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Issue #165
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This week in WordPress

Matt Mullenweg encourages WordPress community to "leverage AI"

Back in 2015, Matt Mullenweg asked everyone to "learn JavaScript, deeply." Last week, he dropped into Post Status Slack to encourage folks to "spend as much time leveraging AI as possible." If you're not a member of Post Status Slack, here's Mullenweg's full comment:

"Okay y'all: Forever ago I told you companies could be built in a remote and distributed fashion, and it's amazing to see most WP companies operate in this way, impacting thousands of people's lives. In 2015 I told you to learn Javascript deeply. I don't have a catchy phrase yet, but my message for 2023 will be to spend as much time leveraging AI as possible. The boosts to productivity and capability are amazing. This is not a web3/crypto/widgets hype cycle. It's real. To this slice of the WP community, the ~1,300 people here, I want you to really internalize this message as deeply as possible."

Also, he says: "Open source and AI are the two mega-trends of the next 30 years. They complement each other, and you should think deeply about how. ChatGPT can't ready Shopify's code."

In time, we'll no doubt hear more from the WordPress co-founder about his thoughts on AI. In the meantime, folks who've already launched AI tools for WordPress were quick to point out their foresight, including Bertha AI co-founder Andrew Palmer who commented, "We built Bertha a year or so ago. Specifically for WordPress. Does that mean we were ahead of the curve? ☺️"

WPMU DEV CTO Aaron Edwards, who's been launching projects left, right and center lately, commented, "Got it, making WP product support more efficient by building myself, and giving it to the community via ChatWP"

Speaking of WPMU DEV, this week the site management and plugin platform launched a new AI-powered support chatbot to work alongside its existing support team.

Automattic-sponsored contributor Jesús Amieiro also shared recently that the WordPress Polyglots Team is testing ChatGPT and DeepL to help with translation work.

WordPress 6.4 to have all-women and nonbinary release squad

WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy is coordinating a second women and nonbinary release squad for the WordPress 6.4 release, which is scheduled to land in November 2023.

Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern highlighted this bit from Haden Chomphosy's announcement: "Having a release squad comprised of folx we don't typically see in technology also has a goal of increasing the number of underrepresented people who have experience maintaining, managing, and shipping software in an open source project." Also: "All contributions to the release and release process are welcome."

Tonya Mork, who served as Triage Lead for WordPress 5.6, the first release to feature an all-women and nonbinary squad, put her hand up for the Core Tech Lead role and shared her personal experience: "Before joining the 5.6 Release Squad, I had not contributed to the project. I had no idea how the release cycle worked or where to start. Yup, I was a contributing noob. But with mentoring, I was well supported in my onboarding. And you will be too! The experience was and still is incredible!"

Eric Karkovack at The WP Minute says the momentum for this second go can be traced back to Matt Mullenweg's 2022 State of the Word when contributor Laura Byrne, Account Manager at WebDevStudios, asked Mullenweg during the Q&A portion to commit to another such release. "The result is another step forward for inclusion and diversity in the WordPress community," says Karkovack.

For more: WebDevStudios WordPress Friday show covered the significance of the WordPress 5.6 release and the value of all-women and nonbinary squads to build WordPress.

30% of WordPress 6.2 contributors were first-timers, plus latest release loading block themes 14-18% faster

"I finally managed to put together my WordPress 6.2 contribution statistics blogpost!" tweeted Jb Audras, CTO of Whodunit, a WordPress core committer, and Core Tech Lead for WordPress 6.2.

Highlights in Contribution Stats for WordPress 6.2 'Dolphy' include:
  • 607 people from at least 50 countries and 145 identified companies contributed to WordPress 6.2.
  • 178 people contributed to WordPress Core for the very first time, representing 30% of the total number of contributors.
  • Of the 50+ countries represented, the United States had the largest number of contributions (803) followed by Russia with 449 contributions (led by Yoast-sponsored core committer Sergey Biryukov), and France with 303 contributions (including 277 contributions from Audras himself).
  • Automattic is still the most prolific company with 82 employees credited in 1,793 contributions, followed by Yoast with 712 contributions from 11 employees and Whodunit with 280 contributions from 4 people.
Meanwhile, Automattic-sponsored contributor Anne McCarthy has shared a recap of WordPress 6.2's performance improvements. According to an analysis by Google-sponsored core committer Felix Arntz, who served as Performance Lead for the release, WordPress 6.2 loads 14-18% faster for block themes and 2-5% faster for classic themes. Server-side performance is seeing a major boost of 17-23% for block themes and 3-5% for classic themes.

iThemes rebranding as SolidWP

One of the oldest brands in WordPress is getting a facelift: iThemes is rebranding as SolidWP.

iThemes launched in 2008 as a themes company but in recent years has become known for its security, backups and site maintenance plugins, "none of which are well-represented in the name iThemes," says Matt Cromwell, Senior Director of Ops and Marketing at StellarWP—the WordPress brand collective owned by Liquid Web that runs iThemes.

Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern notes that over the years, "… the company's products became increasingly centered on plugins, yet the old brand had so much name recognition that its leadership was not quick to change it."

Last week, the company kicked off a "rebrand in public" approach to launching its new identity, which will include in-depth videos about the reasons behind the rebrand.

Ben Meredith, Head of Support at GiveWP/Liquid Web, commented in Post Status Slack, "I've gotten to watch things happening from the inside on this, and I am pretty pumped that it's not just a rebrand. It's definitely a re-focus and refactor of the products, and shifting around folks to make those products even better."

Vulnerabilities discovered in Limit Login Attempts and Elementor Pro

In security news, Wordfence and Sucuri are urging folks to update to the latest version of Limit Login Attempts after a severe unauthenticated stored Cross-Site Scripting vulnerability was patched in version 1.7.2 of the plugin last week.

In his write-up for Wordfence, security research Marco Wotschka says the security company contacted the WordPress Plugin Security Team on January 26 as they couldn’t find contact details for the developer.

Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern notes that in August 2012, the plugin had more than 900,000 active users and more than 2 million in 2018, "but seems to be dying a slow death and is no longer maintained, as it hasn't been updated in years."

Meanwhile, Art Technica recently reported that hackers are actively exploiting a critical vulnerability in Elementor Pro. The vulnerability was discovered by Jerome Bruandet, a researcher with security firm NinTechNet. According to Patchstack CTO Dave Jong, the vulnerability, in combination with the WooCommerce plugin, allows attackers to update any WordPress setting on a site. According to Elementor, their software powers more than 7% of the internet with 10 million active installs.

Lastly, more from Sucuri: Senior Malware Researcher Denis Sinegubko shared details of a massive WordPress infection campaign the company has been tracking since 2017.

TeamWP launches project to measure employee engagement and satisfaction in WordPress ecosystem

Company culture and engagement project TeamWP launched its first Team Experience Index this week. As Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern reports, the semi-anonymous survey—which requires a company name but does not store employees’ identities—takes about 7 minutes to complete and will help TeamWP capture leadership, teamwork, career progression, compensation, and other trends across WordPress companies.

TeamWP founder James Giroux tweeted this week, "Our first day live had a very healthy number of results including from some leading WordPress companies. I'm quite pumped to see the results too. I wonder how we'll do...😄"

Giroux also joined Do the Woo’s latest episode, Building Community and Employee Engagement, to discuss his experiences in community roles, as well as the story behind TeamWP and what the project will tackle next.

Gutenberg 15.5 introduces experimental grid layout support; developers experiment with integrating AI

Gutenberg 15.5 rolled out last week with experimental grid layout support in the Group block. WP Tavern's Sarah Gooding shared her experience using the new addition in Gutenberg 15.5 Introduces Experimental Grid Layout Support."

"I am particularly curious about how the grid layout works," wrote WordPress Developer Advocate Birgit Pauli-Haack in the latest issue of Gutenberg Times. "It seems quite complex as the editor needs to deal with several levels and Inner Blocks and how they follow the overall grid layout. It's important that theme builders test this and provide feedback, so it can be solidified."

A number of developers are meanwhile experimenting with AI block and content assistants for Gutenberg. Human Made CTO Joe Hoyle recently shared that he'd integrated generative AI into the block editor and wrangled it to "speak Gutenberg." Developer and Gutenberg Hub founder Munir Kamal has similarly built a native AI writer plugin inspired by the Notion app. Gooding has the story over on WP Tavern.

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#WPCommunityFeels: Shambi Broome

This week, what's inspiring Shambi Broome, Executive Director of Webgyrlz Code and founder of JMB Designs LLC. Webgyrlz Code is currently working with Ridge View High School in South Carolina to teach students WordPress development. High school students are likewise invited to learn WordPress via JMB Designs' first WordPress to PWA site.
A podcast worth listening to: I’m not a consistent podcast listener but I’d recommend WAIR Chats from @getwair. Great convos for anyone in the eCommerce or fashion tech space (I’m hoping a WordPress plugin is next on their list).

A concept worth understanding: Being reasonable with yourself. In 2022 I implemented no Friday deadlines and it was amazing! It reduced my stress and allowed me to use Fridays for connecting with mentees and doing discovery calls. I love a reply from @gregchase to one of my tweets on this subject: "I always question a Friday deadline with 'are you going to look at this over the weekend?'" Total facts. I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2022 and this journey has humbled me and taught me to be reasonable with my energy. Afternoon naps during the work day should be the norm. It’s a great refresher and usually leads to hours of more focused work.

A Twitter account worth following: @RIoTonSocial I started following them after All Things Open 2022. I love what they are doing in the open source tech space and they "walk the walk" with encouraging inclusion in the community. RIoT is also amazing at supporting startups and giving founders a space to grow.

