During the 2015 State of the Word address, Matt Mullenweg highlighted Bluehost‘s recent efforts to update its customers’ outdated WordPress sites. After finding that 80% of their WordPress installations were not on the latest version, Bluehost wrote a Perl script that uses WP-CLI to update sites, even those running on versions as old as 1.0.2. The company successfully updated more than 2.5 million customer sites.
According to Bluehost representative Mike Hansen, the script took about a month to run through all of the outdated sites. First, it checks the status of a site, then backs everything up, and then runs all updates via WP-CLI. The script then checks the site to see if everything is good. If anything breaks, it restores the backup. Hansen said that they execute it on a cron job so that it doesn’t require a person to run it. The company uses the script to continually update WordPress sites without customers having to initiate updates.
Bluehost used the script to successfully update 99% of the WordPress sites on its platform. After the first major update, fewer than 0.007% of customers reported issues and WordPress-related technical support requests have been reduced by 18%.
“Our support requests are down partly because we are not getting as many hacked sites on super old versions of WordPress,” Hansen told the Tavern. “Things break less often. Plugin and theme incompatibilities have been reduced.
“Initially we were considering upgrading core, then plugins, then themes but we realized that doing them all at once was the most successful route,” he said.
Bluehost’s initiative was a huge vote of confidence for WordPress updates, as they have now been battle tested by the host all the way back to very old versions. When 4.3 was released, Bluehost was able to do 2.6 million core updates, along with plugins and themes.
Yesterday the company open sourced the WP Tools update script under the GPL license. It’s now available on GitHub for any person or hosting company to use or modify. The script received its first pull request in less than 24 hours. With contribution from other hosts working to make the internet more secure, WP Tools has the potential to become even more reliable for ongoing WordPress updates.
Check out the video below to see the part of the State of the Word where Matt Mullenweg tells Bluehost’s story of updating outdated WordPress sites: