Right on the heels of the Gutenberg update, WordPress users are facing another technology update that will require a little attention.
This time around, we’re facing an update to PHP, one of the core programming languages that WordPress is built upon. This update will affect WordPress users globally, and so everyone with a WordPress site will need to make sure that they evaluate their setup to make sure everything is hunky-dory.
Don’t worry! I know this sounds like I’m about to jump of the techno-babble cliff and bore you all to death, but I promise I’ll keep this understandable. So stay tuned, and we’ll go through what PHP is, why it’s updating, and what needs to be done about it.
What the Heck is PHP?
PHP originally stood for Personal Home Page, but has been changed after-the-fact to stand for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor. It is a server-side scripting language, meaning that it…runs scripts on your server.
Essentially what that means for you is that webpages using PHP can deliver customized pages specifically tailored to your needs, rather than delivering one static page for everyone. It also means developers can hide some of the actual code they use from people, doing the number-crunching on the server where it is inaccessible to anyone the owner doesn’t want to be able to dive into the codebase.
While customizability and security are hugely important, and one of the reasons PHP is so widely used, it does come at the expense of slowing down the speed at which your page loads compared to a static page and putting more load on the server (which will be important once we start discussing the impending update).
Ok, What the Heck is Happening to PHP?
The PHP Group, the organization tasked with guiding the development of PHP, has announced the end of life for PHP versions 5.6 and 7.0 by the end of December 2018. PHP 7.1 will still receive security fixes for another year but will not be actively supported, and the current version 7.2 will become the actively supported version.
This is actually great news! Are you excited?! You should be. Many people who are already using PHP 7.2 have reported faster performance, with up to 40% page load, and more efficient memory usage leading to less load on the server (which help alleviate some of the inherent drawbacks to PHP we discussed earlier). In addition, PHP 7.2 comes with a bunch of new security features, and these days that’s always a good thing.
So, What Does This Mean for Me?
It means if you have a WordPress site, you need to make sure that your server is running PHP 7.2, and that your WordPress site is audited to make sure that your installation, theme and plugins are all compatible with your sparkly new scripting language. This involves upgrading your server, copying your existing site to a development environment and testing everything against the new PHP version, and then moving the updated site back from the development server to the live one. You should expect this process to take around 2-4 hours, but it happens seamlessly in the background.
If you’d like some help making sure that your site is all set to take advantage of all the goodness PHP 7.2 has to offer, and protected against the end-of-life for previous versions, give us a shout, we’d be happy to help!