UPDATE: 5/24/18 –
As your digital experience platform provider, we are dedicated to keeping your sites online and updated confidently. After assessing the impact of the initially reported bugs in WordPress version 4.9.6 we have decided to resume plans around auto-updating your WordPress sites to the latest in your branch of WordPress (4.9.5 => 4.9.6, 4.8.5 => 4.8.6, etc). The WordPress Core team has also given verification that the initially reported bugs are less impacting than initially reported. With GDPR coming into effect we feel it is important to expose these GDPR features to you as soon as possible.
UPDATE: 5/21/18 –
As your Digital Experience Platform provider, we are dedicated to keeping your sites online and updated confidently. We have decided to halt plans around auto-updating WordPress to version 4.9.6 in response to a few issues reported after the release. The WordPress team is currently deciding on timing for a 4.9.7 release to fix issues around the admin_init, plugins_loaded, and init functions. Once the maintenance release is out, we will wait one day to see if there are any problems with 4.9.7. If you do not believe that your site will be impacted by the problematic functions, feel free to initiate the update yourself manually in your my.wpengine.com User Portal.
At WP Engine we pride ourselves in our processes around maintenance/security-related WordPress upgrades. Our commitment to you as your managed host is to keep you on the latest and greatest version of your WordPress branch within 24 hours of the release. Typically, releases take shape in two ways: maintenance/security and functional updates.
Functional updates are the major core updates (“Parker”, “Smith”, “Benny”). They are first offered as a beta and then the release version is made available. When the new release is announced, we publish the announcement outlining the new features on our blog, and we provide an estimation on when we will begin contacting website administrators with their update date.
Security/maintenance releases are a bit different. These releases are only dropped to fix bugs or patch security holes in WordPress Core. It is very rare that we will see new features introduced in these versions.
With WordPress 4.9.6 coming this week, we will be seeing a few new features built around GDPR compliance. This release is different in that it introduces new features in a maintenance/security update, and it only applies to websites already running WordPress 4.9 or higher. While this is atypical of a release, it is important to include these new features because they provide an essential toolkit for handling GDPR compliance. We have weighed the risk of introducing these new features, and because they are not manipulating or impacting existing WordPress features, we feel that this release is not only safe but also important in enabling you to make your site GDPR compliant.
As with our normal practice for maintenance releases, this update cannot be deferred. In the event that there is an additional security release following 4.9.6, we would have to update all websites on the 4.9 branch to patch the potential security issues, and this second update would also contain the new GDPR features. While the timing of a security release is impossible to predict, we feel it is important to adopt these features ASAP for your 4.9 branch installs.
Currently, the 4.9.6 release is slated for release on Thursday, May 17. This date is subject to change if issues arise in the release process. According to our standard protocol, we would need to update your sites on Friday, May 18. However, we feel with the inclusion of these new features, it is best to wait until the following Monday (May 21). This would offer the the best window for rolling out these updates to prevent issues over the weekend. You are also welcome to initiate the update before May 21 at your convenience through your my.wpengine.com portal.
If you would like to get started testing these new features now, please use the WordPress Beta Tester plugin to install the 4.9.6 release candidate. As always, if you have any issues, feel free to reach out through one of our support channels and we will be happy to look into any problems with the 4.9.6 update.