Mea Culpa on a bad update + lessons learned

June 21st, 2013 – 89 Comments

Last night I pushed out an update to our WordPress SEO plugin, version 1.4.8. It included a ton of changes including support for the new author stuff Facebook announced yesterday. We had been testing all the other changes in that release for a while already and all seemed fine, so I was baffled when I released the update and got a flurry of complaints within like 2 minutes. It was our fault, sorry for that, but let me explain why.

I immediately rolled the release back and started to try and figure out what was breaking. I’d updated several of my own sites immediately and all were working fine. Luckily some people in the support forums had given the exact error message. Turns out we were using so called anonymous functions. These are awesome, if you need to do one small thing, this saves you the hassle of creating a function and cluttering the global namespace. But… They were added in PHP 5.3.

PHP 5.2

WordPress still supports PHP 5.2, even though PHP itself doesn’t even support it anymore and hasn’t been supporting it anymore for almost 2.5 years. If you look at the WordPress stats though, you’ll see a large amount of people (or rather, their web hosts) still runs PHP 5.2:

WordPress PHP versions

I think it’s fair to say the majority of web hosts out there are lunatics. If it’s your job to make sure web servers run fast and secure, how on earth can you run software on it that hasn’t been supported for over 2.5 years? Seriously, if my update broke your site last night, I’m sorry, truly, I am. But: go read this and upgrade to a decent WordPress host.

Seriously: PHP 5.3 was released as a stable version june 30th 2009. I remember that day well, my son became 3 years old that day. He’ll be 7 in just 9 days from now. The company Yoast didn’t even exist yet then. But yet we’re still relying on bloody old software.

Anyway, you can’t blame users for the lunacy of their web hosts, so we’ve been working on removing those anonymous functions and we’ve been doing another round of tests so we can now confidently release WordPress SEO 1.4.9. We’ve skipped 1.4.8 to avoid confusion in the support forums.

Lessons learned

First of all, I’ve downgraded my local development environment (on which I use MAMP Pro) to use PHP 5.2 instead of the PHP 5.4 I was sporting there. I’ve also, this morning, downgraded our test servers.

Next to that, Mark Jaquith was so kind as to hop in immediately when Scribu pointed me at a system called Travis CI and he helped me get it set up for WordPress SEO here.

Travis CI helps with automated testing of releases. We’ll have to write a lot of unit tests for it so we can test more of the plugin properly and in an automated fashion, but funnily enough… Travis CI doesn’t have support for PHP 5.2. So even though it’s awesome, it wouldn’t have prevented this issue.

In the end…

So, we / I made a mistake. We fixed it, we learned from it, time to move on. WordPress SEO 1.4.9 is out there and it’s awesome. We:

  • fixed several bugs;
  • added an XML sitemap for author / user profiles;
  • added better detection of that other big SEO plugin and our own old Robots Meta plugin and the plugin is now better at helping you import data from those and then disable them;
  • added support for Twitters new twitter:domain meta tag;
  • added support for Facebooks author / publishing release;
  • There’s more, if you want to know what, read the changelog.

89 Responses to Mea Culpa on a bad update + lessons learned

  1. serg
    By serg on 10 July, 2013

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  2. Packers Movers Delhi
    By Packers Movers Delhi on 9 July, 2013

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  3. Marc
    By Marc on 7 July, 2013

    I upgraded WP to 3.5.2, but had to disable WP SEO because the categories in my meny stopped working (empty pages and such)… I hope it will work in the next version, because I quite like your plugin!

  4. james gaffney
    By james gaffney on 2 July, 2013

    i gotta say – after all the awesome work you’ve done for this community, a little flub here and there (especially when it’s not really your fault) are perfectly understandable.

    your plugin is the FIRST plugin that i add to any site we develop.

    i’ve had minor issues in the past, but usually by the time i notice them, you’ve got them sussed.

    thanks for keeping us all updated and our sites working like champs!

  5. Radu Dragan
    By Radu Dragan on 1 July, 2013

    I updated to 1.4.12 and WordPress 3.5.2 and now the xml site-map doesn’t work, it gives 330 error.

