What does this mean for your WordPress site?
What does this mean for your WordPress site?

Understanding the Importance of PHP 7.4 End of Life

As the PHP 7.4 version approaches its end of life (EOL) on November 28, 2022, it’s crucial to grasp the significance of this event, especially for websites written in PHP, which constitute more than 60% of the internet. In this section, we’ll explore why this transition is so vital.

The Impact of PHP 7.4 EOL on WordPress

With WordPress powering a staggering 40% of websites globally, migrating to PHP 8 becomes imperative for all WordPress site owners. Furthermore, PHP 8 presents numerous advantages for developers. Continuing to operate on PHP 7.4 beyond its EOL introduces significant security risks, particularly when hosting providers do not make extra efforts to support it independently.

Ensuring WordPress Compatibility with PHP 8

Before embarking on the transition to PHP 8, it’s crucial to confirm whether WordPress is fully compatible with this newer PHP version. This section examines WordPress’s compatibility with PHP 8 and the evolution of this support over time.

WordPress’s Journey Towards PHP 8 Compatibility

WordPress’s path to supporting PHP 8 has been a gradual one. It officially recommended PHP 7.4 as the preferred version for significant WordPress releases in recent years. However, full compatibility with PHP 8 required further development efforts.

WordPress 6.1 and PHP 8: The Latest Developments

The introduction of WordPress 6.1 marked a significant milestone in this journey. While it recommends PHP 8, it’s essential to note that this support is still considered beta. Nevertheless, these warnings primarily serve as deprecation notices, which should not disrupt core functionality. WordPress 6.1 also added beta support for PHP 8.2.

The State of Plugin and Theme Compatibility

While the WordPress core now fully supports PHP 8, the same cannot be said for most plugins and themes. This poses a significant challenge for WordPress users during the upgrade process. This guide will delve deeper into this issue and discuss how iThemes can assist in transitioning to WordPress 6.1 and PHP 8.1.

PHP 7.4 End of Life: What You Need to Know

To navigate the impending PHP 7.4 End of Life effectively, it’s essential to understand the PHP version’s support lifecycle. This section will provide insight into the support timeline and the consequences of staying on PHP 7.4 past its EOL.

The Support Lifecycle of PHP Versions

Every PHP version follows a structured support lifecycle lasting three years. This encompasses two years of active support and one year dedicated to addressing critical security vulnerabilities. After this period, a PHP version reaches its end of life.

PHP 7.4: A Journey from Inception to EOL

PHP 7.4, as a part of the PHP 7 release branch, made its debut in November 2019. Active support for this version ended in November 2021. As we approach November 2022, the PHP community faces the transition to PHP 8, which brings numerous enhancements and new features. Meanwhile, PHP 8.0 will also reach its end of life within a year, while PHP 8.1 continues to receive full support until November 2024.

The Negative Consequences of Staying on PHP 7.4 Beyond EOL

Operating on PHP 7.4 past its end of life introduces a range of adverse effects, particularly for WordPress websites. In this section, we’ll explore the three most significant drawbacks of this decision.

1. Increased Security Risks

With PHP 7.4 reaching its end of life, it will no longer receive security updates. This exposes your WordPress website to unpatched vulnerabilities, substantially elevating the risk of cyberattacks. WordPress, in particular, is a frequent target for malicious activities, making this a critical concern.

2. Reduced Website Stability

PHP 8 introduces various new features and improvements, leaving behind some PHP 7.4 functionality. Updating WordPress to version 6.1 while still using PHP 7.4 can lead to reduced stability as WordPress core undergoes extensive changes for full PHP 8 compatibility. This can result in persistent PHP-related warnings that may escalate into fatal errors.

3. Degraded Performance

WordPress 6.1 promises significant performance enhancements, including query caching and optimizations to the REST API. PHP 8 complements these improvements with enhanced code quality and efficiency. Sticking with PHP 7.4 post-EOL can result in degraded website performance, potentially increasing hosting and maintenance costs.

Navigating the Transition: Moving from PHP 7.4 to PHP 8

Given the negative consequences of remaining on PHP 7.4 beyond its EOL, it’s essential to prepare for a smooth transition. This section outlines the key benefits of upgrading to PHP 8 for your WordPress website and provides a step-by-step guide for a safe update.

5 Key Benefits of Upgrading to PHP 8

Transitioning to PHP 8 offers several advantages for your WordPress site:

  1. Full Compatibility with WordPress 6.1: The latest WordPress version seamlessly supports PHP 8, ensuring compatibility until the last minor release reaches its EOL.
  2. Reduced Attack Surface: PHP 8 enjoys active community support, promptly addressing security vulnerabilities, reducing the risk of attacks.
  3. Enhanced Performance: WordPress harnesses the performance improvements of PHP 8, resulting in faster webpage loading times.
  4. Improved Development Experience: PHP 8 introduces new features that simplify WordPress PHP development, providing more opportunities for theme and plugin developers.
  5. Lower Error Probability: Utilizing the latest PHP version alongside the newest WordPress release helps minimize errors.

How to Safely Update to PHP 8 in 7 Steps

Transitioning to PHP 8 should be a well-planned process to avoid functionality loss or fatal errors. Follow these seven steps for a safe update:

Step 1: Create a Staging Environment

Set up a staging environment to test updates before applying them to your live site. Managed WordPress hosting options often offer automated staging environments. Alternatively, create one manually if needed.

Step 2: Update Your Staging Website

Update your staging website to WordPress 6.1 and PHP 8.1. Ensure that all plugins and themes are up-to-date.

Step 3: Test Your Staging Website

Thoroughly test your staging website to identify any issues. Pay close attention to web pages, forms, and backend functionality.

Step 4: Address Issues in the Staging Environment

If issues arise in the staging environment, troubleshoot and resolve them. Deactivate problematic plugins or switch to default themes if necessary.

Step 5: Backup Your Live Website

Take a full backup of your live WordPress website, including the database and all files, before making changes.

Step 6: Push Staging to Live

Apply any necessary modifications from the staging environment to your live site to ensure a seamless transition.

Step 7: Update Your Live Website to PHP 8

Finally, update your live WordPress website to PHP 8.1 through your hosting control panel.

iThemes: Your Partner for PHP 7.4 End of Life Transition

iThemes is well-prepared for the PHP 7.4 End of Life, ensuring full product compatibility with the PHP 8 release branch. By updating to PHP 8 and WordPress 6.1

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