It used to be that anyone who wanted to start a Minecraft server would download server software for the latest Minecraft version, but that has changed over the past few years. New server admins now quite often ask what the best version of Minecraft to use is. Should they use 1.8? 1.12? 1.16? In almost every case, the best is the latest version of Minecraft, and throughout this article, I'll explain why.
If your server, like most, is running Paper or Spigot with plugins, this is a significant reason to keep up to date. Most plugins, both small and large, do not provide support for older versions. While it is generally possible to download these plugins for older versions, you'll be missing out on many more recent features and bug fixes. On top of that, if you encounter any issues, you'll be entirely on your own. Not only do plugins not support older versions, neither do Paper or Spigot. While there are often individuals or small teams maintaining old versions of various server software, they often lack the experience and capacity that developers of the actual projects have. Unless you have the resources to do absolutely everything yourself, using an older version is putting yourself at a significant disadvantage due to the loss of magnitudes of community-created content and software. If you choose to dedicate the time to support an older version of the game, consider what else you could achieve with your server for the same amount of effort.
Mojang, the Paper team, and plugin developers are always fixing known security issues and exploits to ensure that Minecraft servers are as safe as they can be. Not staying up to date leaves your server open to exploitation by malicious players. Older versions have many known exploits, such as the ability to crash servers, corrupt worlds, or duplicate items. As these vulnerabilities can be anywhere from the game itself, Paper, or even plugins, staying up to date is the safest and easiest way to ensure your server is secure.
Every game update comes with new features, many of which allow new possibilities for your server. Not only does keeping up to date give players more content to play with, but it also allows the utilisation of more modern server features to stand out amongst the crowd. A strong example of this is the introduction of full RGB text colour support in Minecraft 1.16, which is impossible on older versions.
A vast majority of servers are running the latest version. Having a wider community of server owners on the same version means that there is more likely to be more available knowledge, schematics, plugins, and general assistance. People will generally create things for the version that has the most users. The latest version will always have the most and most recent content available for it.
There's a common myth that most Minecraft servers are running 1.8, which is undeniably false. The userbase of 1.8 has been slowly dropping, with more and more servers adopting the latest version. A majority of players are also running the most recent version due to the Minecraft Launcher automatically downloading the latest. Thus, running the most recent version also allows you to provide the best experience for most players.
Old patch versions refer to the non-latest "patch" release of a specific Minecraft version. For example, 1.14.3 is an old patch version for 1.14, as 1.14.4 was the last patch they created for this release. Every so often, I see someone wishing to use an old patch version. Doing this is a horrible idea, even worse than generally using an old version.
When Minecraft updates come out, they are often reasonably broken. In some cases, it's minor. However, there have been catastrophic issues such as world corruption, broken lighting, or worse in other cases. Mojang generally only releases patch versions when there are significant bugs or exploits, so using a non-latest patch release will likely cause severe instability.
Due to the above reasons, running any server version other than the latest is putting yourself at a severe disadvantage. By choosing to use the latest Minecraft version, you get the broadest range of software support, patches for security exploits, the newest game features, and the largest server community.
This article is part of a series on how to run a Minecraft server. Click here to check out more!