  6. Hassan
    By Hassan on 1 July, 2013

    So Joost, I just found out about this mysterious [wpseo_sitemap] shortcode that came with the latest plugin update. There’s no mention of it anywhere in the admin pages, nor the help docs, nor the plugin page on this site. I just glanced it “by mistake” in the changelog and was like: what is this? gotta try it.

    How can we customize it? Does it have any extra parameters/attributes? For example to control the markup output and/or to exclude specific pages?

  7. Shea Bunge
    By Shea Bunge on 1 July, 2013

    Many web hosts provide multiple versions of PHP, and it’s up to the user to choose which version to use. BlueHost is an example of this.

  8. Peter Buckley
    By Peter Buckley on 1 July, 2013

    Just like to say, a big thank you been using your plugins for a while. I got the errors with your seo plugin. but you are not responsible for servers using old php model. if only they were all a head of the game just like you are. I am about to order your local google maps plugins just sorting some details with two of my clients. I would not be doing as well if it wasn’t for yoast seo. so your a legend and thanks again for making such a great plugin free.

  9. Bob Owen
    By Bob Owen on 28 June, 2013

    Trying desperately to migrate from All in One SEO Pack to this most excellent pluggin, but it just constantly fails to enstall saying

    “Installing the plugin…
    Destination folder already exists. /content/sites/b/o/
    Plugin install failed.”

    Unless anyone can please help and advise, I’m stuck using 2nd best.

    • Marcelo
      By Marcelo on 28 June, 2013

      Bob, that error is saying that the plugin cannot overwrite itself. You surely have it deactivated in your plugin page. If not present in the plugins page, FTP to your host and look into wp-content/plugins and see if there is a wordpress-seo folder present. If so, delete it, and reinstall the plugin. :)

  10. joloshop
    By joloshop on 27 June, 2013

    THANKS a lot, it works again!!!

  11. Joost de Valk
    By Joost de Valk on 27 June, 2013

    For those having XML Sitemap issues, I just pushed out 1.4.11 which fixes those.

    • Marcelo
      By Marcelo on 27 June, 2013

      Yoast, man, great work. But the fix only work under PHP 5.2. If you run the plugin with 5.4 the sitemap now appears blank :(

      • Marcelo
        By Marcelo on 27 June, 2013

        SORRY, MY BAD. My sitemap wasn’t showing up because today I tried Sucuri Security plugin and “hardened” the wp-content folder, which lead to the sitemap being unable to load the XSLT php stylesheet.

        Maybe you can add, as a feature, some detection routine to read .htaccess in wp-content folder or detect Sucuri plugin installed and active and advice that this would lead to an unusable sitemap file.

        • Joost de Valk
          By Joost de Valk on 27 June, 2013

          Sitemap actually works perfectly fine in that case, just doesn’t render nicely, it doesn’t prevent google from reading it.

      • Joost de Valk
        By Joost de Valk on 27 June, 2013

        I doubt it. Show me the URL to the blank one :-)

  12. Hassan
    By Hassan on 27 June, 2013

    Looks like the plugin is now rated as “Broken” on

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 27 June, 2013 is broken :) the plugin works fine :)

  13. Marcelo
    By Marcelo on 27 June, 2013

    Oh, and fix the bloody checkbox here to allow followup of comments. Thank you man

  14. Marcelo
    By Marcelo on 27 June, 2013

    Hi there, I’m another one with the screwed sitemap. In part due to the badly formatted data, and also due to the tags round down to 25. More people on fire at the support threads in WordPress forums.

    Please try to do an urgent update to fix this, before that bad formatted sitemaps can do a major positioning mess to the thousands of websites using your plugin.
    “With great power, comes great responsibility”

    Thank you for being there and for your good efforts.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 27 June, 2013

      Hi Marcelo,

      XML Sitemaps do not directly impact your rankings, if they would I’d be all over it. But rest assured the bug has been acknowledged and is being addressed.

      • Marcelo
        By Marcelo on 27 June, 2013

        Sorry, I just was panicking at the moment I wrote that…

  15. joloshop
    By joloshop on 27 June, 2013

    Still the same Problem, sitemap is broekn, please fix it….

  16. Michelle
    By Michelle on 26 June, 2013

    I’m getting an invalid date on my site map as well. Hopefully there will be a fix soon?

