PHP 7 and WordPress adoption

Should WordPress project do more to promote PHP 7?

Yoast relaunched the controversy.
In a bold decision, the author of the most used WordPress SEO plugin took advantage of his position to encourage users to upgrade to PHP 7.

Yoast SEO 4.5 released on March, 21, adds a notification about the PHP version for WordPress installations that run on PHP 5.2.

Yoast SEO has more than 3 million installs, and there are 5.4% of WordPress sites running on PHP 5.2. Millions of them. After the update, or when they do it, site administrators will have a message remembering them that they use a very old PHP version and urge them to upgrade.

It’s a non-dismissible notification. And this is one controversial side of this subject. The solution to getting rid of the message is to upgrade PHP, Yoast SEO and use another plugin or create a plugin or some code to hide it.

“To move the web forward…”

The other controversial side is the Yoast choice to do this sort of rant.

Why?

“To move the web forward, we need to take a stand against old, slow and unsafe software. Updating to PHP 7 will give your site an enormous speed boost. In this post, you’ll find out why we’re showing this notice in WordPress and what you can do to upgrade PHP”, explains Joost de Valk, the Yoast’s founder, and CEO.

PHP 7 was released in December 2015 and PHP 7.1 one year later. At this moment only 8% of the sites run on one of these versions.

WordPress and PHP versions

Some folks would like to see the WordPress project do this kind of pressure to users. Something that the core leaders refuse to do, although the recommended version is PHP 7.

“A notice by itself is massively pointless to show the end user, who likely neither knows nor cares how their hosting service runs,” said Samuel ‘Otto’ Wood.

The debate started in September 2015, when the core team was working to ensure WordPress support for PHP 7. Since then, there were not made sufficient efforts to incentivize the debate. In such a way we can say that this is the elephant in the room (the PHP mascot is an elephant).

In fact, the PHP minimum requirement to use WordPress is 5.2.4 version. Release in November 2006 reached the end of support in January 2011, six years ago. It’s a version known for some security vulnerabilities.

Performance improvement

Some hosting providers made an effort to promote PHP 7 to their clients, but most of them remain in a comfortable situation of doing nothing.

On his post, de Valk highlights the performance improvements: “PHP 7 is lightning fast, up to 400% faster than 5.2.” And nothing is better that a website that loads fast.

On the notice, Yoast SEO encourages users to contact their host and ask them how to upgrade their PHP. In the case, they aren’t in the mood for a change, “think about moving web hosts.”

It’s important to know that WordPress is PHP 7.0 ready but there are themes, plugins, and scripts not yet compatible. If there’s an issue, you can have some trouble. The site or app can break partially or completely your site.

Before upgrade to PHP 7

There are some things you must take care before and after the jump to the new version.

  • Contact your host and check if it’s possible to upgrade;
  • Make a backup;
  • Check if your theme and plugins are ready to go using PHP Compatibility Checker, a plugin created by WP Engine;
  • In case of doubt, contact the theme or plugins authors;

After upgrade to PHP 7

The power provided by PHP 7 for WordPress sites it’s a strong argument to make the change but do it wisely.