WordPress Dev Chat For 7-30-09

wordpresslogoShane had: “I think we should talk about getting WordPress 3.0 into PHP 5.3.0+ min. PHP 4 is not supported anymore and we need to think about getting the code into a object based for speed and security.”

According to Mark Jaquith, there is about 15% of the WordPress userbase running on PHP4. 0.05% of people are running PHP 5.3. 5.3 does not appear to be an option. Mark also states that supporting 4 isn’t that much of a burden. They are slowly introducing PHP5-only features, which should help reduce that PHP4 percentage. When asked by Jane Wells if he had spoken to any other core developers, Mark said the team did not want to completely abandon 15% of the user base. Perhaps a better approach is seeing how we can reduce that number without forcing anyone’s hand. One way to reduce that percentage is to do outreach to webhosts while also getting some major plugin authors to switch to PHP5 code.

The plan is to add a nag page that only administrators of a WordPress blog can see starting with WordPress 2.9. This nag will feature a link to an article in the Codex that explains why WordPress is dropping PHP4 support and moving to PHP5 only. The Codex page will then be updated with host specific information.

The next topic was the Ideas Forum. Jane Wells: I’ve been cleaning it out, want to get rid of everything outdated etc before we start upgrading it with some better organization. for the stuff that is very technical, I can’t judge if the suggestions are outdated, still good, or valid but dumb. could use some help with people going through and leaving comments so i can close ones that shouldn’t still be there.

Over the coming days, weeks, Jane is going to be going through the Ideas forum and tag certain items she is unsure about that the other core developers can review. Andrew Ozz will also be closing ideas down that deal with TinyMCE being an Rich Text Editor and not an HTML Creation tool. According to Jane, not that many new ideas are being submitted. The ideas forum is a side project and won’t be taken down for work until everything is in order for Sam Bauers to hack away. The ideas forum will be upgraded to bbPress 1.0. One of the ideas proposed by Jane is to create categories for suggestions so people can see what is already there easier, perhaps mapping them to Trac categories. The ideas are not being deleted, but rather closed.

The decision was also made that the team will not be using Uservoice what so ever to do the ideas forum. They will use bbPress 1.0. According to Jane, the plugins on the ideas forum are over two years old. Once the ideas forum gets to the point where it’s ready to be reorganized, the topic will be placed on the agenda for people to weigh in.

Also, there will be a few changes to the status choices for ideas. Among some of the proposed changes: “You can do this with a plugin” -> This is plugin material. As is “good idea! we’re working on it” and “sorry, not right now” and “this is not a core suggestion”.

The next topic was about about committers, workflow and bugs. However, I can’t summarize it because it makes no sense to me. All I can say is that this topic seems to be discussed at every development meeting so it must be pretty important or pretty complicated. If you’re interested in reading the discussion on this topic, I suggest you read through the log file for the meeting. The topic begins at Jul 30, 21:54:34.

One thing I wanted to mention which is not directly related to the meeting is something I read later on in the evening regarding the WordPress Planet feed. Someone brought up a website that was part of the feed that had not been updated in over two years. Jane said she MIGHT put up a vote on the dev blog for people to nominate sites to be included on planet feed and/or sites to take off. Again, she said MIGHT, so it’s no guarantee. However, I was wondering out of curiosity, how many of you would nominate WordPress Tavern to be added to that feed? If not, let me know your reasons why.

How To Participate:

If you want to suggest a topic to be discussed at the next meeting, you can by visiting the WordPress development updates blog. If you would like to participate in the chat next week, install IRC or an IRC compatible client and connect to the following IRC server.

chat.freenode.net or any random server on the Freenode network and then join this channel at 5PM Eastern time or 9PM UTC Thursdays. The meeting day was changed to accommodate European users.#wordpress-dev.

19 Comments


  1. Ah.. the Dev Chat LOG. I thought this was a missed schedule :)

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  2. @Kel – I know the title seems misleading but the meeting took place on Thursday, July 30th which is why I chose to put that date in the title. In the future. I hope to be a little more punctual with the post.

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  3. It’s hilarious how WP devs are in a rush to use x.0 products like 5.3.0
    They’re only on 2.8.3 already in 30 days and possibly not done yet.

