End of Life (EOL) ‘.htaccess’

WP Engine announced ending support for the ‘.htaccess’ directive and has a set date of October 2022 for its complete removal. And, when managed WordPress hosting provider WP Engine is saying this, it means a lot. WordPress websites stop working if something happens to ‘.htaccess’ and, with time, become an integral part of the platform. The WordPress platform generates the default version of .htaccess while installation. It’s a longstanding established practice to customize the file for better performance and security tactics and control certain website aspects. 

Most web admins use the ‘.htaccess’ file for URL redirection purposes or for blocking IP addresses of malicious hackers and scrapers, among many other uses. But for this, the WordPress plugin ‘Redirection’ can easily manage redirects and headers. The plugin provides a convenient log file that shows 404 responses and alerts inbound misspelled links. The plugin offers the most efficient way of managing activities like blocking IP addresses or redirecting URLs. Another way is by creating Web Rules that allow users to manage IP-based allow/deny rules and setting header responses. Yoast SEO plugin also comes with a redirect manager.

WP Engine, such an announcement sounds like a deal-breaker. Is the company looking for some new technology, as most web admins won’t find the web hosting suitable for their professional websites? The company might be doing this with complete strategy and planning. Their decision is not pop-up like a surprise, and it would be well researched and thoughtful. The company has been in the WordPress Managed Hosting business since 2013. Their team is dedicated to improving website performance, protection, and accelerated development. 

The company is giving the reasons behind removing .htaccess from site-level is achieving performance and matching industry trends. The company has developed a list of recommended alternatives, and rewrites will be handled at the server level. Another reason the company provides is that the official Apache Software Foundation itself recommends not using .htaccess at the website level. According to developers of the Apache server software, the only time ‘.htaccess’ files should ever be used when access to the server configuration file is restricted, such as one might find on budget shared servers. The file is used on servers that run Apache open-source server software and Nginx servers that run as a reverse proxy for Apache.

The Apache Software Foundation documentation advises:

“There is, for example, a common misconception that user authentication should always be done in .htaccess files, and, in more recent years, another misconception that mod_rewrite directives must go in .htaccess files.

This is not the case.

You can put user authentication configurations in the main server configuration, which is the preferred way to do things. Likewise, mod_rewrite directives work better, in many respects, in the main server configuration.”

WP Engine claims that there are clear benefits for their users and website visitors.

The large ‘.htaccess’ file hurts SEO and conversion-related metrics such as the Time to First Byte (TTFB). The metric measures how long it takes for a server to download web page resources. It impacts both server performance and scalability, as it has a measurable and significant impact on CPU & memory usage. The WP Engine wants to create website friendly environment to make the website faster.

Will other web hosts follow WP Engine and deprecate the .htaccess file?

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