Taylor Otwell created Laravel as an attempt to provide a more advanced alternative to the CodeIgniter framework, which did not provide certain features such as built-in support for user authentication and authorization. Laravel's first beta release was made available on June 9, 2011, followed by the Laravel 1 release later in the same month. Laravel 1 included built-in support for authentication, localisation, models, views, sessions, routing and other mechanisms, but lacked support for controllers that prevented it from being a true MVC framework.
Laravel 2 was released in September 2011, bringing various improvements from the author and community. Major new features included the support for controllers, which made Laravel 2 a fully MVC-compliant framework, built-in support for the inversion of control (IoC) principle, and a templating system called Blade. As a downside, support for third-party packages was removed in Laravel 2.
Laravel 3 was released in February 2012 with a set of new features including the command-line interface (CLI) named Artisan, built-in support for more database management systems, database migrations as a form of version control for database layouts, support for handling events, and a packaging system called Bundles. An increase of Laravel's userbase and popularity lined up with the release of Laravel 3.
Laravel 4, codenamed Illuminate, was released in May 2013. It was made as a complete rewrite of the Laravel framework, migrating its layout into a set of separate packages distributed through Composer, which serves as an application-level package manager. Such a layout improved the extensibility of Laravel 4, which was paired with its official regular release schedule spanning six months between minor point releases. Other new features in the Laravel 4 release include database seeding for the initial population of databases, support for message queues, built-in support for sending different types of email, and support for delayed deletion of database records called soft deletion.:18–19
Laravel 5 was released in February 2015 as a result of internal changes that ended up in renumbering the then-future Laravel 4.3 release. New features in the Laravel 5 release include support for scheduling periodically executed tasks through a package called Scheduler, an abstraction layer called Flysystem that allows remote storage to be used in the same way as local file systems, improved handling of package assets through Elixir, and simplified externally handled authentication through the optional Socialite package. Laravel 5 also introduced a new internal directory tree structure for developed applications.:13–14
In March 2015, a SitePoint survey listed Laravel as the most popular PHP framework.
Laravel 5.1, released in June 2015, was the first release of Laravel to receive long-term support (LTS). New LTS versions were planned for one every two years.
Laravel 5.3 was released on August 23, 2016. The new features in 5.3 are focused on improving developer speed by adding additional out of the box improvements for common tasks.
Laravel 5.4 was released on January 24, 2017, with many new features like Laravel Dusk, Laravel Mix, Blade Components and Slots, Markdown Emails, Automatic Facades, Route Improvements, Higher Order Messaging for Collections, and many others.
Versions designated LTS are supported with bug fixes for 2 years and security fixes for 3 years. Other releases are supported with bug fixes for 6 months and security fixes for 1 year.
The following features serve as Laravel's key design points (where not specifically noted, descriptions refer to the features of Laravel 3)::5–9
Bundles provide a modular packaging system since the release of Laravel 3, with bundled features already available for easy addition to applications. Furthermore, Laravel 4 uses Composer as a dependency manager to add framework-agnostic and Laravel-specific PHP packages available from the Packagist repository.
Query builder, available since Laravel 3, provides a more direct database access alternative to the Eloquent ORM. Instead of requiring SQL queries to be written directly, Laravel's query builder provides a set of classes and methods capable of building queries programmatically. It also allows selectable caching of the results of executed queries.
Application logic is an integral part of developed applications, implemented either by using controllers or as part of the route declarations. The syntax used to define application logic is similar to the one used by Sinatra framework.
Reverse routing defines a relationship between the links and routes, making it possible for later changes to routes to be automatically propagated into relevant links. When the links are created by using names of existing routes, the appropriate uniform resource identifiers (URIs) are automatically created by Laravel.
Restful controllers provide an optional way for separating the logic behind serving HTTP GET and POST requests.
Class auto loading provides automated loading of PHP classes without the need for manual maintenance of inclusion paths. On-demand loading prevents inclusion of unnecessary components, so only the actually used components are loaded.
