WordPress 4.9.9 Release May Shift Focus to PHP 7.3 Compatibility, Gutenberg Merge Proposal Timeline TBD

The plans for WordPress 4.9.9 are currently in limbo after today’s core developers’ chat. Here’s what we know right now: Discussions are underway regarding making it a quick PHP 7.3 compatibility release or cancelling it in favor of moving ahead with the 5.0 release cycle.

“Progress and communication on 4.9.9 has been very vague as of late, and I apologize for that,” WordPress 4.9.9 release co-lead Alain Schlesser said. “There were things that needed to be clarified first, but we can now finally share the big news with you: It’s just about time to begin work on the 5.0 release cycle.

“Because of this, @antpb and I will step back as release leads and we’ll wind down the 4.9.9 release. Over the next couple of weeks we will start coordinating the transition to ease into this major release cycle. This includes going through the hard work that teams are already in the middle of and planning how best to proceed. As we’ll figure out the next steps and the best path forward, we’ll share further details in future updates.”

After Schlesser’s announcement, there was some discussion about whether or not 4.9.9 is still needed, but the matter seemed to be already settled. Josepha Haden, who leads the open source teams at Automattic as a full-time sponsored volunteer on the WordPress project, is assisting in transitioning important items from the 4.9.9 release.

“I think we all know that a lot of work has gone into 4.9.9 planning already,” Haden said. “So the next couple of weeks will be all about reaching out to team reps and discussing what you’ve been working on and what we can do to keep things moving forward for everyone. But I will probably be helping with the 4.9.9 transition things, and I will say that the final timelines will almost certainly will be contingent on what I hear from team reps who were collaborating on 4.9.9.”

Haden confirmed that Schlesser was sharing the overall plan for the release but that feedback from the discussions indicated there may be items with earlier deadlines to consider. After gathering information from the team representatives, they will work to prioritize items that may need to land before 5.0. There may be time for a tightly-focused 4.9.9 release aimed solely at PHP 7.3 compatibility.

“I think it will be possible to wrangle a small 4.9.9 release with PHP 7.3 related bug fixes, while 5.0 is ramping up,” Gary Pendergast commented during the meeting.

“Given a good part of 4.9.9’s focus was on supporting things for Gutenberg, not sure we ‘need a 4.9.9 release if we would just include the work done to support Gutenberg with the Gutenberg merge proposal coming for 5.0,” Jeff Paul said. Gutenberg technical lead Matias Ventura confirmed that the plugin is ready for the team to begin collaborating on a merge proposal.

“We have kept development in the plugin for as long as possible for speed / convenience, etc, but it’s been ready for starting 5.0 process for a bit,” Ventura said. “From the Gutenberg side, things should be ready to start planning the merge.”

At the moment, a quick 4.9.9 release is under consideration for PHP 7.3-related bug fixes. It may happen while the gears are in motion for 5.0 or it may yet be cancelled in favor of going full speed ahead with the 5.0 release cycle. The decision has not yet been officially announced.