An article worth reading: An article I have any new WordPress interns/volunteers read when they start to work with my web agency or nonprofit is from It's their article about WordPress features. I believe in going to the source before I scour the Internet for indie articles. I feel WP does a great job introducing its platform to newbies.

A habit worth forming: Connect with your community. In tech this is huge. I love being in spaces with other passionate people who love tech, love learning, love sharing, and want to make tech more inclusive. It’s almost better than the energy you get from coffee (almost). I love to meet with other techies in person, chatting on Zoom, group chats, or even just having long Twitter convos. I learn from others and I love sharing where I can help. I’m big on supporting career changers to help them deal with imposter syndrome, build their confidence, and be a sound board when they have struggles. Find your community and be an active participant.

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In other WordPress news...

  • Preferred Languages 2.0 was recently released, marking a big step closer towards a core merge proposal for translation plugin. This latest development comes six years after WordPress core committer Pascal Birchler released the a prototype for the feature-as-a-plugin project.
  • Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) has been named this year's Plugin Madness Champion. ACF was the very first Plugin Madness winner in 2016 and has returned to take the crown again seven years later.
  • Support for the WordPress mobile apps is moving to the forums. Previously, users were routed to—even those who were self-hosted—and Automattic employees handled support tickets related to the mobile apps. The move to is part of an effort to disentangle the official WordPress mobile apps from Automattic's services.
  • WordPress folks are giving up on too much commercial activity in the name community, writes industry analyst Robert Jacobi following CloudFest 2023 in Europa-Park, Germany. He says to drive innovation and financial success "we need to strengthen the idea that [WordCamps are] not just about holding hands but shaking hands when closing deals. Companies shouldn't feel that they will be disapproved of for taking a more business forward approach."
  • Jonathan Wold has put out a call to founders who are interested in learning more about his new organization, Guildenberg. The organization aims to help WordPress product founders with product monetization, adoption rates, compatibility standardization, and more.
  • WooCommerce will host a Virtual Contributor Day on April 19, 2023. The 24-hour event invites contributors to work on the WooCommerce Core and WooCommerce Block repositories for a minimum of four hours.
  • In a piece titled "Why you should care how green your website is," Yoast's interim Head of Marketing Sam Alderson argues that more site owners should pay attention to their ecological footprint. After covering the tech industry's overall negative environmental impact, Alderson offers a few tips for site owners who want to go green.
  • Registration for the WordCamp Europe 2023 Contributor Day is now open! While the actual June 8 event is free, contributors will need to have a ticket for WCEU before registering.
  • The Diverse Speaker Training Group (otherwise known as #WPDiversity) invites those who want to create inclusive WordPress events to join its upcoming workshops. You can sign up for individual workshops and read more about the group on #WPDiversity's info page.
  • Twitter suspended's access to the platform's API last week, breaking Jetpack Social Sharing. Though the outage was resolved quickly, is now working directly with Twitter to ensure future outages don't occur without prior notice.
  • The WordCamp Asia 2024 organising team is already calling for organizers! If you'd like to sign up for the March 2024 event in Taipei, Taiwan, make sure to apply by April 15, 2023.
  • The team at WPExperts has acquired the Payment Plans WC plugin from SG Web Partners. Payment Plans WC gives customers the flexibility to use the 'Buy Now and Pay Later' payment option on checkout.
  • LearnDash has acquired Real Big Plugins collection of add-ons. The deal includes Gradebook for LearnDash, LearnDash Slack, LearnDash MailChimp, and LearnDash ConvertKit.
  • Awesome Motive CEO Syed Balkhi shared last week that the company is now powering 25 million WordPress websites. "We passed a BIG milestone!" he tweeted, adding that he's super proud of the Awesome Motive team "and the amazing work we're doing to help shape the web for billions worldwide."
  • Pagely co-founder Joshua Strebel tweeted that he's retiring from the managed hosting company. Joshua and his wife-turned-business partner Sally founded Pagely in 2009; in 2021, the company was acquired by GoDaddy.
  • Automattic-sponsored contributor Justin Tadlock has published a proposal to overhaul the WordPress Theme Handbook. "No idea is too 'crazy' during this stage," Tadlock says, making the case that this is a refresh "the theming team deserves."
  • A team of WordPress contributors has proposed a new API that would standardize the way developers add interactivity to the frontend. As Sarah Gooding at WP Tavern says the proposed new Interactivity API for frontend blocks would make it faster for developers to build interactive experiences "without reinventing the wheel each time." In the latest issue of the Gutenberg Times Weekend Edition, Birgit Pauli-Haack says the proposal "definitely has a high Geek-factor, but the aim is to make it easier for any developer to create interactive blocks. Stay tuned for more examples and examples code."
  • A new Community Themes initiative aims to bring together a group of contributors to collaborate and build block themes. As Automattic-sponsored contributor Maggie Cabrera puts it, the goal is to bring together a squad of people to build block themes all year around the same way the default themes are built.
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In product news...

Do you have a product launch or release you would like to share? Get in touch – [email protected]