.htaccess Deprecation and Alternatives

WP Engine will be deprecating the .htaccess file in order to increase website performance and match industry trends. If your site is using custom .htaccess directives outside of the default WordPress rules, we have put together a list of recommended alternatives.

This article includes overviews of alternatives for common .htaccess directives, including explanations of what each directive does, links to more information on the web, and examples of how to implement each rule type by alternative.

NOTE

Some websites will temporarily retain grandfathered support of the .htaccess to facilitate the time needed to convert specific directives. Learn more here.


What is the .htaccess file and why is it being deprecated?

PHP servers are used to execute the code that WordPress runs on. The .htaccess is a PHP configuration file that a web admin can use to tell the server how to interact with a website. It can control any number of things on a site-by-site basis, like how your URLs are formed or restricting access to a directory.

The .htaccess file has performance implications on sites leveraging an Apache backend server. As .htaccess files are read recursively, this can lead to file system reads on every page load on your site. On smaller sites this doesn’t lead to a big impact, but as the number of directories on a site gets larger, there is an impact those file system crawls have on performance. You can read more about the recommendations around this in “When (not) to use .htaccess files” from Apache.org.

Most importantly, .htaccess files tie our architecture to Apache as a backend web server. As new exciting technologies arise, and open up new features and performance we’d like to make available to our customers, it becomes paramount to break that dependency as we evolve as a Digital Experience Platform. We’re incredibly excited at the evolution, and the velocity we’ll be able to deliver as part of this change in the future.

We recognize the overhead this will have on our customers as they prepare for upgrades. We believe it’s in the best interest of our customers, and our platform to deprecate and eventually remove .htaccess support going forward. We’re committed to smoothing out the transition period, and making platform changes as we encounter challenges only resolved, or more easily resolved using .htaccess configuration. If you’re in a situation where you don’t know the best course of action, or believe that the .htaccess is the only manner in which to accomplish your goals, please do not hesitate to reach out to our Support team. They’ll be able to help ease this transition, and raise issues to our development teams to address the shortcomings this deprecation creates.

While our data suggests only a small amount of customers leverage this feature on our platform, we recognize that there are those that do rely on this functionality. As previously stated, we’re committed to smoothing this transition, and will be more than happy to assist with recommendations. We’ll include more in this document as time goes on and we suggest reviewing our list of alternatives below and testing any changes on a Staging or Development environment first.

While our Support team does not support PHP or code development, if you have any questions or concerns about this change, please reach out to our Support team at any time.

Some websites will retain grandfathered support of the .htaccess temporarily. Learn more here.


Default WordPress .htaccess Directives

By our analysis, most WP Engine websites will not need to make any changes as they are using a default WordPress version of the .htaccess. Default WordPress rewrites will be handled by WP Engine automatically at the server level.

If your .htaccess file contains only default content, no changes need to be made. You can find the default .htaccess files used for WordPress here.

If your .htaccess file contains content beyond the default WordPress state, see the alternatives below.


Grandfathered Upgrades

Certain websites will be grandfathered into temporary .htaccess support. This is not a permanent feature and you should use this brief timeframe to make any final changes required to remove the .htaccess from your website.

For these grandfathered websites, .htaccess support can be toggled on or off from the Web Rules page of the User Portal:

  • Enabling web rules disables .htaccess support.
  • Enabling .htaccess support disables all web rules. This option will only be available for a temporary period.
  • Both web rules and .htaccess support can be disabled simultaneously for troubleshooting.

NOTE

We recommend transitioning rules from the .htaccess to the Web Rules page as soon as possible.


Directive Alternatives Overview

If your site is using .htaccess directives outside of the default WordPress rules (above), we have put together a list of recommended alternatives.

DirectivePurposeAlternative
Deny from allRestrict access
  • By default, PHP files have guards at a platform level that prevent them from being served. Other static files are served by Nginx and not Apache.
  • Nginx rules can be added to replicate this behavior if needed by contacting Support.
Allow from allAllow access
  • PHP files have guards at a platform level that prevent them from being served. Other static files are served by Nginx and not Apache.
  • Nginx rules can be added to replicate this behavior if needed by contacting Support.
RewritesForces redirects and rewrites
SetHandlerSpecifies how to handle certain file types
  • None
  • Static assets are served by Nginx and not Apache (where the .htaccess would be processed).
Option-indexIgnore*Prevent directory browsing
  • None
  • WP Engine already disallows indexing of directories by default.
mod_ HeadersHeader tweaking
  • Headers should be sent with PHP code.
AddTypeAdds MIME type support for app type
  • Static assets are served by Nginx and not Apache (where the .htaccess would be processed).
  • If additional rules are desired, they can be added to the Nginx config by contacting Support.
CachingSets cache expirations
  • WP Engine manages caching rules at a server level for you, by default.
  • Additional caching rules can be managed in PHP code.
  • Extra caching rules for static assets can be applied to Nginx by contacting Support.
SecurityDisable PHP processing (Ex: Akismet and Gravity Forms)
  • WordPress plugins often add security rules to the .htaccess. WP Engine already applies these rules by default at a server level.
  • Plugins should handle additional directives in their PHP code.

