Did you know that 80% of all WordPress websites will soon be running on a version of PHP that is no longer supported if site owners don’t upgrade their version of PHP?
According to statistics provided by WordPress.org, 36.4% of WordPress sites are on PHP 5.6. However, the active support for this version of PHP ended in January 2017 and will officially reach its end of life on 31st December later this year.
But what does this mean for website owners? No longer having security support, it means that websites that continue to use PHP 5.6 could be exposed to vulnerabilities, which could cause issues for website owners and users.
There's also PHP 7.0, which reached its end of life on 3rd December 2018. It, too, is no longer a supported version of PHP yet almost 20% of WordPress sites are still on this version.
In addition to this, there is another 25.2% of sites already running on older unsupported versions of PHP including 5.2, 5.3, 5.4 and 5.5.
As with any software, PHP has a release life cycle that it needs to stick to in order to move forward with improvements and new features, much like WordPress. Each major PHP version is usually fully supported with bug patches and security fixes for two years after its release.
So in total, at the time of writing, a whopping 81.3% of WordPress sites are running, or are about to be running, an unsupported version of PHP with only 18.6% of WordPress sites running on the latest supported versions, which are both PHP 7.1 and PHP 7.2.
why are so many websites still using older versions of php?
There are many different reasons why websites are still using unsupported versions of PHP, some of these include:
- Website owners aren't aware and if they are, some don't care
For a lot of site owners, the main priority for them is that their site is up and running, functioning well and looks good. If they don’t have to upgrade their version of PHP, why would they want to?
- Those who host the website don't want to break it
Even though PHP 5.6 was released in 2014 and PHP 7.0 is about to reach end of life, web hosts have been cautious when updating their servers to the latest versions of PHP (7.1 or 7.2) due to the potential to break plugins and themes. With 32.4% of all websites using WordPress, that’s a lot of websites to fix should things go wrong.
- It’s time-consuming for developers
For web developers with older plugins and themes, updating to the latest versions of PHP involves updating their code, together with extensive testing to ensure compatibility. After all, they don’t want to break their users’ sites.
why doesn't WordPress force users to update php versions?
WordPress hasn’t forced users to upgrade to the latest versions of PHP for similar reasons why so many websites are using unsupported versions of PHP. It does have a minimum version of PHP that is required but until recently, this was an older and unsupported version too. However, more recently, it was announced that the minimum PHP version required for WordPress would be updated, making PHP 7.0 the minimum as of the end of 2019.
why should you upgrade your website's version of php?
- Website speed
- Website performance
If your site is running on an older version of PHP, updating to the latest version will give you immediate performance gains—more so than any tweaking around the edges of your WordPress site will provide you with.