  17. Wayne Lewis
    By Wayne Lewis on 25 June, 2013

    Yeah, there are loads of reported about the problem with the sitemaps xml on the support forms (Shame we nolonger get any official support on there, as Joost de Valk never reply’s now on there :().
    Any chance of a official update from Joost de Valk on here, just so we know where we stand.
    Really don’t fancy updating until we get some sort of a reply.

    Even a quick reply to just saying you know about it and a fix is on its way, anything really. just so we all know.

    • Hriuki Casalooveen
      By Hriuki Casalooveen on 26 June, 2013

      Wayne, my dear pig, where did you get the official support?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 26 June, 2013

      I am aware of it and looking at it. We simply don’t have the manpower right now to do free support.

      • Wayne Lewis
        By Wayne Lewis on 27 June, 2013

        Not a problem, Joost De Valk,
        Just always to see a quick message, even if it says you are aware of the problem and looking in to it. (saves a lot of people posting the same problem and saves all the rage)

        On a side note: What about paid support??
        Will you offer it? as i am willing to buy the video seo addon too (which i know you offer support for) if you would also cover the free wordpress seo plugin too??

        Let me know and i will look into buying the video addon ASAP.

  18. Zach Smith
    By Zach Smith on 25 June, 2013

    thanks for the info! will share…

  19. Pratish
    By Pratish on 25 June, 2013

    Hi Joost – I am having a similar problem to joloshop above on one of my sites. The page and posts sitemaps are fine but the tag archives only display 25 entries (when there should be about 700 entries).

    Also, I’ve had to individually submit the page, post and tag sitemaps to Google because the main index sitemap has a problem with the date validation (you’ve forgotten a ‘T’ between the date and time in the last mod xml line so the validation is failing)… Please could you fix?

  20. joloshop
    By joloshop on 25 June, 2013

    I am using WordPress SEO since 6 mounth now and I absulutly love it.
    However since the update I am having trouble with my sitemap.
    Everthing lookes great however the sitemap within the main sitemap does onlxy show 25 items however there are supposed to be about 485 entrys!!

    Please, i need help, i switched SEO on/off i activated and deactivated sitemap still it only shows 25 items!

  21. Rana Irfan
    By Rana Irfan on 25 June, 2013

    Sir i am using your seo plugin. yesterday i updated this plugin but when i check URL submitted in google webmaster tool. it include 25 tags. i am so worry please guide me how can i include all my tags in this seo plugin. Thanks in advance sir.

  22. Pedro Pinheiro
    By Pedro Pinheiro on 24 June, 2013

    Hi, Joost, my sitemaps xml is not working since de updates. I am using now version 1.4.10. When I generate my sitemap I get this message: 2013-06-24T21:27:17+00:00 2013-06-19T02:27:43+00:00

  23. Kevin Thomson
    By Kevin Thomson on 24 June, 2013

    According to MaxCDN the latest version of WordPress SEO is not compatible when using W3TC. I’ve spend days trying to figure out why my CDN stopped working and never thought it would be WordPress SEO.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 24 June, 2013

      The latest version works just fine with W3TC, I’m using it with MaxCDN and W3TC here on

  24. Wonkie
    By Wonkie on 24 June, 2013

    Hi Yoast… thanks for an excellent plugin. Have consolidated a few into just WordPress SEO which is great :) I’m having an issue though with the latest upgrade – the XML file being generated has an invalid date format for the tag archive sitemap entry:

    2013-06-23 18:46:26

    (The ‘T’ is missing between the date and time) This is preventing google from accepting the sitemap – please could you let me know how to fix this?


    (ps: sorry for the double post – have just moved servers and having some issues receiving your confirmation email on that account)

  25. Wonkie
    By Wonkie on 24 June, 2013

    Hi Yoast – thanks for an excellent plugin. Have consolidated a few into just WordPress SEO which is great :) I’m having an issue though with the latest upgrade – the XML file being generated has an invalid date format for the tag archive sitemap entry:

    2013-06-23 18:46:26

    (The ‘T’ is missing between the date and time) This is preventing google from accepting the sitemap – please could you let me know how to fix this?