Access Rules

Managing access rules can be done from your User Portal as an alternative to placing these rules in the .htaccess. All websites on WP Engine automatically have this Web Rules page enabled. Learn more about managing web rules here.

Below are examples of how to translate the following .htaccess directives into Access Rules.

  • rewrite_deny
  • satisfy
    • This directive is only used when a particular area of your site is restricted by a combination of client IP address and user/password authentication.
    • Password protection for WordPress paths can be done via plugins instead.
    • Protection for all paths (served by NGINX) is not yet supported.

Redirects and Rewrites

If your site has redirect rules in the .htaccess, they will need to be relocated in order to remain both functional and optimized. It is always recommended to consolidate as many rules as possible using RegEx regardless of the number of redirects needed or how they are applied.

Fewer Than 1000 Redirects

More Than 1000 Redirects

  • Importing redirects into the WP Engine Nginx configuration will not be efficient at this quantity, due to bloating and overhead.
  • We suggest loading redirects into the Redirection plugin or, if you’re using Yoast SEO, manage redirects in Yoast Premium

Bulk Migrate Redirects from the .htaccess

All of the recommended redirect alternatives allow the bulk import of Apache (.htaccess-formatted) redirects. This means importing existing redirects from the .htaccess can be done quickly and easily, and does not require redirects be moved one at a time. Simply copy the rules from your .htaccess file, then import using the guide:

Rewrite Rules

Redirects and rewrites can be added to your WP Engine configuration using either Redirect Rules or Rewrite Rules. Below are examples of alternatives when using the Web Rules Rewrite Rules.

  • redirect
  • rewritebase_not_root
  • rewrite_arbitrary_status
    • Not Supported.
  • rewrite_cond_existing
    • https://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.4/mod/mod_rewrite.html#rewritecond In the .htaccess this may appear as:
      •     RewriteEngine On
      •     RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “=ROBOT-UA” [OR]
      •     RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} “=EVIL-ROBOT-UA”
      •     RewriteRule “^/index\.html$”  “bot.html”
    • Note the presence of the [OR]. Web Rule Conditionals are AND’ed together, so in order to replicate this you will need to duplicate the rule 2 times, each with the respective condition. Converted to a Rewrite Rule this may look like the following example:
    • Rule 1:
      • Action: internal
      • Source: ^/index.html
      • Destination: bot.html
      • Conditions:
        • Type: Header
        • Operator: Equals (=)
        • Name: User-Agent
        • Value: ROBOT-UA
    • Rule 2:
      • Action: internal
      • Source: ^/index.html
      • Destination: bot.html
      • Conditions:
        • Type: Header
        • Operator: Equals (=)
        • Name: User-Agent
        • Value: EVIL-ROBOT-UA
  • rewrite_cond_notexisting
  • rewrite_missing
    • Not Supported.
  • rewrite_not_index
    • Converted to a Rewrite Rule this may look like the following example:
      • Action: internal
      • Source: ^/index.php
      • Destination: /blah.php
  • rewrite_redirect
    • https://httpd.apache.org/docs/2.4/mod/mod_rewrite.html#rewriterule
    • This rule the RewriteRule directive to perform a 3xx redirect. In the .htaccess it may appear as:
      • RewriteRule (.*) https://www.example.com/$1 [R=301,L]
    • The presence of the L flag in this case means this should be the first rewrite rule if there are multiple rewrite rules. As a Rewrite Rule this may appear as:
      • Action: permanent
      • Source: (.*)
      • Destination: https://www.example.com/$1

WordPress Features

Below are examples of how to translate the following .htaccess directives using WordPress features.


WP Engine Platform Features

Below are examples of how to translate the following .htaccess directives into existing WP Engine Platform features.


NEXT STEP: Learn how to test and upgrade to a new PHP version

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