Save Your Site And Sleep By Understanding WordPress Plugin Versions

The other day, I found some plugins installed by a junior WordPress developer on a LMS membership site I’m building for a client.

I was scanning through them and found one of them had the version number 0.16.8.

I immediately disabled it and instructed him never to install such plugins again on a site which is going to be used by thousands of students once it is live.

How did I know not to use something just by looking at a number?

I’ll explain in this post.

WordPress has about 56,888 plugins as of writing this article for the first time.

You might be surprised to know that a plugin’s code is reviewed only the first time! After that the developer is free to update (or abandon) as they wish.

So its better that you know a little bit about version numbers and what they mean. This will help you save a lot of your headaches and keep your site safe.

All plugins have version number in the format X.Y.Z

The first number X is the major version number. The second number Y is minor version number. The third number Z is patch version number.

When a plugin is updated with a bug fix or similar small fixes, only the last number is changed.

When a feature is added, the middle number is changed.

Usually if the middle or the last number is changed, it means that nothing in your plugin should break. Updating it is not expected to break anything.

But this isn’t a guarantee by any means and often developers have subjective usage and opinions. Still, it helps avoid a lot of problems to simply even understand these numbers.

If the first number is changed, then a major set of breaking changes have been done. This usually means the update can break inter-communication with dependent plugins/themes etc.

So why did I ask him to not use a plugin with a version number like 0.16.8?

Because if the first number is 0, it usually means its alpha version software. The developer is telling you that it is not ready for production and you can use it at your own risk.

Usually if you have low-profile, low-risk sites (like a new website with low traffic), then you might want to use it.

But if you have a site that you depend on for leads / sales regularly you are better off using plugins with minimum version number 2.x.x

Additionally, I recommend that you use as less plugins as possible, and only those that are recommended by popular and trusted plugins / developers to avoid a site spaghetti.

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