  26. Uwe
    By Uwe on 23 June, 2013

    So now I must say “mea culpa” ;-) I’d thought that’s only relevant for the robots. Thank you!

  27. Uwe
    By Uwe on 23 June, 2013

    I’ve found another bug in the new version: Since on the last updates all links to the archive does’t work anymore, it show always the newest entries. If I disable your plugin it works as expected. I’d switches off all permalinks options.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 23 June, 2013

      That’s actually a feature, not a bug. In the SEO -> Titles & Metas settings you can switch that off.

  28. Rudd
    By Rudd on 22 June, 2013

    Lesson learned, but not really your fault. No one should use 5.2 anymore. By the way, thanks for being so responsive on fixing the issue.

  29. Henri Deschamps
    By Henri Deschamps on 22 June, 2013

    Attempted to update and it has been churning for 15-20 minutes saying on admin panel
    “Updating Plugin WordPress SEO (1/1)”

    and on the domain home page it says
    “Briefly unavailable for scheduled maintenance. Check back in a minute.”

    How do I shut off the update process and revert back

    • Hassan
      By Hassan on 22 June, 2013

      If you have FTP access to your site, you’ll find in the root folder (where wp-admin, wp-includes etc. folders are) that there is a file called “.maintenance”. Just delete it and you’re all good.

  30. Daniel Law
    By Daniel Law on 22 June, 2013

    Cheers for the transparency honesty Yoast. That’s one reason why your plugins are always on the top of our WP plugin list.

  31. Matteo
    By Matteo on 22 June, 2013

    ” how on earth can you run software on it that hasn’t been supported for over 2.5 years? ”

    You make me laugh ! :) I think you never used CentOS and Redhat. They receive security updates after the eol and in case it’s impossibile to give security updates you have an update to the next major release……

  32. Andrew Lamncier
    By Andrew Lamncier on 22 June, 2013

    Alright confirmed one of my suspicions about web-hosts . Thanks for sharing was wondering about two updates in quick successions.

  33. Teri
    By Teri on 22 June, 2013

    Thanks for the updated info. I actually hadn’t updated to the latest from you yet so no problems. But, yes I HAVE run into various issues from my “host” not using php 5.3, unbeknownst to me they just defaulted a few of my sites to 5.2. what jerks! and very annoying to find out this simple error on their part was causing so many problems (after about 3 hours of trouble-shooting other things!) But, thanks again for your prompt and great response. Great customer service Joost!

  34. Ruairi Phelan
    By Ruairi Phelan on 21 June, 2013

    Great new features Joost – 61.5% of WP installs running on PHP 5.2 – wow!!! Your response has been awesome!

  35. Mark Settle
    By Mark Settle on 21 June, 2013

    Did the update this morning, and it broke my site – blank page, with partial code viewable in he source. Deactivating it worked, but deleting and reinstalling it still breaks my site. I’ve stripped out a number of plugins I can do without including Jetpack, but it still doesn’t work.

    My server is running PHP 5.3. Can I get a link to 1.4.7 for now and try that to see if something else is causing issues?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 21 June, 2013

      Version 1.4.10, which probably fixes your issue, is imminent.

    • Mark Settle
      By Mark Settle on 21 June, 2013

      Rolled back to 1.4.7 and everything works just fine.

      • Stewart Stanley
        By Stewart Stanley on 21 June, 2013

        Hi Mark – I’ve had similar problems – I would really like to “roll back” to 1.4.7 too – could you advise me how to do this please? Is there a link?

  36. Hassan
    By Hassan on 21 June, 2013

    Thanks for the clarification, Joost.
    Also thanks for the RTL support thingy, yay!

    BTW, this plugin’s download counter at is slowly approaching 5,000,000! Needs a special celebration! I’ve got you an idea for one: give away some premium plugins ;)

  37. Stormy Knight
    By Stormy Knight on 21 June, 2013

    Client site updated to WordPress SEO 1.4.9. Once activated, all CSS is stripped out. Not exactly the problem stated. I’ll look now to see what version of PHP is running.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 21 June, 2013

      That’s weird… Do you have some sort of plugin running for CSS?

