The latest major releases of PHP have bought massive changes to the programming language. Starting from PHP 7, we’ve seen significant performance improvements. Some benchmarks even point to versions 7-8 being twice as fast as their predecessors. However, most of the websites that use PHP are still stuck with old versions of the language.
Upgrading to PHP 8 isn’t just about performance either. We’re nearing the End of Life (EOL) for PHP 7, which means if you haven’t updated your PHP version yet, now is the time to do it.
Let’s talk about what EOL means when it comes to software and how to update your PHP version!
How the EOL of PHP 7-8 Affects Your Website
Using outdated versions of software is seldom a good idea. The older the software, the more likely it is to contain vulnerabilities, obsolete functions, or lack of developer support. That absence of support is precisely what EOL means.
Once a software reaches its EOL, developers stop providing support, significant updates, and security patches. Therefore, if you choose to keep using that outdated version, you’re on your own with any problems.
PHP 7 was released back in 2015. Currently, 68.9 percent of all websites that use PHP are still running one of the 7.X versions. PHP 8 has been out since November 2020, but only one percent of websites have made the switch to it:
Combine that 68.9 percent with the 29.7 percent of websites still using PHP 5, and you have a potential recipe for disaster. The last release of PHP 5 (5.6) reached its EOL in 2018. Now, PHP 7.4 is less than one month away from reaching its EOL date, set for 28 November 2021. However, PHP 7.4 will continue to receive security patches until 28 Nov 2022.
It’s also worth noting that Microsoft plans to discontinue support for PHP once version 8 reaches its EOL. Currently, support for PHP 8 is slated to last until 28 November 2022. PHP isn’t going anywhere after that date, but if you plan on using the software, you’ll want to stick with Unix-based distributions.
What the Lack of Microsoft Support Means for PHP Moving Forward
It’s important to note that although Microsoft will officially end support for PHP in 2022, that doesn’t mean the end of the software on that Operating System (OS). Considering PHP’s massive userbase, developers will still continue to compile their own versions for use with Windows machines.
Although PHP is a controversial language, it’s impossible to deny its impact on the web. Many of the world’s most popular applications and websites are built on top of it, including Facebook, Wikipedia, Slack, and WordPress:
WordPress alone accounts for 39.6 percent of all websites. If you’re a part of that number, statistically speaking, you’re probably using an outdated version of PHP. Therefore, this is something that you should consider fixing immediately.
Despite all the controversy surrounding PHP, it’s still one of the most popular programming languages on the web. Admittedly, some alternatives can do everything PHP can and do it better. However, PHP is so engrained in the structure of the modern web. As such, Microsoft dropping support for it is not a death sentence.
How to Upgrade to PHP 8 in WordPress
As a WordPress user, upgrading to the latest version of PHP can have a massive impact on your website’s security and performance. Moreover, upgrading PHP versions shouldn’t be that difficult, depending on which type of hosting solution you’re using.
You can quickly check which version of PHP you’re using by navigating to the Tools > Site Health > Info page in the WordPress dashboard and opening the Server tab:
If you’re using an outdated version of PHP, check to see if your web host offers automatic upgrades to version 8. In many cases, you should be able to switch with only a few clicks through your hosting control panel.
Alternatively, you can manually install the latest PHP version if you have direct access to your web hosting server. However, we recommend backing up your website before you do (just as you would for any major upgrade).
A significant percentage of the web is using outdated versions of PHP. However, less than one month is left before the EOL for PHP 7 and one year for PHP 8. That means there needs to be a massive push for users to upgrade.
Even if Microsoft plans on dropping support for PHP in 2022, that doesn’t mean the language is going anywhere. WordPress alone accounts for a massive share of PHP installations. Therefore, if you’re not using version 8 yet, now is the perfect time to upgrade.
Do you have any questions about how to upgrade PHP versions in WordPress? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!
Update: Blog post updated to include that PHP 7.4 has Security Support until 28 Nov 2022. Credit to Bruce Jackson at SEO Coach.