readability and making it easier to catch type-related bugs during development. This feature helps developers write more robust and reliable code.

4. Return Type Declarations

In PHP 7, developers gained the ability to specify the type of value a function should return. This not only improves code clarity but also helps catch potential issues before they become problems in a live environment.

5. Anonymous Classes

Anonymous classes allow for the creation of simple, one-off objects without the need to formally define a class. They are particularly useful in situations where a class is only needed for a short period or in a limited scope.

6. Null Coalescing Operator

The null coalescing operator (??) is a concise way to handle cases where a variable might not be set. It provides a default value if the variable is null, streamlining code and reducing the need for verbose conditional statements.

7. Spaceship Operator

The spaceship operator (<=>) introduced in PHP 7 is a three-way comparison operator that returns -1 if the first value is less than the second, 0 if they are equal, and 1 if the first value is greater. This operator simplifies the process of comparing values.

8. Error Handling

PHP 7 improved error handling by introducing the Throwable interface, which is implemented by both Exception and Error classes. This makes it easier to catch and handle both exceptions and errors in a consistent manner.

9. Security Enhancements

While PHP 7 introduced many performance and feature improvements, it also came with enhanced security features. This ensured that PHP applications could be developed with the utmost confidence in their robustness against various security threats.

10. Active Community and Support

With PHP 7, the PHP community received a renewed sense of energy and purpose. This led to a surge in contributions, libraries, and frameworks, making PHP 7 even more versatile and capable.

In conclusion, PHP 7's remarkable performance improvements, reduced memory usage, and a host of new features have positioned it as the best PHP version to date. Its impact on web development has been profound, enabling developers to create faster, more efficient, and secure web applications. For any new PHP project, PHP 7 is undoubtedly the version of choice.