      • Marc Harris
        By Marc Harris on 22 June, 2013

        I’m Stormy’s partner. The problem seems to be a conflict with Gantry Template Framework version 4.0.6.

        When we changed the template, it worked fine.

  38. Eric B
    By Eric B on 21 June, 2013

    Many web hosts, especially larger hosts, give you some method of choosing whether to use 5.2 or 5.3.

    It’s been my experience that it usually defaults to 5.2 for whatever reason, but switching to 5.3 can be as easy as adding a line to your .htaccess file, or flipping a switch in your control panel.

    So, in many cases, it’s the hosting provider’s attempt to make everyone happy, and the customer not doing what is necessary to make use of the newer version.

  39. Christopher Simmons
    By Christopher Simmons on 21 June, 2013

    Hi, Joost
    sadly a lot of us are still running PHP 5.2.17 because that is the version which is part of the last Plesk/Parallels v10 and many have not yet upraded to v11 due to inevitable hassles and downtime doing that. 5.2.17 is “solid” and everything WORKS. Many of us have not YET upgraded to 5.3 due to the commensurate hassles in the server-side control panels, and in some cases fixes applied for PCI-DSS compliance, et al (I have my own server in a class A datacenter). So, this was super topical to my needs and glad I looked before I leaped. In fact, I just put in a ticket to our tech team to ask — what do we need to do to move to PHP 5.3, although I’m sure the answer means also upgrading Plesk/Parallels – which frankly is sometimes a surefire way to crash all your websites, break permissions and go off the web for awhile until the permissions are fixed. So, it’s not always as simple as “being up to date” on things. But poke in the rear on this noted and appreciated :-)

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 21 June, 2013

      To be 100% clear: 1.4.9 DOES work with PHP 5.2.

      • Christopher Simmons
        By Christopher Simmons on 21 June, 2013

        Hi, been updating it on several of our news network sites (, etc.) — zero problems. Great job. Must be time to donate again :-)

        • Thangaraj
          By Thangaraj on 26 June, 2013

          If you’re upgrading now, move to php 5.5 or or 5.4, they will be supported longer than 5.3 will be.

      • Christopher Simmons
        By Christopher Simmons on 21 June, 2013

        You da man ….. man :-)
        Thanks for the continued good work and snappy wit. Makes life bearable dealing with this stuff all the time.

  40. Brad Dalton
    By Brad Dalton on 21 June, 2013

    I think it’s fair to say the majority of web hosts out there are lunatics. Agree with that 100% however i think its also safe to say managed hosting providers aren’t lunatics and several of them provide excellent hosting.

  41. netmeg
    By netmeg on 21 June, 2013

    Interestingly I updated one of my sites and the only thing I noticed is that it somehow took out the Google fonts on my Genesis child theme. Still trying to figure out how that happened. (Server is running PHP 5.3.25)

  42. derek
    By derek on 21 June, 2013

    I’m glad my web host is current with PHP version’s. There is security issues running old PHP version’s. If enough people contact there web host about this, they might upgrade with many complaints coming in.

    Anyways, the upgrade went well with Yoast SEO and no issues at all. I’m running the beta genesis 2.0 framwork right now and no problems so far. Thanks Yoast!

  43. Brian
    By Brian on 21 June, 2013

    Thanks for the explanation. I was out of town and missed the whole thing, but I did check my hosts to make sure. Turns out one of them supports 5.3 (and 5.4) but you have to click a button on the admin dashboard to activate it. Thanks to your update here, I’m now running modern on all my hosts :)

    BTW, still one of the greatest plugins for WordPress around.

  44. Elliot Noteware
    By Elliot Noteware on 21 June, 2013

    Thanks Yoast. Honesty=Respect. Most developers or business owners try and save face by ignoring problems. You’ve probably gained even more fans by being honest about what happened.


  45. Torben Lundsgaard
    By Torben Lundsgaard on 21 June, 2013

    WordPress should post an upgrade notice to admins i the backend. That would probably motivate them to ask their hosts to upgrade PHP.

  46. Chris Wiegman
    By Chris Wiegman on 21 June, 2013

    Thanks for the transparency!

