Say hello to Billie (aka WordPress v4.3)

The growth of WordPress.

Yesterday, WordPress 4.3 went on public release. That brings to 8 the number of public release versions so far this year. Quite a lot eh?

The development roadmap for WordPress has been very aggressive over recent years and numbered 13 major release versions since 2011. This excludes the almost statutory maintenance/bug/security releases that are becoming the norm.

Keeping up to date has never been more critical, but at what cost? Every time a new release appears, every plugin, function and core feature needs to be tested again and checked for compatibility. This might seem a bore, and the sometimes the temptation to stay on the older version is too much to resist. But tread carefully, the short-term hassle of doing smaller updates is far easier than doing a huge upgrade designed to catch-up 12 months or so. Additionally, the very real security risks of running older versions of WordPress are really too much to ignore.

Do you upgrade to WordPress 4.3 now?

You don’t need to, but you should start planning the process. If you have a WordPress support contract, either direct with WordPress or with a reputable WordPress Support company then check out their web-site and they’ll already be talking about updates and when it’s planned.

For our clients, we’re starting the 4.3 roll-out planning in the next few days. The early candidate release has been with us since early July so we’re prepped and ready to go. However, we’ve noticed a trend with recent releases that sees a security or maintenance release very quickly follow the major release – probably as a function of the hacking community trying very hard to break the major new releases. This will be factored into our upgrade plans.

Not everything works with the latest versions. Most respectable WordPress plugin developers should have tested and updated their plugins prior to the full public release of 4.3 – but not all have done so. You’d be wise to check to make sure that ALL your plugins are tested 100% to work on the latest releases before upgrading. And use a staging/development server prior to pushing to live, obviously.

What’s in WordPress 4.3

Improved password management is the first, and most significant element. Good password management goes hand-in-hand with good security and the old practice of emailling passwords is now dead, and reset links will also expire automatically.

There are some useful changes to the text editor, especially if you’re used to using Markdown, or one of the similar micro-markup languages such as TexTile. In short, text patterns (such as ## or *) at the start of lines allow you to quickly add lists, headers, and blockquotes without having to click buttons in the visual editor. If you don’t use Markdown then it’s worth learning, but only if you write a lot inside WordPress.

And finally, a couple of neat items such as favicons (those pretty little icons that appear next to the URL) can now be controlled within the core, just before we see the death of the URL bar per se. And comments are now turned off by default on everything but post pages.