Thanks for using W3 Total Cache! Our journey to enable great user experiences in WordPress continues with today’s release. As will any minor release, the focus has been on improved security and interoperability / compatibility. With this release we’ve added two security fixes to ensure that your hosting environment is more secure, improved reliability of the plugin itself, and increased the responses of the WordPress administration panel.
As always thanks to all of our supporters, including those who are active in the forums helping end users.
Thanks to everyone that provided bug reports and helped to troubleshoot issues in the forums for other users. As the changelog will show, many of the most glaring issues have been resolved, which hopefully will reveal the next set of high priority concerns users are facing. I hope everyone tests out this release in a staging environment or sandbox before moving to a production environment.
A word to those who’s support of the project takes the form of code:
Looking forward, we’ll be re-visiting our plans for making the github repository public, making our tests available and sharing the roadmap for those who are interested in helping us accelerate it.
Thanks for your support and for using W3 Total Cache!
As always, security is very important to us. A few folks from the community came forward and called those issues to our attention and helped us test those fixes. Specifically, SecuPress team for testing the various security fixes: Security Token ByPass, Arbitrary File Upload, Arbitrary File Download, Arbitrary PHP Eval and the XSS vector. Thanks to those that continue to be supportive in their efforts and kind words.
This release has some cosmetic bugs in the latest version of WordPress, but our test suite shows that core functionality is working as intended. Having said that, I’m sure there are other bugs and bumps in the upgrade process – we’d love to learn about those, so we can push a follow-up release. Thanks in advance for reporting any issues you find. Hopefully, you find them in a staging area and not in your production site.
There are a couple of highlights for this build aside from the security fixes including new functionality for Pro subscribers, new caching engines, new extensions, new integrations and increased interoperability. Please check out the changelog for specifics.
We recently noticed an increase in the number of customers experiencing activation issues with W3 Total Cache Pro. For those of you who don’t know, this is how it works:
Once you upgrade from the Community (free) version of W3 Total Cache to the Pro version ($99/yr subscription), you’re assigned a license key that in most cases is automatically applied. In the event that activation isn’t automatic, you simply need to paste the license key (which is sent via email and displayed in your browser at the time of purchase) in the License field on the General Settings page and save settings.
A number of customers were unsuccessful in getting the Pro version activated despite following the steps above, and our investigation has revealed that a patch is required in order to complete the activation process if you’re among those affected.
Two things before I reveal the patch:
We’re happy to implement this patch for you! Just email us at email@example.com and let us know that you need help. We’ll provide you with a secure link so you can send us WP Admin and filesystem (SSH or FTP) access. Note that both required to implement and verify the patch, so please be sure you have both ready.
This patch will be in the next release, so most people won’t have to worry about it. We don’t have an ETA we can give you for this release, but it will be available “soon” (smile).
Without further ado.
On line 117 of
/w3-total-cache/lib/W3/Licensing.php, the following line:
In plain English this means that all things being equal, a site served over HTTPS will rank higher than a site served over HTTP. And don’t take “all things being equal” lightly, there are hundreds of factors that influence how well your site ranks (so there’s no need to drop everything and buy an SSL certificate). Regardless, security (as in the case with performance) is clearly a direction towards which the web is moving.
Configuring SSL is a pain, even when you know what you’re doing. The last thing we want here at W3 EDGE is to make it harder for you to run a secure website once you’ve gone through the trouble of implementing security measures.
There are a number of ways in which W3 Total Cache supports both performance and security, and we wanted to highlight a few of these capabilities below:
Caching of HTTPS pages: on the page cache settings page, you can “Cache SSL (https) requests” (uniquely) for improved performance.
Page caching exceptions: Pages with customer-specific data (such as shopping cart pages and member profiles) should not be cached in most cases, and W3TC allows you to implement a page caching exception on the pages of your choice via the “Never cache the following pages” section of the page cache settings page. Usage: simply enter “cart/” to exclude that page or “cart/*” to exclude that page and all sub-pages. (Without the quotes, of course.)
Pro tip: you can also use the
define('DONOTCACHEPAGE',true); define statement in your
functions.php file to specify a page or series of pages where page caching should be disabled. Navigate to Performance > FAQ in your Dashboard for more information.
Content Delivery Networks
Disable CDN on SSL pages: We have a lot of customers who run ecommerce websites and secure transaction pages (/cart, etc.) with SSL. Many of these customers also integrate a Content Delivery Network on their site to improve performance, and this can break SSL pages if the CDN URLs are HTTP. W3TC has long since allowed you to disable CDN on HTTPS pages with a snippet of code, but this functionality is now fully exposed through the UI. Usage: On the CDN Settings page, simply select the “Disable CDN on SSL pages” checkbox under the Advanced section.
