WordPress 3.7 – Friend or Foe?

The next version of WordPress, version 3.7 is just around the corner.

There is one big change in this revision – WordPress will automatically update itself to the next release without the need for the website owner to click ‘update’.

Around 73% of WordPress installs are on a backlevel version due to the website owner not maintaining their system. A unmaintained system can be vulnerable to hacking attacks, which could result in the website being used for criminal purposes.

So with WordPress 3.7, there will be winners and losers.

WordPress 3.7 Winners

  1. Websites with the default theme and no additional plugins should benefit from additional stability brought by automatic updates.

WordPress 3.7 Losers

  1. WordPress releases have not always gone smoothly – WordPress 3.2 contained a server incompatibility that impacted many users resulting in release 3.2.1 being deployed a few days later.
  2. Websites that have custom code in WordPress Core will lose the modifications due to auto-update.
  3. Websites not using the standard themes are at risk with automatic updates – themes may not be compatible with the auto-update code.
  4. Websites using additional plugins are at risk of incompatibility between the plugin and the later release of WordPress.

We are in a fortunate position to be able to try out releases on our test server prior to deploying the code to production – the majority of normal WordPress website owners do not have this luxury.

On points 3 and 4 for WordPress 3.7 Losers, our experience based on the Themes and Plugins used by clients is that updates to both the Themes and Plugins are issued for each release which are generally are made available up to a week prior to the updated release of WordPress core. Just take a look at a the Changelogs on wordpress.org.

Once the updated Themes and Plugins have had a sanity check on our development box – we then deploy the updates to the client site in readiness for the WordPress core update.

The net outcome of WordPress auto-updates remains to be seen over the next 12 to 24 months – our personal thoughts are that for simple sites it will be a boon, for anything other than simple it will result in broken installations.

We’ll be disabling auto-update on all the sites we manage for clients; games of Russian roulette with code can be played by others.

In the longer term, auto-updates will have a positive effect for WordPress. Plugin and Theme authors will step up to improve their coding to increase compatibility with later releases of WordPress core, though the net-negative will be an increase in cost for purchasing commercial Themes and Plugins to the end-user due to the additional coding and testing required by authors.

In summary, we’re expecting a hell of a storm to take place in the first 12 to 24 months after the release of WordPress 3.7, with a coming of age and maturity to the WordPress platform after this period.



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