View composers serve as customizable logical code units that can be executed when a view is loaded.
Bladetemplating engine combines one or more templates with a data model to produce resulting views, doing that by transpiling the templates into cached PHP code for improved performance. Blade also provides a set of its own control structures such as conditional statements and loops, which are internally mapped to their PHP counterparts. Furthermore, Laravel services may be called from Blade templates, and the templating engine itself can be extended with custom directives.
IoC containers make it possible for new objects to be generated by following the inversion of control (IoC) principle, in which the framework calls into the application- or task-specific code, with optional instantiating and referencing of new objects as singletons.
Migrations provide a version control system for database schemas, making it possible to associate changes in the application's codebase and required changes in the database layout. As a result, this feature simplifies the deployment and updating of Laravel-based applications.
Database seeding provides a way to populate database tables with selected default data that can be used for application testing or be performed as part of the initial application setup.
Automatic pagination simplifies the task of implementing pagination, replacing the usual manual implementation approaches with automated methods integrated into Laravel.
Form request is a feature of Laravel 5 that serves as the base for form input validation by internally binding event listeners, resulting in automated invoking of the form validation methods and generation of the actual form.
Homestead - a Vagrantvirtual machine that provides Laravel developers with all the tools necessary to develop Laravel straight out of the box, including, Ubuntu, Gulp, Bower and other development tools that are useful in developing full scale web applications.
Ready-to-use packages provided by Laravel through Composer and Packagist include the following:
Cashier, introduced in Laravel 4.2, provides an interface for managing subscription billing services provided by Stripe, such as handling coupons and generating invoices.
SSH, introduced in Laravel 4.1, allows programmatic execution of CLI commands on remote servers using the Secure Shell (SSH) as an encrypted network protocol.
Scheduler, introduced in Laravel 5.0, is an addition to the Artisan command-line utility that allows programmatic scheduling of periodically executed tasks. Internally, Scheduler relies on the cron daemon to run a single Artisan job that, in turn, executes the configured tasks.
Flysystem, introduced in Laravel 5.0, is a file system abstraction layer that allows local file systems and cloud-based storage services provided by Amazon S3 and Rackspace Cloud to be used transparently and in the same way.
In addition to Laravel's built-in and optional packages, Laravel also offers a paid set of additional tools and services.
Laravel Spark was developed by Taylor Otwell and provides additional tools for online SaaS businesses to integrate with services like Stripe, producing invoices, Bootstrap 4.0, and team authentication. As of February 2019, the package version is 8.0.
Laravel also offers Laravel Forge, to provision and deploy unlimited PHP applications on DigitalOcean, Linode, AWS, and more. Its features consists of managing SSL certificates, cron jobs, queues, load balancers, and more.
Laravel's command-line interface (CLI), called Artisan, was initially introduced in Laravel 3 with a limited set of capabilities. Laravel's later migration to a Composer-based architecture allowed Artisan to incorporate different components from the Symfony framework, resulting in the availability of additional Artisan features in Laravel 4.:73–83
The features of Artisan are mapped to different subcommands of the Artisan command-line utility, providing functionality that aids in managing and building Laravel-based applications. Common uses of Artisan include managing database migrations and seeding, publishing package assets, and generating boilerplate code for new controllers and migrations; the latter frees the developer from creating proper code skeletons. The functionality and capabilities of Artisan can also be expanded by implementing new custom commands, which, for example, may be used to automate application-specific recurring tasks.:73–83
Taylor Otwell at the 2013 US Laracon
Laracon is the official Laravel conference centered around the Laravel framework, covering its development, uses, and related general software development topics. Laracon has taken place in the United States, Europe and online in the past. Typically, the conference happens in the United States and Europe every year. 2017 was the first year a Laracon was held as an online event only. 2018 was the first year a Laracon was held in Australia. Each year the conference has a different variety of sponsors and organizers, but Laravel, Laravel News and UserScape are usually the primary organizers.