The WordPress News Roundup is back! Here’s a recap of the latest developments in the WordPress ecosystem, from WordPress core updates and Gutenberg news to more plugin news, for July 2020.
News from WordPress Core
The biggest news for WordPress core is the upcoming release of WordPress 5.5, due out on Tuesday, August 11, 2020. You can download the beta version of WordPress 5.5 with the WordPress Beta Tester plugin if you want to get a sneak peek.
WordPress 5.5 On Track for Release on August 11
Here are a few things you can expect from WordPress 5.5, which is focusing on “speed, search & security.”
- Automatic updates for themes and plugins now coming to core WordPress.
- Auto-updates for individual themes and plugins can be turned off
- Email notifications can be enabled
- Built-in XML sitemaps – This was proposed by several major players in the WordPress space, including Google and Yoast. XML sitemaps are important for SEO purposes, so including them in WordPress core makes sense as a built-in feature. Just note that you’ll still need a plugin like Yoast to replace or extend the new basic sitemaps provided by WordPress core.
- Lazy Loading Images – This will greatly improve page speed by loading images on scroll. There are already plugins that do this already, but Lazy Loading images will now be available in core.
- Block Directory – A sub-category of the Plugin Directory is the new Block Directory. You’ll be able to filter by blocks now.
- Update Themes and Plugins via zip files – You may already know about the Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades plugin that Chris Jean built years ago to update themes and plugins with a new zip file, but this functionality will now be available in WordPress core.
Here are the links to the feature plugins that will be rolled into WordPress 5.5 in case you want to check them out in advance:
Block Editor Updates for WordPress 5.5
- All changes included up to (probably) Gutenberg 8.5 will be included in WordPress 5.5
- Updated UI: 1500+ changes including full-screen editing with a more refined editing experience
- Block patterns and inline image editing
Other changes to come in WP 5.5
- Final update to Dashicons before they are replaced by a new icon component.
- Addition of more accessible HTML5 core widgets (must be declared by theme)
- New CSS styles for disabled admin buttons
WordPress 5.6 is Scheduled for December Release
- Planned for December 8, 2020
- WP Exec Director Josepha Haden announced 5.6 is led by an all-woman release squad
- 5.6 will include major features like:
- Full site editing in core
- New default theme
- Auto updates for major core releases
- Global styles in core
WordPress Major Release Roadmap for 2020
- WordPress 5.6 — December 8, 2020
- WordPress 5.7 — March 9, 2021
- WordPress 5.8 — June 8, 2021
- WordPress 5.9 — September 14, 2021
- WordPress 6.0 — December 7, 2021
The Gutenberg plugin for WordPress has a few noteworthy news items for this month and a few you may have missed.
Gutenberg 8.4 Released June 24
- Excellent image editing features added. When you use an image block, there’s new inline image editing. You can click to crop, rotate and change the aspect ratio within the editor.
- Block Directory fully enabled by default. You can search for blocks within the editor now to add Blocks just like plugins.
- Upload images from external URLs.
WordPress Block Directory Open For Additions
- Developers are encouraged to submit their blocks to the new Block Directory
- Process similar to submitting themes and plugins
- View the new Block Directory:
Gutenberg 8.5 Released July 8
- Edit single images within a gallery easily
- Reusable Blocks brought front and center
- Improved drag and drop interaction
WordPress Security News
This summer has seen a few WordPress security headlines, including some notable plugin and theme vulnerability disclosures, including in WooCommerce.
WordPress Vulnerability Roundups for July
- Twice monthly on the iThemes blog – Catch up on the complete list of plugin and theme vulnerability disclosures from Michael Moore.
iThemes Security Scanner Protects You from Exploited Themes and Plugins
Now you don’t have to keep up with plugins and theme vulnerabilities. The iThemes Security plugin will handle finding and updating those plugins and themes for you.
- Scan your site twice daily to find vulnerable themes and plugins
- iThemes Security Pro can automatically update vulnerable code if a patch is available
- Learn more at the link below…
iThemes Security Reaches the 1 Million Milestone!