SSL Support: W3TC also supports CDNs served over HTTPS.
Pro tip: to maximize the use of W3TC and your CDN on sites with both HTTP and HTTPS pages, you can define both versions of your CDN hostnames in the “Replace site’s hostname with” fields of the CDN settings page in the following format:
cdn.yourdomain.com,ssl-cdn.yourdomain.com. You can see Yoast’s configuration illustrated in his excellent post on WordPress and CDNs.
CloudFlare is a product that many of our customers use for securing and accelerating their sites. You can actually use CloudFlare’s Pro plan ($20/mo as of the time of this post) to serve your site over SSL without needing to purchase and configure an SSL certificate.
The latest version of W3TC ships with a CloudFlare extension to facilitate the connection between your site and the CloudFlare services. This connector is not required for CloudFlare to function of course (CloudFlare works at the DNS level), but our connector exposes a number of useful functions that allow you to make changes right from W3TC.
Fun fact: CloudFlare was originally conceived as a security product that ended up having performance benefits as a result of how it functions.
By now, you’ve no doubt read posts from all over the web about the Heartbleed Bug. If you’ve somehow missed the news, here’s a quick overview:
The Heartbleed Bug is a serious vulnerability in the popular OpenSSL cryptographic software library. This weakness allows stealing the information protected, under normal conditions, by the SSL/TLS encryption used to secure the Internet. SSL/TLS provides communication security and privacy over the Internet for applications such as web, email, instant messaging (IM) and some virtual private networks (VPNs).
The Heartbleed bug allows anyone on the Internet to read the memory of the systems protected by the vulnerable versions of the OpenSSL software. This compromises the secret keys used to identify the service providers and to encrypt the traffic, the names and passwords of the users and the actual content. This allows attackers to eavesdrop on communications, steal data directly from the services and users and to impersonate services and users.
Here at W3 EDGE, and we use SSL to secure credit card transactions when customers purchase W3 Total Cache Pro license through the WordPress dashboard.
Upon learning of the bug, we upgraded OpenSSL on our servers to version 1.0.1g which was released on Monday and contains a patch for the Heartbleed bug. No action is required on your part, and you can continue using W3 Total Cache with confidence.
For those of you that have been bothered or concerned with the notion of upgrading W3 Total Cache because new features have been problematic for you, we understand your concerns and we’re grateful to those that take the time to reach out about their challenges. As you may know, no amount of testing or known process allows us to identify issues that may occur on your site before hand due to all of the various hosting environments, plugins and themes that exist in eco-system.
So, to begin to address challenges nonetheless, the next release of W3 Total Cache includes two key new features that will allow us to iterate faster, provide maintenance updates which are not expected break your installation (because they don’t relate to features) and also make you aware of security or best practice updates so that you can keep your site as up-to-date as WordPress itself.
Version 0.9.4 (among numerous new features and fixes includes the following key improvements):
Now each release will notify you of the changes that have occurred to the default settings since the last update and also make it easy for you to identify best practices that will help you make your site or application faster. The notifications can be ignored or automatically applied to your settings in just a click.
WordPress is used in countless ways, environments and alongside of various software including plugins, themes and even drop-ins. For that reason, rather than continue to fail to maintain a developer network to help us go beyond our automated testing suite (and continuous integration practices), we are rolling out edge mode.The key is that in the new update you will be prompted to opt-in to edge mode that will allow you to test features that have not yet been tested in a large enough % of the user-base. This provides us the ability to use the typical WordPress workflow to provide updates more frequently for maintenance and also allows us to allow testers and early adopters to benefit from new features immediately as well.We anticipate that this change will allow us to make at least one release per month, but will be targeting one release per week.
Again, those who have opted into edge mode would be able to preview features that are not available to users who have opted-out (the default setting).
Pro subscribers will not be opted into the edge mode; however there will be Pro features available in edge mode periodically.
We hope that these changes will create a much better user experience and allow us to more aggressively further our mission to empower publishers and application developers to focus on their content and business rather than on web performance optimization.
Several weeks ago we silently launched version 0.9.3, a very exciting release for us. As we get closer to a final release of the popular web performance optimization (WPO) framework, we’re finally able start employing the best practices our colleagues like Joost de Valk and Pippin Williamson (among others) have championed for some time.
But before we get into that, let’s take a look at the highlights:
Social layer, personalization and e-commerce etc are common elements of highly dynamic web sites. That means that caching entire pages to improve user experience and performance is not a solution. Fragment Caching bridges the gap between no caching at all and the “ideal,” full page caching. By extending the WordPress Transient API, W3TC allows developers to bring both horizontal and vertical scale to bear without doing anything differently.
