August has been a busy month for WordPress news, so you may have missed a few headlines. In this post, we’ll cover all the major news in the WordPress ecosystem, from the WordPress 5.5 release on August 11, 2020, to plugin, theme and SEO news.
In this webinar, Nathan walks through each of these news items in more depth. Register for the next WordPress News Roundup webinar here.
News from WordPress Core
The biggest news in August was the release of WordPress 5.5. This new version of WordPress brought several noteworthy features and improvements to WordPress core.
WordPress 5.5 “Eckstine” Released August 11
- WordPress 5.5 “Eckstine” named for Jazz great Billy Eckstine
Top 20 Features & Improvements in 5.5
- We shared our top 20 features and improvements in WordPress 5.5 if you want an in-depth overview.
Lazy Loading Images
- By default, tags now have a loading=”lazy” attribute
- Most browsers support by default
- Safari does not support by default but can be enabled at Safari > Advanced > Experimental Features
- XML sitemaps are now included in WordPress 5.5: New XML Sitemaps Functionality in WordPress 5.5
- View your sitemap at domain.com/wp-sitemap.xml
- All content is included by default, there are no settings in core WP to exclude items
- Very basic sitemap implementation to not cause conflict with plugins that add sitemaps
- Sitemap can be turned off by checking “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” in your WP admin Settings > Reading
- Popular plugins like Yoast SEO and All in One SEO disable the core sitemap by default and use their own.
Auto Updates for Themes & Plugins
- New Automatic Updates column on Plugins page
- Enable automatic updates with a click
- “Auto-Updates Disabled” submenu on Plugins page
- Enable Automatic Updates on the Theme Detail screen
- Auto Updates only work for free themes and plugin on WordPress.org directories (not premium, by default).
- A plugin exists to disable this new feature completely: Disable Automatic Theme & Plugin Updates
Update Themes & Plugins Via Zip File
- A needed feature in core for many, many years. Updates would fail if you tried to upload a zip file of an existing theme or plugin rather than overwriting.
- Now a choice is presented to Replace or Cancel.
- Chris Jean’s Easy Theme and Plugin Updates plugin still functions as before (and still saves a copy of the replaced plugin to the Media Library)
- A jQuery Migrate has been removed. This is a first step in a larger effort to update the bundled version of jQuery.
- This could break some old themes and plugins that still rely on it to keep their code compatible
- Migrate Helper plugin created by the Core team to assist with any issues with compatibility
- WP bundles jQuery 1.12.4 (released in 2016). The current version of jQuery is 3.5.
- Read more: Major jQuery Changes on the Way for WordPress 5.5 and Beyond
5.5 Breaking Websites? How to Fix
As mentioned in the previous section, WordPress 5.5 turned off jQuery Migrate, a tool that WordPress has included for many years to help plugins and themes with outdated code still run properly. By turning jQuery Migrate off, many outdated plugins and themes no longer work properly, which can result in broken websites.
- Here’s how to fix WordPress 5.5 Breaking Websites
WP Notify Project Getting Traction
On August 5, Jonathan Bossenger proposed a new Feature Plugin called WP Notify.
WordPress is currently lacking a fundamental mechanism: sending notifications to users to give them feedback about state changes in the system. […] There’s a general consensus that admin notice are not up to the task and need a more robust replacement that can deal with current and future notification needs. I hereby want to officially kickstart a Feature Project called “WP Notify.”
– Jonathan Bossenger, Feature Project Proposal: WP Notify
- In an excellent article on WPTavern, Jonathan Bossenger explained further…
- The root cause is there is no other mechanism for notifications other than admin notices to be displayed to the user.
- WP Notify will not be a silver bullet fix because there are almost 10 years of themes and plugins coded to use admin notices
- So enforcing new guidelines after the fact will be hard.
- However, WP Notify will create a new avenue for notifications and will become a tool to enforce new notification guidelines.
- Read the article: Is WP Notify the Silver Bullet WordPress Needs to End Admin Notification Spam?
- A new guideline could read…
- Only messages about status changes in the system can be displayed as an admin notice.
- Any other messages must go through the notification center.
- In my view, this is fantastic news for the WordPress community.
- Follow the project for WP Notify here.
A Wishlist for WordPress 5.6
- Lots of comments for a WP 5.6 Wish List have been made on the Core Blog. Add yours!
The Gutenberg plugin had a few updates released in July and August. Here’s more on what changes you’ll see added to the WordPress block editor.
Gutenberg 8.6 Released July 22
- Primarily a bug fix release, but adds a new cover block video positioning control
- Read more: What’s new in Gutenberg (July 22)
Gutenberg 8.7 Released August 5
- Much nicer default block patterns in Gutenberg 8.7
- Read more: Gutenberg 8.7 Adds Minor Changes, Updates Block Pattern Designs, and Continues Full-Site Editing Work
WordPress Security News
Several popular plugins had vulnerabilities this past month.
WordPress Vulnerability Roundups for August (& July)
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: August 2020, Part 1
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: July 2020, Part 2
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: July 2020, Part 1
Other Security News
- Garmin experienced a major outage July 23-27 due to a ransomware attack
- Evil Corp, one of the world’s largest cybercrime organizations, has taken responsibility
- Ransomware cost businesses and organizations $7.5 Billion in 2019
- Have You Seen the iThemes Help Center?
- A continually expanding library of resources for iThemes products
- How-to guides, videos, and more
Google Analytics Bootcamp, August 25 – 27
- Learn Google Analytics Inside and Out at Google Analytics Bootcamp with GA Expert Chris Edwards
- Day One (1-4p CT) – Overview of GA, Installation, and Google Tag Manager
- Day Two (1-3p CT) – Data Collection & Ecommerce Tracking
- Day Three (1-3p CT) – Google Data Studio
Upcoming Free Webinars
- Check out the iThemes Training calendar to see all the free webinars coming up in September.
