Software Versioning and WordPress

There are several ways software maintains version numbers, but in WordPress, plugins & core typically follow Semantic Versioning.

This is where 3 different numbers explain the current version of software:


i.e - 5.8.3 (The current release of WordPress at time of writing)

Semantic versioning has very detailed rules when changing each of those 3 numbers.

MAJOR – Non-backwards Compatible API Changes

This number should change any time you release software that is incompatible with what’s currently out in the world.

Sometimes you’ll see people release plugins with a preceding zero (i.e. 0.12.5). In this context, it usually means that there is no stable version of the software yet and you should be prepared for breaking changes between updates.

However, I’ve seen lots of WordPress plugins use this without ever releasing a version 1.

Be wary of updating plugins when this major number changes.

MINOR – Feature Changes Or Bug Fixes

Minor version changes occur when backward-compatible changes are made to existing or entirely new features.

Within the WordPress ecosystem, this can bring entirely new features to your existing plugins. Or they can be small bug fixes to existing features.

These types of version changes are usually fine to update but plan on fully testing out any functionality that you rely on.

PATCH – Bug Fixes

Patch version changes should only be used when bug fixes (oftentimes security issues) are added to the software or plugin.

WordPress will release these versions in between Minor version changes. Usually, there’s a lot of communication in the ecosystem when this happens.

You can be quite confident that these updates won’t affect your site much. Don’t just blindly update if you rely on your site at all. You should always have backups and a restore plan in place if you do run into issues.

Version changes in software happen all the time, and no one wants to push out bugs or broken software. These version numbers are a key way for developers to provide a log of the changes made so anyone can get back to a known working state.

If you’re ever worried about an update, check out the software’s changelog and take a look at what’s been updated. Then you can decide for yourself when or if you want to update.