    Somehow I do hope they force the 50% of people still on PHP 4 to stop using WordPress and search for other programs. It can only help other projects.

    So:

    1. force people to keep upgrading constantly to maintain security no matter how it keeps breaking everything

    2. eventually make a version 50% of your base can’t upgrade to because it won’t work on their host, leaving them open to security issues

    Should end well.

    ps. Objects are not faster, they make it easy to cache bloated things but they certainly are not faster by any means. All that copying around in memory adds up. Running on 5.3 will give you a 5-15% speed boost over 4.4.9 but it doesn’t magically thin bloated code.

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  4. Sorry, I should correct my thoughts in that not all WP Devs are gung-ho for 5.3, only a select few.

    And it’s not 15% of the userbase using PHP 4, I’ve done a survey of 6000+ sites running bbPress and WordPress and the number is closer to 50%

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  5. @_ck_ – Well, most of what I read points to 5.3 not being an option to move towards. It’s more like PHP 5.0 at the least. Also, the suggestion was brought up by a user to discuss at the meeting, not proposed by the core developers. About the percentage, WordPress phones home to the WordPress API to check for plugin, theme, core upgrades. Part of the information that is sent back is the PHP version the site is running on. So in that case, wouldn’t they have the more accurate numbers?

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  6. Re: the “nag page” idea… I’d be curious to see some opportunity for user feedback on that page. Maybe that’s a good way to get some more solid information regarding percentages of people still on PHP4?

    I’m one of those people still currently using PHP4.4.4. I have no control over my web host’s decisions regarding what they update and when. So if WP moves to PHP5-only, that means i either don’t upgrade for an indeterminate amount of time, or i find other software to use. I don’t like the idea of being given an ultimatum based on something over which i ultimately have no control – and that alone may make me decide to start using other software.

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  7. @Lindsay – Well, it’s not like this changeover to PHP 5 or above is going to happen overnight. It’s a gradual change with 2.9 having the nag screen and more so when 3.0 comes around. Perhaps when the page is created in the Codex, I’ll publish a follow up article letting you know but I’d imagine percentages based on what they know will be published in that page.

    Most Webhosting companies are setting up to allow you to switch from PHP 4 to 5 or they might have upgraded the PHP behind the scenes which is what has happened with my webhost. If your webhost is stuck using PHP 4, I highly suggest submitting a trouble ticket asking them if they could upgrade their version of PHP and if not, explain the reasons why as it makes no sense unless the majority of their customer base is using PHP 4 based scripts.

    No need to freak out right now as there is still plenty of time left before the switch.

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  8. @_ck_: I think Automattic’s stats on 13M WP installs trumps your 6K. Also, 95% of all statistics are crap. No, really — I’ve got numbers to back that up.

    Migrating WP to require PHP 5.3 isn’t likely to happen for quite a while. PHP 5.0? Yes. And 5.2 might not be *too* far off (comparatively speaking). But 5.3 is a *major* change, and as mentioned in the chat log, even a lot of developers don’t have 5.3 installed on their dev servers yet. It’s not only brand-spanking new, it has some pretty major changes under the hood that can break compatibility (or certainly at least cause new warning to be generated).

    Any web host still on PHP4 that doesn’t at least offer PHP5 as an option BY NOW is just asking for a world of hurt via lost customers.

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  9. I suggested 5.3.0 because of Object Oriented programing benefits. As a developer, I can’t take advantage of the new tools PHP brings to us because on the PHP min requirement right now. I love bring new features, but I can’t do that if I am forced to PHP 4 users. I might be moving all my plugins to at least 5.2.x and that would cause upgrades

    It would be nice to get a full API reporting system so we know what most WordPress users are using for PHP versions overall. I think though a lot of the pluging authors, are moving towards Object Oriented class based systems. I done now two plugins and converted my theme to a class based system and the benefits for organization have been incredible.

    PHP 5 would also get rid of globals. A huge issue. Just food for thought…..

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  10. Jeffro,

    I’d be really happy to have the chance to vote on feeds to be included in the WordPress Planet feed.

    WPT should definitely be included (it is already right, at least some posts are?).