WordPress Theme News
The biggest theme news this past month relates to Astra, one of the most-downloaded plugins on the WordPress.org directory.
Astra Theme Suspended then Reinstated for Violations
- Just a few weeks after it became the first theme with +1M installs, Astra was suspended (then reinstated) from the theme directory
- Code in the Astra theme was adding affiliate codes to upgrade links of popular plugins
- The Theme Team cited a violation of the theme guidelines and banned the theme for 5 weeks
- But here’s where is gets complicated…
- Theme guidelines state: Themes are not allowed to have affiliate URLs or links
- Technically, Astra didn’t violate the guideline since the theme didn’t have affiliate links, they added affiliate codes to upgrade links in other plugins
- Brainstorm Force further explained they added affiliate links with the plugin owners’ permission
- The aftermath…
- Astra has been reinstated, but delisted from the list of popular themes for a total of 6 weeks
- Sujay Pawar, Founder of Brainstorm Force, published an open apology on the Astra blog.
- Affect on Astra revenues and reputation is yet to be seen
- Some thoughts (just mine, nobody else’s)…
- Adding affiliate links without disclosure was not the wisest thing to do, and could have legal implications.
- Affiliate links aren’t bad, they are a way to help monetize the free theme by partnership with other plugins.
- Astra is a good citizen in the WP community and provides excellent support for a free theme.
- There was no due process in the decision to suspend.
- The guidelines need to be revisited.
- One other excellent article with a balanced summary of the whole issue: Astra Theme Suspension and Reinstatement Raises Important Questions for the WordPress Community
WordPress Plugin News
Here are a few things to note in the WordPress plugin world.
JetPack Lauches JetPack CRM
- Last August, Automattic purchased Zero BS CRM
- It has now been improved and rebranded as JetPack CRM
- Features include contact management, quotes, invoices, transactions, direct billing, client portal…
- Integrations are available for popular WordPress plugins, email services, Zapier…
- Pricing starts at $11/mo
- Read more: Introducing Jetpack CRM: Grow Your Business Through Better Contact Management
Beaver Builder 2.4 Released
- New in Beaver Builder: 2.4:
- New modules: List, Search, Button Group
- Several accessibility improvements in certain modules
- Better responsive editing and preview
- A new knowledge-base has also been created
Disable Comments Plugin for Sale
- With +1M users and 220 out of 229 5 star ratings, Disable Comments is an extremely popular plugin
- Samir Shah, the developer, has not worked professionally since 2016
- He no longer has time to maintain it so he has opted to auction the Disable Comments plugin for charity
- The highest bidder will donate to Effective Altruism Funds (EAF)
- A “must use” version of Disable Comments is available on GitHub
Post Status Launches Commerce Journey Newsletter
- Commerce Journey is the new venture of Cory Miller and Brian Krogsgard
- The newsletter’s purpose is “to bring you outstanding resources & inspiration to help you better navigate your own eCommerce journey.”
- It further plans to be “a site of resources and community for eCommerce store owners”
Here are a few noteworthy news items in the SEO world.
Bing Adds WordPress Integration
- The new Bing URL Submissions plugin allows you to easily connect your site to Bing
- When you update or publish a post, Bing is automatically notified of the change
- Bing Webmaster Tools recently rolled out a beautiful new UI (which was sorely needed)
- They also integrate with Google Search Console via OAuth to bring in all your properties automatically
- Read more about how to get your WordPress content indexed immediately using Bing Webmaster Tools plugin
Other SEO News
- Google Mobile-First Indexing Delayed
- September 2020 previously announced as deadline for complete switch to Mobile First
- This date has been pushed to next March
- Get to know Google Core Web Vitals
- An excellent guide to WooCommerce SEO
- iFrame Lazy Loading Now an HTML Standard
- <iframe loading=lazy> is now part of HTML
- Like lazy loading images, it is supported in most browsers other than Chrome.
- Hulu Dropped from WordPress oEmbeds
- WordPress users can now no longer oEmbed Hulu links after they silently disabled their API
- Hulu embeds now display an error.
Worth a Look
- Remote Workers Working More During COVID-19
- Report from the US National Bureau of Economic Research shows the average workday increased 48.5 minutes and the number of meetings was up 13%
- Big Orange Heart Wellbeing & Mental Health Survey
- Formerly WP and Up
- 2019 statistics showed emotional distress for remote workers twice the US average with more than half saying “their workplace made them anxious” (pre-COVID!)
- Understanding WP-Cron
- Here’s an excellent guide to one of the more confusing parts of WordPress
- 4 Best WordPress Local Development Options
- Delicious Brains provides a helpful comparison of XAMPP, MAMP, Local and Desktop Server
- The Dark Ages of the Web
- A must-see look at web of ages past…
- How A Trip Back Into the WordPress Community Saved My Life
- An inspiring essay from Joe Simpson, Jr. on HeroPress
WordCamp Cancellations Abound
- WordCamp US 2020 has been canceled
- Organizers cite pandemic stress and virtual conference fatigue
- State of the Word will likely still happen, but not in conjunction with any other event
- Official WordPress Meetups will be online only through 2020
- Large regional WordCamps cancelled until 2022
Upcoming US Virtual WordCamps
All of the following are live-streaming events, free to attend:
- August 21 Minneapolis, MN
- September 26 Philadelphia, PA
- October 3 Rochester, NY
- October 9 Austin, TX
- October 17-18 Los Angeles, CA