WP Engine Ending Support for .htaccess

WordPress managed hosting provider WP Engine announced that it is ending support for .htaccess directives. WP Engine has begun end-of-life (EOL) processes to discontinue the use of .htaccess on its servers and set a date of October 2022 to completely remove support.

The use of .htaccess as a tool for managing websites is so deeply ingrained that the idea of ​​not supporting .htaccess anymore may seem like a deal breaker. Some might rightly think that a web hosting service may not be suitable for building modern sites if customers cannot have a custom .htaccess.

But a closer look at what WP Engine is doing shows that the decision makes sense and, more surprisingly, it could be a common feature of high performance web hosting in the future.

Why WP Engine is Deprecating .htaccess Support

WP Engine left .htaccess behind to gain performance gains from removing .htaccess from the site-level and be able to reap the performance gains from new technologies.

The announcement stated:

“WP Engine will remove the .htaccess file to enhance website performance and match industry trends.

If your site is using custom .htaccess directives outside of the default WordPress rules, we have compiled a list of recommended options.”

WP Engine anticipates that this change will not affect most of the websites it currently hosts as most sites are simply using the default version of .htaccess that WordPress generates.

“From our analysis, most WP Engine websites will not require any additional changes to the .htaccess as they are using the default WordPress version of this file.
Default WordPress rewriting will be handled automatically by WP Engine at the server level.

.htaccess and site performance

.htaccess is a way of controlling certain aspects of a website, such as redirecting a request for one URL to another URL, redirecting HTTP requests to secure HTTP to insecure HTTP URLs, among many other uses. Blocking the IP addresses of malicious hackers and scrapers.

.htaccess is a file used on servers running the Apache open source server software (as well as, for example, Nginx servers that run as a reverse proxy for Apache).

The use of .htaccess files for managing websites is a long standing and established practice.

However, what may not generally be considered or discussed is that using .htaccess files is not an efficient way to manage activities such as blocking IP addresses or redirecting URLs.

When .htaccess files become very large, they can have a negative impact on SEO and conversion-related metrics, such as Time to First Byte (TTFB), a metric that measures when a server begins to download web page resources. How long does it take to do

according to a Tested by StrategyQ Those who quantified the impact of .htaccess on performance found that .htaccess files can have an impact on both server performance and scalability.

What they discovered was that a large .htaccess file had a measurable and significant effect on CPU usage. Testing has also shown that as little as 1,000 lines in a .htaccess file can have a “significant” impact on server memory usage.

He noted that the added stress was not enough to bring the website down as the servers still had enough resources to handle the stress.

“Although it’s worth noting that during our tests, we saw no major impact on overall page load times on anything other than a 50,000 line file. This is probably because, even though handling the requests used significant resources yet we were not reaching our maximum potential.”

Yet one can imagine that a server with many websites with large .htaccess files could have an impact on the server.

Secondly, what may come as a surprise to many, is that according to the official Apache Software Foundation (the developers of the Apache Server software that runs .htaccess), only .htaccess files should ever be used when the server is running. have access to The configuration file is restricted, such as can be found on a budget shared server.

Apache Software Foundation Documentation advice,

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

This is simply not the case.

You can keep the user authentication configuration in the main server configuration, and in fact, this is the preferred way of doing things. Similarly, the mod_rewrite directive in the main server configuration works better in many ways.”

What WP Engine is proposing is actually a best practice as per the Apache documentation and in the short and long term it will benefit their user base by creating an environment that can make their websites perform faster, which can generate sales, ad clicks, and more. And there is a small SEO benefit.

Will WP Engine users be inconvenienced?

WP Engine provides ways to achieve them using .htaccess files they are called web rules, Web Rules allows users to manage IP-based allow/deny rules and set response headers.

Redirect can be implemented in three ways Within the WP Engine Managed Hosting Platform:

  1. Bulk imported into WP Engine’s Nginx configuration
  2. Bulk imported into WordPress plugin called Redirect
  3. Bulk Imported in Yoast SEO Plugin Redirect Manager

I use the Redirect WordPress plugin on some of my websites and have found it to be an easy way to manage redirects and headers.

The plugin also has a convenient log file that shows you visits resulting in 404 responses that can alert you to misspelled inbound links (which can be fixed by creating a redirect for the correct URL to the wrong URL).

WP Engine End-of-Life (EOL) Process for .htaccess

While at first it may seem like a radical idea to end support for .htaccess, given how the Apache Software Foundation itself recommends not using .htaccess at the website level, WP Engine approaches that Adopting that means a lot.

They also have clear benefits for users and website visitors.

Will other web hosts follow their lead?


Read WP Engine Announcement

.htaccess Exclusions and Options

Read the Apache Software Foundation’s advice on .htaccess

When (Not) to Use .htaccess Files

WP Engine Web Rules

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