PEAR and PEAR2 calls its developers maintainers, and classifies maintainers by their level of contribution to a package, or their role. In addition, each maintainer must choose a handle which can be used to refer to them in package.xml and in bug reports. A handle is an alphanumeric word with all lower-cased letters such as cellog or tony2001. If you are developing for pear.php.net, pear2.php.net or pecl.php.net, this handle is the account name you use to log into the website.
Developer roles are lead, developer, contributor and helper. Only lead maintainers have the permission to release a package. Both lead and developer maintainers may create and modify package roadmaps, and all developers can directly log into pear.php.net and change the status of bugs for the packages that they maintain.
For channels outside of pear.php.net, pecl.php.net, and pear2.php.net, these handles are still required, and have no special meaning beyond what the channel defines them to be. However, both the Pyrus simple channel server and other external channel server implementations require the lead developer of a package to perform releases.