The iThemes Security plugin is now actively used on 1 million WordPress sites. Thanks for your trust, we don’t take it for granted! With 1 million sites using iThemes Security, our network brute force protection network is even stronger.
Other Security News
iThemes Security integrates with LifterLMS
- iThemes Security’s Recaptcha and Passwordless Login now works seamlessly in LifterLMS
All in One SEO XSS vulnerability patched
- Users with contributor access or above could inject malicious scripts into the WP Admin area.
Microsoft seizes domains used in COVID-19 email phishing attacks
- Attacks spoofed Microsoft login / permissions request pages to gather user credentials
- Court granted Microsoft ownership of domains used in attack which were promptly shut down
Hackers are Using Google Analytics to Steal Customer Data
- Affects hacked sites with Google Analytics installed (not an exploit of GA itself)
- Since Google Analytics has trusted status by most browsers, it can be readily used to transmit stolen data.
- A script collects all information entered into a compromised site by a user
- Google Analytics is then used as the conduit to send the information to the hackers who can access it via their Google Analytics account.
WordPress Plugin News
Yoast to Disable WordPress 5.5 Core Sitemaps
Yoast 14.5 released July 8 disables the new Core Sitemaps feature to be released in WP 5.5
- Yoast originally sponsored the Core Sitemaps project with Google
- Core sitemaps will be disabled because Yoast Sitemaps “are more sophisticated, integrated and automated.”
Plugin Roundup for July 2020
Each month, we recap the best WordPress plugins that were added or updated within the last 30 days on the WordPress Plugin Directory. Here’s a list of our favorite new or recently-updated plugins for July 2020.
Yoast to Acquire Duplicate Post Plugin
- Announced June 16
- Duplicate posts has over 3 million installs with a near perfect (and very rare) 4.9 star rating
- Joost de Valk explained the plugin was acquired because duplicating is often done with SEO in mind, and because duplicate content has SEO implications.
- Yoast plans to keep the plugin free, with no plans for commercial upgrades.
- There will likely be some deep integration with the Yoast SEO plugin
Awesome Motive Acquires Smash Balloon
- Smash Balloon is the most popular social feed plugin for WordPress with 1.3 million installs
- Offers feeds from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube
- Feeds are cached to speed up websites
- Plans are to integrate Smash Balloon with other Awesome Motive plugins like MonsterInsights, RafflePress, and SeedProd
Google Launches AMP-Powered Beta Version of Web Stories Plugin
- Focused on providing “visually-rich stories through a mobile-focused format.”
- People using mobile devices browse lots of content without diving as deeply into the details.
- Stories are small media-heavy content pieces
- Download the beta: Web Stores for WordPress
Huge Rise in Ecommerce Sales in May
- Report from ACI Universal Payments shows global ecommerce sales rose 81% in May
- Primary increases came in…
- Sportswear and Sporting Goods: +216%
- Housewares and DIY Supplies: +190%
- Gaming: +84%
- Primary increases came in…
- Fraud attempts were down to 3.4% (from 5.4% in March and 4.4% in April)
- Chargebacks up 25%, mostly in travel sector
WooCommerce 4.3 Adds Home Screen
- Released July 7, adds helpful ”at a glance” overview
- Must be enabled at Advanced > Features
WordCamp News: Upcoming Virtual Events
This week, the news dropped that the WordPress Community Team has officially updated its guidelines for WordCamps to be online-only events for the remainder of 2020, including WordCamp US and WordCamp Europe.
- Back in May, the team put together some great resources and tools for online WordCamps.
- Here’s more on Surviving a Virtual WordCamp with Patrick Rauland and Nathan Ingram.
Upcoming WordCamps in US & Canada
All of these virtual events are FREE! Grab your ticket to join the fun, learn some new things, and meet some new people.
- August 20 – Minneapolis, MN
- September 6 – Ogijima, Japan
- September 18 – 20 – Los Angeles
- September 26 – Philadelphia, PA
- October 3 – Rochester, NY
- October 9 – Austin, TX
- October 27-29 – WordCamp US
- June 2021 – WordCamp Europe
Full WordCamp Schedule:
In this webinar, Nathan walks through each of these news items in more depth. Register for the next WordPress News Roundup webinar here.