September was 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 5.5.1 maintenance release on September 1, 200, to plugin, theme and SEO news.
News from WordPress Core
The biggest news in September from the WordPress core team was the release of WordPress 5.5.1. This was a WordPress maintenance release with several bug fixes and enhancements.
WordPress 5.5.1 Maintenance Release
- Maintenance release with 34 bug fixes, 4 enhancements and 5 fixes for the block editor
- Discussions are happening to prevent this kind of thing happening again…
- “What part of the release process ought to have flagged up that this was about to happen, how did that part fail, and how can future similar failures be prevented?” – Jake Spurlock
WordPress 5.6 Planning Underway
The next point release of WordPress is already in active development, with WordPress 5.6 release planning underway.
- Notable features will include:
- Block editor updates and new customizer support
- Auto updates of WordPress core
- Full site editing feature, including FSE-enabled theme
- Support for PHP 8 (on target for a Nov 2020 release)
- As previously announced, this will be an All-women Release Squad
- WordPress 5.6 release date is planned for December 8, 2020
Continued PHP 5.6 Support
WordPress will continue PHP 5.6 support for the foreseeable future. Removal of support for PHP 5.6 was on the slate for WordPress 5.6, but has been removed. Why?
- “Only 66% of WordPress sites are 7.1 and above” – Matt Mullenweg
- The stated goal of supporting PHP 8 while still working with PHP 5.6 could prove to be challenging for developers.
The Gutenberg plugin had a few updates released in September. Here’s more on what changes you’ll see added to the WordPress block editor.
Gutenberg 8.9 Released Sept. 2
The major feature in the Gutenberg 8.9 release is the addition of block-based widgets. You can read more with these two posts: Gutenberg 8.9 Brings Block-Based Widgets Out of the Experimental Stage and What’s new in Gutenberg? (2 September).
- Gutenberg replaces Appearance > Widgets
- Add blocks to footer widgets in compatible themes
- Experimental (and not great) customizer interface for widget bocks needs work.
Gutenberg 9.0 Released September 16
The release of Gutenberg 9.0 focuses on improvements to the navigation and query blocks.
The Query block got an updated UI, including search, filtering by author and support for tags.
Gutenberg License Chance Proposed
Mobile engineers have proposed a dual license for Gutenberg as GPL and MPL (Mozilla Public License).
- MPL is a more flexible license that allows the software to be combined with proprietary code
- This could open the door to interesting apps being developed using the Gutenberg editor
- Read more: Proposal: Dual licensing Gutenberg under GPL v2.0 and MPL v2.0
- Stay tuned…
Justin Tadlock’s Take on Block Patterns
Block patterns, introduced as one of the key features in WordPress 5.5, pave the way the block editor to become a page builder. In this highly recommended article, Justin Tadlock writes on exploring the first block patterns to land in the WordPress Theme Directory with some excellent examples.
- “This feature should drastically change how developers create WordPress themes.”
- Because it addresses a lingering theme problem: “how can theme authors build custom homepages and easily allow end users to recreate them?”
Block Patterns Resource List
Birgit Pauli-Haack has published an excellent block patterns resource list for anyone interested in creating block patterns or learning more
WordPress Security News
Several popular plugins had vulnerabilities this past month, so be sure to check out the iThemes WordPress Vulnerability Roundups for September.
WordPress Vulnerability Roundups for September (and August)
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: September 2020, Part 2
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: September 2020, Part 1
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: August 2020, Part 2
- WordPress Vulnerability Roundup: August 2020, Part 1
Other Security News
- Have I Been Pwned Codebased Open Sourced
- Troy Hunt, the founder, explains that it’s for the good of the community
- Over the last 2 weeks (at time of writing), HIBP recorded 16 breaches encompassing 95,850,490 records and
- “Every single one of those has been a community contribution”
- That huge number “demonstrates the constant flood of data and the need to scale myself more efficiently.”
Welcome Restrict Content Pro to the iThemes Family!
Restrict Content Pro has a new home at iThemes. Read more in the announcement post: Restrict Content Pro is Joining the iThemes Family!
- Restrict Content Pro and all 31 Pro add-ons are available for download by Toolkit and Plugin Suite members
- Plugin Suite and Toolkit pricing will increase Oct. 1, 2020.
- Read more in an extensive RCP FAQ page about what this acquisition means for iThemes and Restrict Content Pro customers.
