PHP 7 is one of the biggest performance updates we’ve seen in PHP’s lifetime. You might be holding your site back if your server still runs an older version of PHP. WordPress actually supports new PHP versions, and you can take advantage of that. In fact, WordPress (and Smart Slider 3, too) plans to move forward and stop supporting old PHP versions. When will you update?
What is PHP and why does WordPress need it?
To make it simple, PHP is the coding language WordPress is built on. WordPress contains hundreds of .php files which contain codes only developers and PHP can understand. The PHP engine runs the codes in the .php files and transforms them to the interface you know.
Currently WordPress 5.2 requires minimum PHP 5.6.20 to run, but they recommend you to use PHP 7.3. 7.3 is a more recent, faster and more secure version of PHP, if you’re wondering. Additionally, WordPress runs perfectly on a PHP 7.3 server.
Moving forward: WordPress plans to make PHP 7 the new minimum
The minimum PHP version WordPress 5.2 requires is 5.6.20,but there are plans to move forward and make PHP 7 the minimum WordPress needs by the end of 2019. Currently we can’t be sure which version will make the change. However, there’s a possibility that it will be WordPress 5.3 which requires PHP 7 first.
Taking a look at the supported PHP versions there’s a chance that they will make a bigger jump, and make 7.2 or 7.3 as the new minimum. This is an assumption based on the fact that 7.1 will reach its end of life by the end of 2019, and 7.0 has already reached it. Whichever version they will choose, we will welcome their decision.
Why move to PHP 7 at all?
PHP 7 is the latest PHP version which is still in active development. PHP 5.6, on the other hand, is not developed nor supported anymore. So it’s an old environment, and not the most suitable for modern sites. According to WordPress.org’s statistics, approximately two thirds of WordPress sites already run PHP 7.
So the majority of WordPress sites already run on a more modern environment. They also expect WordPress to support them to update PHP on their site in the future. But if you’re still not convinced that moving PHP 7 is a good idea, here’s a list of why PHP 7 is better:
- Security. PHP 5.6 reached its end of life in January, 2019. This means it no longer receives patches and security fixes. In other words, users of PHP 5.6 might be exposed to unpatched security vulnerabilities. PHP 7.2 and 7.3 is still actively maintained and supported, so it receives security updates.
- Speed. PHP 7.0 is approximately two times faster than PHP 5.6. That’s an insane speed increase you can get by simply moving to a more modern PHP version. Additionally, PHP 7.3, the current latest PHP release can do almost 3x speed!
- Coding quality. PHP 7 allows developers to write a cleaner, more efficient code. As a result, your server’s CPU and RAM usage can decrease.
How will the PHP requirement change affect Plugins and Themes?
WordPress was ready to support PHP 7 back in 2015. Slowly, plugin and theme developers started to support it as well. Unfortunately, for a theme or plugin developer, it’s hard to abandon old PHP versions. There are still a considerable amount of users running older WordPress versions. Some users stay on the 4.9 branch intentionally, to avoid Gutenberg.
While only 20% of WordPress sites stayed on the 4.9 branch, they still expect to have up to date plugins on their site. As WordPress 4.9 runs happily on PHP 5.6.20, these users may take more time to upgrade their PHP versions. As a result, plugins and themes need to keep supporting old PHP versions for a longer time.
Smart Slider 3’s PHP requirement changes with the next release
As of version 3.3.22, Smart Slider 3 requires the same minimum PHP version as WordPress does: 5.6.20. However, the next Smart Slider 3 release will require PHP 7 on your server. If you can’t update PHP right now, you can stay on 3.3.22 until you update it, but we recommend moving forward as soon as possible.
By moving to PHP 7 as Smart Slider 3’s new minimum PHP version, we can take advantage of the speed enhancements. PHP 7 also allows us to keep the code clean and forget about the fallback codes for old PHP versions. Additionally, Smart Slider 3 supports all PHP 7 versions up to 7.4. For these reasons, we’re very excited to release 3.3.23!
PHP is evolving, and you need to keep up with it. Of course, you don’t have to update to every minor version when they’re released. Just make sure to run a supported PHP version on your server. It’s good for you, your site and your visitors as well. When are you planning to update?