WordPress 3.2 Gershwin drops IE 6, PHP 4 support

Automattic has announced the latest release of its popular open-source blogging platform WordPress, but while it brings new features there's a few things you're going to want to check out before you hit the upgrade button.

Announced by project lead Matt Mullenweg late last night, WordPress 3.2 'Gershwin' brings a refreshed dashboard design which the company hopes reflects what it claims is a faster and lighter release which embraces the latest buzzword-compliant web technologies.

The default theme has been replaced by Twenty Eleven, an HTML5 powered version which fits in with the project's plans to introduce a new default theme every year to prevent things from getting stale. A new full-screen writing mode, known as 'zen,' is also added in this version, fading all the buttons and interface elements to white to allow the user to concentrate purely on writing.

Not all the changes are user-facing, however, and some of them may cause a few problems for those upgrading from an older release. A streamlining exercise designed to peel away some of the cruft that has built up in the code base over the years might result in a faster release, but comes at the cost of compatibility: support for PHP4 and versions of MySQL prior to 5.0 have now been removed altogether, while the Admin interface no longer operates in Internet Explorer 6.0.

There's no denying that WordPress 3.2 is a fine release, and brings some much-needed improvements to the platform. We're especially impressed with the speed of updates: the software now refreshes only the changed files, rather than every file in the system, which meant we had finished the upgrade in under five seconds on our test platform.

It'll be a while before the changes have been adopted by the various third-party developers who create add-ons for WordPress, however. During testing we found that one particular WordPress theme, known as Arras Theme, caused the upgraded software to crash outright until we'd removed a particular class from the widget.php file.

If you're not sure whether WordPress 3.2 is worth the upgrade - and potential pitfalls like the one above - here's Automattic's attempt to convince you otherwise in video form.