  47. Carmin
    By Carmin on 21 June, 2013

    Hello and thank you for your work.
    I have a trouble on my website since the last update, the 1.4.9 version. When i did a update of your plugin, all my pages post was showing twice, one under the other.
    I can’t explain this, and when i’m editing SEO on my post, i can read “undefine” for each keyword… :-(
    Any idea ?
    Thank you.

  48. Katie
    By Katie on 21 June, 2013

    Dang. Even GoDaddy runs PHP 5.3.

  49. Jonathan Rivera
    By Jonathan Rivera on 21 June, 2013

    Excellent response for a free plugin. Great work guys

  50. Noel
    By Noel on 21 June, 2013

    Hi, cheers for a great plugin.

    I’m having trouble with your latest update and twitter:domain meta tag.
    I have wordpress installed in a local directory and this is being referenced as opposed to the actual domain.

    I assume this is just a case of using site_url() as opposed to home_url()

  51. Abhik
    By Abhik on 21 June, 2013

    That’s why I was wondering where is that version1.4.8 while upgrading WordPress SEO couple of hours ago. The upgrade window show that I have v1.4.7 installed and v1.4.9 is ready.
    Good to see those new Facebook and Twitter meta tags.

  52. Malhar Barai
    By Malhar Barai on 21 June, 2013

    Great way to accept the mistake and share what went wrong. You guys we quick to realize and fix the issue. Making of a great culture!

  53. Lazy
    By Lazy on 21 June, 2013

    Update: its indeed wp super cache, after disable all works.

  54. Lazy
    By Lazy on 21 June, 2013

    Thanks for the Update. Just got one issue with 1.4.9 and Jetpack Sharing-Buttons. If clicking on one of these sharing buttons from the sharing module of the jetpack plugin after upgrading to 1.4.8/1.4.9, it does not work anymore – headers already sent error in pluggable.php around line 848.

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 21 June, 2013

      The sharing module from Jetpack is shit anyway :P But i’ll have a look.

      • How to Blog blogging tips and tricks

        I agree with you on that! What is your preferred sharing plugin? After running the P3 plugin on my site, it showed that the Jetpack plugin uses an extraordinary amount of resources and greatly impacts load time.. I’m trying to decide whether to get rid of it entirely and would love your thoughts on the matter!

      • Lazy
        By Lazy on 21 June, 2013

        lol true, but the other guys like it on one page :/ thanks a lot :)

        • Thijs de Valk
          By Thijs de Valk on 21 June, 2013


          What social media did you have trouble with, because I just tried Facebook and Twitter and they both worked fine.

          • Lazy
            By Lazy on 21 June, 2013

            Strange, Facebook and Digg gave me the header-al…sent stuff in pluggable.php. Mh, probably related to another plugin. Maybe wp-super-cache. I will have a look! thanks a lot for trying. And sorry for giving you some additional work again after such a night/day for you! :)

  55. Joan
    By Joan on 21 June, 2013

    Your fault, but not your fault… web hosts should keep upgrading their software more much often.

    • David Fraiser
      By David Fraiser on 1 July, 2013

      Agreed in theory, but the #1 reason why web hosts don’t is because hosting clients depend on using 3rd party scripts/software that isn’t compatible with newer PHP versions.

      In a perfect world, yes. Every open-source Developer would always make sure his/her scripts were upgraded to be compatible, but that rarely happens.

      It’s always a juggling act between keeping the hosting client happy and keeping them updated and secure. It typically takes less than 20 minutes to upgrade PHP on a cPanel server, and that includes the after checks. It’s not from laziness that many hosts don’t upgrade.

  56. giankar
    By giankar on 21 June, 2013

    Yoast, were you able to identify which was the problem with the XML sitemaps on the previous versions and they were disappearing from GWT?

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 21 June, 2013

      There were a couple of issues with XML sitemaps we fixed, whether the specific one you mean here was among them I don’t know, but do test.

  57. Andy kinsey
    By Andy kinsey on 21 June, 2013


    It’s quite refreshing to have such an immediate break down of this is what the problems were, here is what we did and why. also here is a fix.

    This IS how problems should be rectified, not by the opaque – something went wrong, here is a fix, deal with it. I hate that attitude, as always Joost you are showing the way for top companies to follow :)

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