“A major WordPress version is dictated by the first two sequences. For example, 3.5 is a major release. So is 3.6, 3.7, all the way up to 4.0. Major releases add new user features and developer APIs.
“A minor WordPress version is dictated by the third sequence. Version 3.9.1 is a minor release. So is 3.8.2. A minor release is intended for bugfixes and enhancements that do not add new deployed files and are at the discretion of the release lead with suggestions/input from component maintainers and committers.”
There is never a reason to rush to upgrade to the latest major release of WordPress. In some cases, as with the WordPress 5.0 version that introduced the Gutenberg editor, it can be better to wait until any bugs or other maintenance issues are worked out in the following minor release.
As explained above, a major release, indicated with 2 numbers like 5.3, or 5.4, indicates that new features have been added. It does not patch any security issues.
Minor releases, indicated with three numbers, like 5.3.1, or 5.3.2, can include either security updates or minor bugfixes, or both. For example, in the release list, you can see in the notes that 5.3.1 was a security release. That means it was important to make that update immediately. 5.3.2, on the other hand, was a maintenance release. This means that at the present time, there are no known security issues in 5.3.1, so a site can be on 5.3.1, 5.3.2, or 5.4, and be secure.
We have only very rarely seen issues when upgrading WordPress to a new major version, so in most cases it isn’t a major risk to upgrade. However, it’s also fine to wait until the the next maintenance or security (minor) release comes out to update your website.
Alisa was one of the first team members to join Red Earth Design, Inc. in early 2004. From data entry, she progressed to MySQL database manipulation and PHP coding. Alisa is responsible for all kinds of odds and ends: installing new websites, adding features to them, programming databases, PHP coding, website troubleshooting, website security, and organizational tasks for Red Earth Design.