How to Use Restrict Content Pro in Your Web Design Business, September 28 – 30
Learn everything you need to know to build feature-rich membership sites with the Restrict Content Pro plugin and its extensive library of add-ons. During this 3-day online training event with Nathan Ingram, you’ll learn how to create three different types of WordPress membership sites from the ground up, going step by step through the process.
- Day 1: Building a Membership Site with RCP
- Day 2: Customizing a Membership Site with RCP and Beaver Builder
- Day 3: Building a Customer Portal with RCP and Beaver Builder
- Register here for How to Use Restrict Content Pro in Your Web Design Business
Google Lighthouse Integration with iThemes Sync
View your Lighthouse scores and recommendations within iThemes Sync. Read more: New! Google Lighthouse Integration with iThemes Sync Pro.
Banned User Upgrade in iThemes Security 6.7
A better view and more flexibility on how bans are enforced on your website. Read more: Read more: New! Banned Users Gets an Upgrade in iThemes Security Pro 6.7.0
WordPress Theme News
The biggest theme news this past month relates to Astra, one of the most-downloaded plugins on the WordPress.org directory.
Automattic Releases Seedlet, a Block-First WordPress Theme
- Created to transition to Full Site Editing.
- Makes simple, elegant use of the block editor sitewide.
- Read more: Seedlet: A New, Sophisticated Theme Fully Powered By the Block Editor
Nexcess Launches New WooCommerce Resource Page
- Useful and growing collection of WooCommerce resources.
- Includes store strategy, plugins, and email marketing tips.
GoDaddy Aquires SkyVerge
SykVerge is the creator of over 60 WooCommerce plugins. SkyVerge also created Jilt, a cart abandonment and email marketing add-on for WooCommerce
Read the announcement here: GoDaddy Acquires SkyVerge to Help Everyday Entrepreneurs Sell Online with WordPress and WooCommerce
Here are a few noteworthy news items in the SEO world.
Yoast Founders Take a Stake in Start Up WordProof
- WordProof is creating a timestamp ecosystem built on block chain technology.
- The goal is to prove authorship, and that your content was published first.
- The technology could be leveraged to fight fake news and online fraud.
- Yoast founder Joost de Valk and Yoast’s CEO Marieke van de Rakt are on the WordProof team as stakeholders.
- Read more: Founders Yoast SEO take a stake in WordProof to push timestamp relevance for SEO results
oEmbed Support Ending for Facebook and Instagram
- Facebook has made the decision to stop supporting oEmbed on October 24
- Any oEmbed content from Facebook or Instagram will stop working on that date.
- Read more: Upcoming API Change Will Break Facebook and Instagram oEmbed Links Across the Web Beginning October 24
The Battle of Automattic vs. Apple
In August, a back and forth between Automattic and Apple resulted in the removal of the WordPress iOS app from the App Store.
- Apple’s policy is that in-app purchases are required whenever apps “allow users to access content, subscriptions, or features they have acquired in your app on other platforms or your web site.”
- So, Apple wanted WordPress.com’s paid tiers, domain name sales, etc. to be available
- The WordPress app has always been a free tool to edit sites, with no up-sells of any kind inside.
- Apple critics at The Verge said, “In other words, Apple won: the richest company in the world just successfully forced an app developer to monetize an app so it could make more money.”
- In the end, Apple backed off and made a rare
- “We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved. Since the developer removed the display of their service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and apologize for any confusion that we have caused.”
Major Browsers to Stop Trusting SSL Certs Issued for More Than 1 Year
As of September 1, Google, Apple and Mozilla stopped trusting certificates issued for more than 398 days. The reason for this change is to phase out older vulnerable certificates and to reduce online fraud. If you’re using Let’s Encrypt, your certificates are issued for 90 days and automatically renewed. Read more: Maximum Lifespan of SSL/TLS Certificates is 398 Days Starting Today
Latest Version of Chrome Hides Full Address in URL Bar
This is annoying to many of us. But it’s solved by a right-click on the address bar. Read more: Google resumes its attack on the URL bar, hides full addresses on Chrome 86
Chrome Now Warns Users About Insecure Form Submissions
- Autocomplete is turned off by default under http
- An additional warning appears on submission
- Read more: Google Chrome to Start Warning Users About Insecure Forms
WordCamp Online Only + Free Through 2022
- 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:
- Sept 25 – 26: Lima, Peru
- September 26: Philadelphia, PA
- October 3: Rochester, NY
- October 9: Austin, TX
- October 16-17: Italia
- October 17-18: Los Angeles, CA
- November 12: Finland
In this webinar, Nathan walks through each of these news items in more depth. Register for the next WordPress News Roundup webinar here.