This blog is hosted by WordPress, whose own development blog today has this:

“The WordPress team had initially committed to maintaining the WordPress 2.0.x legacy branch until 2010. Unfortunately, we bit off more than we could chew—the 2.0.x branch is now retired and deprecated, a few months shy of 2010.”

What is “deprecated” supposed to mean in this sense? Both my British and American dictionaries define “deprecate” as “to express disapproval of” something. What word did the writer intend to use?



    3. Computer Science To mark (a component of a software standard) as obsolete to warn against its use in the future so that it may be phased out.

  2. “Deprecate” is a standard term of art in the computer business. The Jargon File says:

    deprecated: adj. Said of a program or feature that is considered obsolescent and in the process of being phased out, usually in favor of a specified replacement.

    Since the current version of WordPress is 2.8.2, you can see that 2.0.x is very old indeed. Evidently the WordPress team wanted to keep the 2.0 series of releases current (not in features — if you want features, upgrade to a later version — but in things like security fixes), but no longer has the resources to do so.

    Features that are deprecated in one version of a product are often removed in the next, unless it turns out that some 800-pound-gorilla customers actually need them. The hereditary peerage, for example, has been a deprecated feature of the House of Lords since 1999, but there seems to be no word on when (if ever) it will become an obsolete feature.

  3. “Deprecate” is a weasel word. It means obsolete but we might upset you if we said it, or we actually don’t have the authority to say it but we’ll pretend we do.

    Then we can chop it out whenever we like and say “We warned you” even though we didn’t.

  4. As a software developer, I see this far more often in reference to individual methods in an API. Sometimes about entire libraries, but in general on a lower level than an entire software package like wordpress.

    The specific meaning that I (and I think most other developers) assign to it is “This is a bad method, don’t use it in new code. Old code may continue to use it but you should try to change it. Don’t complain if this method disappears completely in future version.” When something is marked deprecated, it’s expected that there’s an explanation of why it’s bad and what alternative, if any, should be used.

    In the java programming language, it’s actually a well defined technical term (for those that are interested: as a javadoc tag and as the java.lang.Deprecated annotation) allowing computer programs themselves to detect use of deprecated features.

    That’s not precisely what the wordpress posting had in mind I think, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the wordpress sense originated from the more technical term. I have no idea though.

  5. In software usage “X is deprecated” means “Use of X is allowed for now, but frowned upon. Be prepared to stop using X at some time in the near future”.

    A good real-world example is the current transition, in many countries, from analog(ue) to digital TV transmission for terrestrial (non-cable) TV channels. Wikipedia tells me that the UK is currently in the process of shutting down its analog transmitters, with the last scheduled to end transmission in 2012. One could say that analog TV reception is currently deprecated, and will soon become totally unsupported.

  6. It should be depreciated, not deprecated. You’ll find it pronounced correctly and spelt wrong simultaneously too.

    When a software company says a feature has been depreciated, they mean it has been reduced in value, not that they are expressing disapproval of that feature.

    The incorrect use is much more common though, a sad indictment of spell-checking without context, and geeks who rely on spell-checking software.

  7. @John Cotterell — I’m not sure whether your post is serious. On the assumption that it is, can you point me to any example of “deprecIated” being used for this purpose? I have never heard of one.

    I am pretty sure that your etymology is incorrect. The word “deprecated” is used because continued use of the feature, while tolerated, is discouraged and “disapproved of”.

  8. @dw googling “depreciated feature” yields a lot of results, though it suggests the more common “deprecated feature”, of course.

    I could well be wrong, although I’ve only ever heard deprecIated used in speech, so I assumed deprecated was a typo. I’m in the UK, if that makes any difference.

    It’s interesting because the spelling is so simliar, and you could argue either meaning is appropriate….

  9. I’m sure that depreciated in this context is a spelling mistake. The fact that the word “deprecated” is hardly ever spoken in the computer usage but usually found in technical documents and e-mails does not help! In non-computer use, “depreciated” is far more common than “deprecated” and this has probably led to the mis-spelling of the latter. As evidence of correct spelling and usage, I offer a sentence from the RISC OS 3 Programmer’s Reference Manual, published in the UK in 1992: Volume 4, Chapter 141: Appendix D: Deprecated calls. “This chapter lists calls, often provided for backwards compatibility, that are now deprecated in favour of other calls.” I think that makes the meaning clear.

  10. John Cotterell, deprecate (Latin “pray”) and depreciate (de+pretium, “price”) are different words. You can google any kind of folk etymology or spelling mistake and get “a lot of results”. Google is not a dictionary.

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