Ben Ramsey has an interesting post to his site today looking at what he calls the Fall of PEAR and the rise of Composer when it comes to package management in the PHP community.
PEAR's biggest selling-point -the curation of packages by a governed community - was also its biggest problem. There was no choice, and things moved slowly. If a package stagnated in development, I couldn't find another actively supported one to solve the same need. In theory, the maintenance of the package could be taken over by someone else, but this didn't always happen, and contributing patches was not clear or easy.
Ben talks about how, despite the PEAR development's best efforts, the proposed new package manager (Pyrus and PEAR2) couldn't keep up. Then, from a discussion had at a conference, the idea of a standards group was formed, the PHP-FIG, and the first standard soon followed, PSR-0 for autoloading. With this in hand and becoming widely adopted, a new tool was created to make it easier to share and install packages with this new standard - Composer.
Composer is what PEAR should have been. Through Packagist, Composer is the democratization of PHP userland libraries. Many libraries in the repository implement similar functionality, but through a show of popularity, the community self-selects the packages that are of the best quality. [...] In just a few short years, Composer has revitalized the PHP community and changed the way we do development.