The WordPress development team inadvertently caused chaos for a number of website owners after a planned series of updates went wrong. The update, WordPress 5.5.2, was meant to patch critical security issues but also made it impossible to install WordPress on new sites that did not have a database connection configured.
The WordPress team pressed pause on any more updates but didn’t factor in the auto-update feature, which subsequently pushed an alpha version of the platform to users. The alpha release introduced new themes and a spam protection plugin. Users who do not delete them will have to keep them updated to ensure they don’t one day pose a security risk.
“While work was being done to prepare for WordPress 5.5.3, the release team attempted to make 5.5.2 unavailable for download on WordPress.org to limit the spread of the issue noted in the section above, as the error only affected fresh installations,” Jake Spurlock, Security Release Lead at WordPress, explained. “This action resulted in some installations being updated to a pre-release ‘5.5.3-alpha’ version.”
A flawed update
The latest update, Version 5.5.3, fixes all the aforementioned problems, although WordPress users may have to carry out a manual update by visiting the platform dashboard and clicking “Update Now.”
WordPress users that had the alpha update forced upon them received a message that read: “BETA TESTERS: This site is set up to install updates of future beta versions automatically.” Apart from that, and the annoyance of having to delete unwanted themes, the update didn’t cause too much carnage.
However, the incident may have damaged user trust in WordPress and the auto-update process in particular. WordPress may need to put better policies in place to ensure that the update process can be stopped without causing unnecessary disruption.
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