This is important to all users having old PHP versions! We won’t support PHP 5.2 in future versions of our free plugins anymore! Continue reading if you want to have more information about the WordPress recommended PHP version.
Maybe you want to know how to upgrade your PHP version? Or maybe you need some information what PHP is exactly? Then, this blog entry is the perfect reading for you, too.
First things first: are you using PHP 5.2? Go update it, now! Don’t know how? Ask your hosting, they know, I promise. And: they shouldn’t charge anything for that. If they do, we suggest to change your hosting.
Overview: Content of blog entry
What is PHP?
Modern PHP versions – releases – PHP 7.1.2
WordPress and PHP compatibility
PHP usage for WordPress users
How to upgrade to the latest PHP version in WordPress
Update your PHP version – 3 important reasons
For the ones who don’t know what PHP is: let’s say it’s what powers WordPress.
If WordPress would be a skyscraper, PHP would be the steel structure that keeps it standing. Obviously, in a skyscraper there’s more than the steel structure, but without that …?
Talking a bit more technically, PHP is a programming language. It’s the language being used to write the backend part of WordPress. PHP was created round about 20 years ago. In the last 20 years, there have, of course, been done many changes on it. Developers added many new features and also removed and changed many of them. They fixed a lot of bugs and released dozens of security updates. The PHP we have today is much more powerful, more secure and overall better than the PHP we had 20 years ago. Or ten years ago, or three.
At the moment of writing, the most recent stable version of PHP is 7.1.2. To keep PHP improving, the developers maintaining PHP have a roadmap for each version. There, they indicate when they release a PHP version and for how long they will actively develop it, meaning making feature updates. Additionally, you can find out how much time the PHP version will receive security updates. The great thing: everyone can take a look into the roadmap on http://php.net/supported-versions.php.
At some point, any version becomes the status “end of life” (often shortened as “EOL”). When a version is EOL, it does not receive any security updates anymore. That means that it is insecure. If you use it, it’s far more likely that your website gets hacked. Moreover, modern versions of PHP are much faster than old versions. If someone uses an old version, his or her website is, for sure, slower than it could be.
So we can assume that anyone having a website relying on PHP is always using the most recent, most secure and fastest PHP version, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
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To be able using a PHP version, the application you want to use, for example WordPress, must be compatible with that version. If, for instance, a feature used by the application was introduced in PHP 7, you need at least the version 7 to use the application. This is why each application has a “minimum required version” for PHP. It’s the minimum version an application requires to work. For WordPress, the PHP minimum required version is 5.2. But that isn’t the WordPress recommended PHP version (The WordPress recommended PHP version, as of right now, is PHP 5.6 or higher.)
If you take a look on the roadmap page linked above, you’ll not find that version. That’s because PHP 5.2 is so old that they removed it from the visual overview of the roadmap. In fact, that version went EOL in January 2011. Already more than six years ago. Using that version means that six years of security updates are missing. It means that six years of improvements are missing.
So nobody is using that version anymore, right? Well, not really!
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According to official statistics (https://wordpress.org/about/stats/), 5.4% of WordPress users are still using PHP 5.2.
Since our BackWPup version 3.3.6, our most popular free plugin having more than 500.000 active installations, we ask our users the consent to send the WordPress and PHP version anonymously to our servers. At the moment of writing, more than 25.000 users gave that consent already. With the data, we saw that round about 2.6% of the plugin users are still on PHP 5.2. It means that thousands of users are running their website in a PHP version that is very insecure and much slower than it could be.
Many users just don’t know anything about the importance of a modern PHP version. They neither know what PHP is nor how they could upgrade it. Therefore, they don’t fully understand the issues of an old PHP version or the benefits of a modern one. Many users just use what hostings offer them.
But please, migrate to the latest PHP version! After reading now, why a modern PHP version is very important for your website, we can go to the next step: How to upgrade!
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If you don’t know the PHP version your website is using, look at the administration panel of your hosting or just ask. They’ll tell you. You should change your hosting, if they don’t. Hence, they are not good for you.
If you realize that you have a version of PHP that is still actively supported – at the moment of writing the recommended PHP version for WordPress is 5.6 or higher – good.
But if you’re using an older version, ask your hosting to upgrade it. Very likely, they’ll upgrade it very fast or they’ll tell you how to do it yourself. Sometimes it is as easy as selecting a version from a dropdown menu. If they don’t, you should change your hosting.
We want to help you upgrading your PHP version. Therefore, we searched for a listing of providers explaining how to upgrade your PHP versions. Maybe your provider is amongst them?
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If your website is running on an EOL PHP version, your website is not secure. Nothing is going to change that. No matter if WordPress, themes, and plugins are updated. No matter if you activate WordPress automatic updates. Even installing a security plugin won’t make your website more secure. It is as if you had a super-secure safe but left its keys hung outside the door. To update your PHP version is a must to keep your website secure.
You already know, that if your website is running on an EOL PHP version, it is slower than it could be. Unless you use very outstanding code, the difference made by using PHP 7 over PHP 5.2 could never be achieved by improving plugins or themes. You need to update your PHP version. It is the only thing boosting your performance.
If your website is running on an EOL PHP version, your hosting is very likely already offering newer PHP versions. You just need to ask and they will update. If they don’t, you are paying for a slower, more unsecure technology. Then, you’re paying the same price you would pay if you had a faster and more secure one. If your hosting doesn’t update, you throw your money away.
Update your PHP version – more reasons why you should do it
An example: do you want to use the first iPhone ever produced but pay for it as if you had the latest one? Surely not! PHP 5.2.4 (the minimum PHP version WordPress requires) was released on August 30th, 2007. Just a couple of months before, iPhone was introduced into the market (with iPhone – I mean the first iPhone ever). PHP 7.1.0 was released on December 1st, 2016. It was just a couple of month after iPhone 7 Plus was introduced into the market. Trust us: if you are running PHP 5.2.4 it is like you are using an 2007 iPhone and you pay for it like an iPhone 7 Plus.
For sure, you know Yoast SEO, don’t you? This well-known plugin helps to optimize websites for search engines. Yoast SEO also wants users to use the most modern PHP version. Actually, they wrote about it in a couple of blog entries. There’s one post in which Yoast SEO also gives detailed information why you should upgrade to modern PHP versions, and another one in which Yoast SEO explains in detail how users can upgrade to modern PHP.
There is one more reason: Step by step, the minimun required version of each and every plugin is going to be increased. And you want to use all plugins, don’t you? For example, the minimun required PHP version of the newest version of our plugin MultilingualPress will be PHP 7.0. With that, we can use the newest programming for that plugin to make it even more performant, saver and better.
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Damn it! You’re still reading!
If you use a PHP version that is EOL you should have stopped reading this post 10 minutes ago and should have already updated it. You’re still in time. Go do it now.