What is PHP? #
PHP is a programming language, and one of the most common used on the web. WordPress is written in PHP, and so plugins, like WordPoints, are written in PHP as well. In order to be able to run a program that is written in PHP, the web server that your site is on needs to have the software installed to interpret the PHP language.
Why are there different versions? #
Over time, as the web evolves, new versions of PHP are released. These improve the security of the language, fix bugs, improve performance, and add new features to help developers more easily create great software. New versions of PHP are released regularly, and in order to run code that uses the newer features, the version of PHP that is running on your server needs to be updated.
Do I need to update? #
Starting with version 2.3, WordPoints displays a notice in the admin screens if it detects that your installation doesn’t meet the minimum PHP requirements for the next update for WordPoints. If you reached this page via this kind of notice, then your server’s PHP version needs to be upgraded. You can also install a plugin to check your PHP version. You can probably also check your PHP version using your hosting tools. For example, here is a tutorial from InMotion Hosting on using cPanel to view your PHP version.
Why is my PHP out of date? #
Why is your server running an old version of PHP? That is actually a really good question. It is a good idea to always run the latest stable version of PHP, if possible. As of February 2017, the latest stable version of PHP is 7.1. WordPress currently recommends at least PHP 7.0. Older versions of PHP, like PHP 5.2, are no longer maintained by the official developers of the PHP language. This means that any bugs in the language are no longer fixed by them, including security vulnerabilities. So running an old version of PHP can potentially become a security issue, unless your web host is making sure that they are fix any issues that are discovered.
Because of this, web hosts will often update the PHP version of their users’ accounts periodically. Sometimes they wait a while to do this, so that they can update all of the sites on a server at once. Probably your host hasn’t updated the PHP version for your site yet because there are some other people hosting with them that are using outdated software, that might not be compatible with the latest PHP versions, and your host is working to update that software before they upgrade everyone’s accounts at once. However, you probably don’t have to wait.
How do I update PHP? #
Most popular webhosts have an interface for changing the PHP version your site is running on. Check your host’s documentation or support for more details. A few examples:
When in doubt, contact your host’s support.
What will happen if I don’t update PHP? #
As of version 2.3, WordPoints will attempt to prevent you from being able to update to the next version of the plugin if it detects that it does not support your PHP version. If you manually install or update to a version of WordPoints that doesn’t support your old version of PHP, the plugin will not be able to operate. All of its features will be disabled, and it will only display a notice in the admin asking you to update your PHP version.