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WordPress 5.6 Could Break Sites Again

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The WordPress 5.5 release back in August caused havoc for thousands of websites because it shipped without a JavaScript library called jQuery Migrate. This December, web developers are being advised to prepare for the release of WordPress 5.6, which threatens to wreak fresh chaos for websites.

What do we know?

Targeted for release on 8 December, WordPress 5.6 is to be the third and final major release of 2020. WordPress aims to include:

  • A nav menu block
  • Automatic updates for major core releases
  • Widget editing and customiser support in care
  • PHP 8 support
  • An update of Gutenberg to the latest version

Worryingly, some WordPress developers are already expressing concerns about the jQuery Migrate Plugin, with one saying it would become “useless” after 5.6 is released.

What is jQuery?

jQuery is one of the most popular lightweight JavaScript libraries. It serves to make it easier to use JavaScript on your website. jQuery also makes things like HTML manipulation, event handling, animation and AJAX simpler, working across multiple browsers.

Its latest version is jQuery 3.5.1 but older versions are still being used that contain Cross Site Scripting (XSS) and Denial of Service (DoS) vulnerabilities, which pose danger to websites.

The reason why websites are still able to use old versions is because of jQuery Migrate. This makes WordPress sites backward compatible with plugins and themes that still use older jQuery scripts.

What’s going to happen?

In the previous turmoil of its 5.5 release, WordPress released a new plugin called ‘Enable jQuery Migrate Helper’, which restored all broken websites. This was a quick fix but by no means was intended to help with the long run.

It’s been warned that sites who are continuing to rely on Enable jQuery Migrate Helper will see revived chaos. Functionality for websites that still rely on this plugin to keep their site going will break again. When asked whether the plugin will still work when the 5.6 update arrives, a WordPress plugin developer simply answered with:

“So the short of it is that no, it will not help once WordPress 5.6 comes around, as the jQuery library in WordPress is planned to be upgraded, and that would leave this helper useless.”

What’s being done about it?

Websites that are no longer dependent on the Enable jQuery Migrate Helper plugin should not notice any errors with the update. Developers of plugins and themes have fixed the problem, updating their software to the latest version of jQuery. Users of these products should also encounter no issues.

It is very clear that WordPress is encouraging its users to abandon its Enable jQuery Migrate Helper, instead hoping they will upgrade to the latest version of jQuery and jQuery Migrate.

Summary

In short, WordPress has given ample opportunities for users to ensure their own software is up-to-date. As long as this is the case, users really shouldn’t have to worry about encountering any issues when WordPress updates to 5.6.

So are you fully prepared for WordPress 5.6? If not, what are you doing to ensure you are prepared? We’d love to hear from you, feel free to comment below or tweet us @TeamTillison.

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