We Need to Discuss the Current PHP Version Your Site Is Running

Back in November, we talked about PHP changes that are coming soon and how they will affect you and your website. Since the publish time of the post, we have passed the “End of Life” dates for both PHP 5.6 and PHP 7.0 support. There is no immediate doom to worry about if you happen to still be on one of those versions, or an even earlier version, but now is going to be the time to start looking into things in earnest.

New minimum version coming in WordPress’ future

In early December, it was announced at WordCamp US 2018 that there are plans to bump WordPress’ minimum supported PHP version to version 5.6 as early as April 2019. At the time of this writing, that’s roughly three months away, which feels both like a long time and not much time at all.

Exact details on the implementation and how updates will be handled are yet to be fully seen. Based on personal experience, though, my hunch is that your site will be notified that there are updates available, but you are unable to perform the update, if on an unsupported version.

It is not the most widely known feature, but WordPress already does this for plugins. If your site is on WordPress version 4.7.8, and a plugin states that their minimum WordPress version is 5.0.0, you will not be notified that a plugin has an update available, until you update your WordPress version. This is done to prevent accidentally causing errors and white screens for your site because functionality that is expected is not available.

On top of this targeted spring deadline, there is actually a second deadline to bump the minimum version again. This one, however, will not be until December 2019, and it’s unsure which version will be set. They left that detail a little ambiguous by saying “PHP 7.” Since we know 7.0 is “end of life,” this leaves the opportunity open to make it be version 7.1, 7.2, or even the new 7.3. We will hopefully learn more as the year goes on.

A photo image of a broken fortune cookie and the fortune reads, "A plan you have been working on for a long time is beginning to take shape."

Plugins that specify minimum PHP version

For about a year now, I believe, plugin developers have been able to start specifying their own supported minimum PHP version in parts of their plugin code. However, that detail has not yet been enforced or used. They wanted to allow time for developers to start getting the details in place, first.

The next major version of WordPress, version 5.1, is set to start reading and enforcing those set values. You will be able to search for plugins like you always have within your Dashboard, but if your version does not match their support requirements, you will not be able to install the plugin. Instead, you will be presented with some messaging about why you’re unable to install, and some suggestions about how to address the topic with your hosting provider. There will also be a general notice about your current version shown on your dashboard with similar suggestions regarding getting updated.

“That’s a lot to process. Just tell me why I should be perking up.”

If your website is not running PHP5.6 or higher, soon you will not be able to keep your WordPress install up to date with the latest versions of WordPress. Security releases may be back-ported in to the overall version you’re running but they won’t be forever.

Regardless of what version you are on, once you have been updated to WordPress 5.1, you may or may not be able to install plugins you want or need to meet your site’s goals.

A photo image of a pair of hands holding a mound of colorful cookie sprinkles.

What can Maintainn do to help?

If you are a current Support Plan customer with Maintainn, we can definitely help review and evaluate your site and its readiness for the latest PHP versions available. We can help scan for potential issues, evaluate ways to resolve issues that get reported, or make recommendations on new hosting, if needed.

If a new host proves the best route, we can also help move your site and cover the steps needed for the migration. If your site proves ready and will have no issue with the version upgrade, we can help make that final switch in your hosting.

If you are not a current Maintainn customer but could use our assistance, take a look at the multiple WordPress Support Plans we offer and select the one right for your business. We look forward to talking with you and helping with all your site needs.

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