As mentioned above, extensions / add-ons represent a great opportunity to both de-bloat projects that solve many problems or address many use cases. It also allows for innovation as 3rd parties can make contributions without having to be a core project developer to contribute or solve their problems while maintaining the control they need. We’re excited for you to try this first iteration of our extension framework, and documentation can be found (for now) inside the plugin’s FAQ.
Genesis Framework Extension
Among the most popular theme clubs in the market and part of a highly valuable suite of publishing solutions is the Genesis Framework. Our work in the website optimization industry for the past 11+ years allows us to know great products and communities when we see them, and that is why we chose to work with CopyBlogger Media to enhance the performance of the framework.The extension is included in the W3TC default distribution and requires an active Genesis theme as well as W3TC Pro. The extension leverages the fragment cache in order to do its magic, a solid example of the power of the new extension framework. Once enabled, a given page request will be served 30-60% faster (and will be even faster as we move forward).
Working with the Genesis team to get this extension into play has been fun, but we do expect to find some bugs along the way. Please let us know what you find so that we can promptly address. Meanwhile, we hope the value we’re offering helps you create engaging experiences for your readers / users. For Synthesis hosting customers, the upgrade is free and already running on your site(s).
For those interested in upgrading to the Pro version, simply use the upgrade button to obtain a license key valid for a single WordPress installation. To have a professional from the team tune your site for performance, simply make a purchase from the support tab of the plugin itself.
To learn more about how fragment caching helps “origin optimization” (optimizing your site for the cache miss and other use cases), check out the white paper we co-authored with our friends at CopyBlogger Media!
We have a lot more planned for the Pro version of W3TC, so please stay tuned or share your ideas with us as we move forward.
We take security quite seriously even though our focus is on making it trivial to allow any publisher to maximize the performance they can extract from their hosting environment and WordPress itself. Most recently we took a look at the steps that GoDaddy was taking in the shared hosting segment of the market.
In versions of W3 Total Cache prior to 0.9.2.5 vulnerability exists (CVE-2012-6077, CVE-2012-6078, CVE-2012-6079) if the following two cases are true:
Directory listing and download of w3tc/dbcache/ directories is possible
W3 Total Cache has database caching enabled and is set to use disk
This issue was resolved, irrespective of whether or not #1 was true in release 0.9.2.5 which offset the next release than some of you may have been testing to 0.9.2.6.
For those of you who feel they were affected, here are some remediation steps:
Empty and disable database caching until you upgrade W3TC
Audit your administrator accounts and change their passwords, potentially add HTTP Basic Authentication to /wp-login.php and /wp-admin/ if possible
Update your database credentials, name (and table name offset if possible)
Ensure that you have nightly backups of your site, if you’re not sure contact your web host
The 0.9.2.6 release expected within less than a week further expands on the initial approach to securing caching files to disk while using database caching and ameliorates issues caused with the previous patch.
One might ask, why not completely remove disk caching for the database from the W3TC framework? The problem is that our goal is to make it possible for users to take control of their performance needs, that means that if they have an environment where they’ve tested to find that reading cache files from disk provided lower execution times than not caching at all, that option should be available.
After years of scaling web sites, one thing we know for sure is that as your site grows, the techniques you use to scale it change. W3TC is ready to grow with you. With more than 140 features and fixes in the next release, the future is bright.
APC is an opcode cache used by many sites to improve application performance. PHP is an interpreted language, and the scripts (such as the ones that comprise your WordPress site) are loaded, parsed, compiled into an opcode, and executed when called. This process can use an inordinate amount of resources on a busy site, especially one without caching, so we need to do what we can to optimize this process.
While installing APC on a dedicated server or VPS is a straightforward process, this post (the first in a series of Web Performance Optimization (WPO) posts for GoDaddy) outlines how to enable it on your GoDaddy shared web hosting account:
Log into your GoDaddy account and navigate to your hosting dashboard
Go to Tools > FTP File Manager
php5.ini file and make a copy by clicking the checkbox, clicking on the “html” directory on the left, and entering
php5.ini.backup.txt as the file name
Look for a line mentioning apc.shm_size and if one doesn’t exist, add this:
Make sure lines beginning with
zend_extension are preceded by a semicolon
Save the file and then click the X in the top-right corner
And now we need to restart PHP:
Navigate to your hosting dashboard again
Click the “Launch” button that corresponds with the hosting account in question
Under “Stats & Monitors” click “System Processes”
Click “End Web” in the top
This will restart the PHP process on your account and you should now be able to cache against APC in W3 Total Cache
Note that the optimal configuration depends on available memory, your theme, active plugins, and other factors. If you’d like help unlocking your site’s performance potential, place your order here and we’ll implement these best practices for you.
And if you’d like to be updated when products are updated or announced, be sure to sign up here.