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The Coming Flamestorm of WordPress 2.5

Hi everyone, A preview version of WordPress 2.5 has been posted at the WordPress.org website and from what I see after trying it out I expect to see a major flameup of epic proportions on their forum after it gets released. The most obvious and major issue is any plugin that adds fields to the database will almost certainly fail to work right in the new version unless updated specifically for it. They have altered the way plugin activation works–developers, you will need to specifically declare any global variables used in your activation function during table activation and creation to be global outside of the function (not just within it). This is not normally required and I highly doubt any current plugins do this–so they will all most likely fail to install their tables properly.

This points to one major issue I see with the WordPress development team–they have a very limited acceptance of the idea of backward compatibility. Starting with version 2.2 they have released new major versions that actively break backward compatibility on a wide range of plugins and themes. While I understand that this is sometimes needed for security reasons, in these cases it was simply because they redesigned the way something worked. This is where a “compatibility mode” or some other backward compatibility mode is really required.

In my plugin AWSOM Pixgallery I recently released a new version (4.5.x) that also saw a redesign of the way something works: image and gallery captions. What did I do? I added in a new setting called “Legacy Mode” that can be turned on to display captions in the old manner. It’s a crutch until people who are upgrading have time to update their captions to the new system. Actually, you don’t HAVE to ever update your captions, but in some cases some new features will require the new system to be operating to work–but that’s an option for the admin, not a requirement.

The real problem with this system of forced change is that it actively pushes people to NOT upgrade. Many WordPress users are not technical people. They don’t know, and don’t have time or want to know, how to go in and edit their theme files or plugins. In a perfect world every plugin writer would upgrade their stuff immediately, but in some cases plugins are no longer being developed, so they won’t get upgrades. This becomes a major issue when security upgrades are also involved, since many users who won’t upgrade now get left with insecure older versions of WordPress in place. If your site works now, but you try to upgrade and it bombs and you don’t know how to fix it, you are stuck and will probably just revert to the older one.

A “you should learn how to code” response to people will not work. A “Find another plugin/theme” response will not work. People like what they have and just want it to work.

I really like WordPress. I’m pretty much unaffected by these changes because I know how to program and make the changes necessary to get things to work right. But I also expect to get a huge amount of support requests because of changes to the way plugins now work. I’ll be updating my plugins to work, and will release new versions in the next day or so. But I suggest any developers out there get ready for the storm, cause it’s on the way.


  1. Amen!

    BTW, I suspect it also discourages people who have developed useful plugins for their own installations from sharing them.

    The constant changes to the internal functionality prevents would be contributors from participating because of the hassle of re-releasing their plugin and re-supporting it each time the developers re-design the functionality of the basic package.

  2. Sadly what happens is also developers simply just drop the whole thing leaving many people without any options for upgrading. The good thing is a very good plugin will usually find someone picking it up to move it forward, but the delay can be awhile.

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