    There’s one blog in there which should be taken out – it just posts very generalised information. In a couple of cases, to do with SEO and Adsense, the advice being given wasn’t particularly accurate. It smacks of being written by someone who’s just read a little bit and is trying to pass themselves off as an authority. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but it got under my skin when I saw inaccurate information being served up to people.

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  11. @Dougal, You’re right, I forgot that WordPress phones home with everyone’s server information (unless you know how to unhook the action, there is no opt-out or opt-in or warning about privacy). So they do indeed know 99% of everyone’s PHP info, their server version and IP, what plugins they use and other info.

    My PHP version statistics are not made up and not out of thin air, I really did survey that many sites for bbPress back in April (and will include thousands more in October). However I did glance at them wrong in my rush to post and did not add up the different 5.x versions properly, so the PHP 4 use is closer to 25% than 50%, but most certainly higher than 15%. I’ll post the exact numbers of what I find in October on bbPress.org.

    The WordPress community is NOT just made up of sophisticated users on dedicated or VPS servers who know what they are doing and how to keep up with PHP. There is a far greater number of average users on shared hosting who do not have control over their PHP (nor want to care about it, they just want to blog).

    I don’t think PHP 4 should be supported “forever” or past next year. But another year isn’t going to kill WordPress development. There is nothing so wonderful in PHP 5 that can’t be easily emulated in PHP 4. I have no problem with a nag in 2.9 (and 2.9.1 and 2.9.2 and 2.9.3 lol).

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  12. @Stephen Cronin – Thanks for your continued support Stephen. It’s appreciated. Right now, none of WPTavern.com is in the official WordPress planet feed. However, the WordPress.org category on this blog is part of Ozh’s planet WordPress.

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  13. @Jeffro – Well WPT should be in the official feed!

    It’s high time they reveiwed the included feeds. I’d suggest that they should do this on a 6 monthly basis (or at least yearly) so they can add new high value sites and remove any that stop posting or take a dive in quality.

    Because being included in the feed is valuable in terms of extra traffic etc, I think they need to select the sites very carefully. A public survey is a good way to do it IF they can make sure it’s not gamed..

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  14. @Stephen Cronin – Hah, you know, recently I went through every feed that Ozh had on his planet WordPress so I had them all in my FeedReader and I’d say a third of the sites were outdates, junk, not WP centric anymore, etc. I emailed him a list of these domains and he was appreciated of that so he could clean off the list. The WordPress community is an evolving series of sites that spring up but very few manage to live to a point where they become a recognized resource in the community. Just in my time running the Tavern, I’ve seen a number of WordPress sites spring up and 3 months later, they are done for.

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  15. Interesting to hear that PHP4 usage is so high. I thought only very obscure web hosts would still be running that. It’s got to be quite limiting for them only running PHP4 as many softwares available these days require at least PHP5.

    I’d vote for WP Tavern to be in the planet feed. You have the best WordPress news around and spreading it to a larger audience would be entirely sensible.

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  16. @_ck_ – Granted, I’d like to know more about the stats from Automattic, too. Did they just use a raw count of every blog that phones home? Did they do any adjustments for multiple blogs running from the same host? What about multiple blogs on the same host, but some are using PHP4 and some on PHP5? Did they lump all users at a particular hosting provider together? How many of those blogs currently on PHP4 already have the option to upgrade to PHP5 via their host’s control panel? All these factors could affect the statistics.

    And keep in mind also, PHP4 has been unsupported for, what, a year now? There are no more updates coming, not even security-related, for PHP4. And it’s not like that news came out of the blue, hosts should have known about it and been preparing for it back then. I’m glad that WP is finally making a move to officially drop support for PHP4.

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  17. I’ve noticed quite a few web hosts provide both PHP4 and PHP5 in their hosting packages but that they default to running in PHP4 unless you you specify it to use PHP5 in your control panel or .htaccess file, for example with 1&1 you have to add:

    AddType x-mapp-php5 .php

    So, I guess if some hosts are running PHP4 as default, this might account for the high percentage of PHP4 WordPress installs.

    I wonder with the “nag page” idea wether people should be reminded that they may be able to configure their web hosted to run PHP5, and that is is often a very easy process.

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