Yoast SEO 20.5 was released this week with several security fixes and an improved Google SERP preview. The preview shows mobile and desktop snippets with Google’s current styling so users can see exactly how their snippets will look and tweak how they optimize them for Google Search results.
Another highlight of this release is that Yoast SEO has dropped compatibility with PHP 5.6, 7.0 and 7.1. The plugin now requires PHP 7.2.5 or higher (along with WP 6.0). While this may seem extreme at first glance, approximately 89.9% of WordPress sites are running on PHP 7.2+. WordPress doesn’t cross-reference these stats with WP version numbers, but it’s possible sites running on much older versions of WordPress are also on unsupported versions of PHP.
Getting WordPress sites to update to the latest versions of PHP is a slow-moving process, but historically Yoast SEO has been a force for change in pushing users to upgrade their PHP versions. In version 4.5, released in 2017, Yoast SEO threw the weight of its estimated 6.5 million user base behind the movement to push hosts to upgrade their customers to PHP 7. That version of the plugin introduced a large, non-dismissible notice urging site administrators to upgrade to PHP 7.
“To move the web forward, we need to take a stand against old, slow, and unsafe software,” Yoast founder Joost de Valk said at that time. “Because web hosts are not upgrading PHP, we have decided to start pushing this from within plugins.” He contended that the WordPress ecosystem was losing good developers because the project was moving too slowly and also made the case for security and speed.
Although the latest version 20.5 will be incompatible with approximately 10% of WordPress sites running unsupported versions of PHP, this move forward is necessary for maintaining a healthy and secure ecosystem.
Thanks for this post, I appreciate your help in making this important step more visible to the community!
For more context, I can add that we decided by looking at the data from our active user base, where the usage of older PHP versions is definitely smaller than the numbers above. When it decreased below a certain threshold, we introduced a notification in Yoast SEO 19.12 last December, urging users on 5.6-7.0-7.2 to upgrade by the following March.
Even if the impact for us is limited, we really hope our move can be instrumental in moving the WordPress (and the web) ecosystem further, there’s still a lot of work to do and we’re trying to do our part.