WordPress 4.9.6 Due Thursday, 5/17/2018
When Is A Point Release Not A Point Release?
When it’s 4.9.6. Up to now, WordPress point releases have been fairly straightforward. They have included bug fixes and security patches and were generally safe enough that automatic updates could be enabled. That is apparently changing with the impending release of WordPress 4.9.6.
WordPress 4.9.6 will include a number of new features, not the least of which are tools to help webmasters cope with the Global Data Protection Regulation being implemented by the European Union. The GDPR takes effect May 25th, 2018. It will cause major changes to privacy policies and data storage policies around the world.
The Impact of GDPR
If you have a website and haven’t dug into GDPR yet, you need to do that ASAP. The regulation technically only applies to residents of European Union (EU) countries, but it’s not called the WorldWide Web for nothing! You have no way of knowing in advance whether you’ll have visitors from the EU signing up for your free opt-in, filling out a contact form, or even being cookied by your site. In short, if you’re collecting data on your visitors in any form, you have the potential to run afoul of the GDPR.
Plugins intended to help comply with GDPR are springing up like dandelions on your lawn. Unfortunately, dandelions have many more positive qualities than many of these plugins. I have not researched them intensively, but suffice to say that anything thrown on the market this quickly is suspect by definition. GDPR is a very complex set of rules and it’s not likely that any one plugin can address them all. Most of the plugins probably address some of the rules with varying degrees of success, but there is no all-in-one GDPR plugin that will protect your business.
Your Business Is At Risk
The bottom line on GDPR is that your business is potentially at risk if the guidelines are not followed. The EU is serious about protecting personal data and you need to have a clear policy for handling client or visitor data. If your business is large enough to afford it, seek professional guidance. If you still consider yourself small potatoes, don’t blow this off. read as much as you can and implement what you can.
Some of you may have heard the buzz about the new WordPress editor called Gutenberg. Gutenberg is slated for WordPress 5.0 and has been in active development for quite some time. WordPress 4.9.6 will have a call to action to try Gutenberg yourself. That implies that the current incarnation of Gutenberg will be included in WordPress 4.9.6.
My advice is to be very careful if you decide to try Gutenberg. From what I’ve read up to now, trying it on an existing page or post will alter that page or post in such a way that you won’t be able to revert it to its previous format. In short, you run the risk of clobbering the post and having to redo it or restore it from a backup.
If you’re eager to try Gutenberg you can download it as a plugin and install it on a test site. There are also online test sites. Just Google “WordPress Gutenberg” and you’ll find a ton of references.
Be Very Careful With WordPress 4.9.6
The bottom line is to be very cautious with WordPress 4.9.6. Treat it as a major update. Make sure your site is backed up before updating. Do NOT let it automatically update, especially on your live site. If you have test sites, go for it, and watch carefully for any issues.
Note To My Clients
If you are a subscriber to my Website Management Program, you will not see WordPress updated to 4.9.6 in the immediate future. The update is due out on Thursday, 5/17/2018 and there is not enough time between now and then to thoroughly evaluate it. For that reason, I am turning off automatic updates on all my client sites until further notice. Plugins and themes will be updated as usual, but WordPress itself will be delayed.