Over the years, WordPress has been developed so that users and site owners don’t need to have a lot of technical knowledge to install and maintain it. Andrey Savchenko believes that WordPress is causing technical irresponsibility due to site owners not having to know technical details like which PHP version their site is running.
Is not knowing good for you as a site owner?
Few good things ever happened by accident and ignorance.
Running your own site takes learning and effort. It is admirable of WordPress to make that easier. It is self–serving and insincere of it to pretend you don’t have to know anything.
You have to know. You are responsible.
The post generated a healthy discussion on Twitter that included Matt Mullenweg.
@Rarst shallow article: straw man assumptions and arguments, poor understanding of hosting ecosystem, faux controversial ending.
— Matt Mullenweg (@photomatt) July 19, 2016
Although it’s not happening at break neck speeds, there is an effort underway to increase WordPress’ recommended PHP version from 5.6 to 7.
In September of 2015, Aaron Jorbin published a post on the Make WordPress Core blog that explains what was accomplished in order for WordPress to officially support PHP 7. In the comments of the post, Rahul286 suggests that a warning be displayed that informs users they’re using an outdated version of PHP.
Samuel ‘Otto’ Wood succinctly explains why a notice wouldn’t do any good.
A notice by itself is massively pointless to show the end user, who likely neither knows nor cares how their hosting service runs.
However, it might be worth considering trying to detect the host in question, and providing valuable information for that specific host, such as links and other methods the end user can do to update themselves. Many hosts have a choice, somewhere, and if we know that, we can provide guidance.
Unlike WordPress’ Browse Happy notifications added in WordPress 3.2 that notifies users to update their browser, it appears WordPress is unlikely to perform a similar role with PHP versions.
Jorbin also commented on the article suggesting that developers reach out to their local user groups and inform users why they need to care about which version of PHP their site is using.
One thing everyone can do to help move these numbers is to talk to your local user group about why they need to care about the PHP version they run. Show them how they can upgrade, show them benchmarks of PHP 7 vs. earlier versions (especially vs 5.2).
Three months ago, Jorbin created a trac ticket with the suggestion that the PHP requirement for WordPress be increased from 5.6 to 7. Although many of the commenters agree with the move, Gary Pendergast says it’s best to wait. Dominik Schilling, WordPress 4.6 release lead, agrees.
Given that we have until the end of the year before we have to bump it, there’s no harm in holding off until major plugins are confirmed to work without notices or warnings. Until we can confirm that, I’m -1 on bumping the version for now.
This is remembering that we’re talking about the recommended PHP version. The recommended version should be providing an ideal experience for folks, we shouldn’t be bumping to a bigger number just because it’s there.
Given the PHP 5.6 support timeline, we’ll be bumping it by WordPress 4.8 at the latest, so it’d be nice to use those intervening months to ensure the UX for the wider WordPress ecosystem under PHP 7 is solid.
Major plugins like the WordPress Importer are not yet compatible with PHP 7. Developers are highly encouraged to use the time before PHP 5.6 reaches end of life to thoroughly test their plugins and themes for PHP 7 compatibility.
Mullenweg has made it clear that he will not use WordPress’ marketshare to force webhosting companies to upgrade to PHP 7 but rely on established relationships instead. In order to move the needle and get site owners to know and care about PHP versions, it’s going to take a continuous effort on the part of the WordPress community to educate them.
I believe that bumping the minimum recommended PHP version is a good way for WordPress to influence PHP version usage, without causing folks to be left behind.
First off, we have a practice of all unit tests passing on the day that a new PHP version is released – it was that way with PHP 7, it’ll be the same with PHP 7.1. You can always run WordPress on the latest version of PHP.
Next, by only recommending officially supported PHP versions, there’s clear documentation that people should be running a recent version of PHP to get the best experience.
There’s a regular argument that bumping WordPress’ minimum *required* version would force hosts to update their PHP version – we’ve found that isn’t the case. When WordPress’ minimum required version jumped from PHP 4 to PHP 5.2, it didn’t cause the large shift that was hoped for – instead, millions of sites were left unable to update. Even if it did work, throwing our weight around isn’t the way to behave in a large ecosystem.
WordPress’ backwards compatibility (both with itself, and with the versions of PHP that are still being used) is far more important that arbitrary number bumps. If it turns out that the PHP 7 experience with popular plugins isn’t so good by the end of the year, I’d much prefer to see us delay the recommendation bump, than to cause folks to have bad experience with WordPress.