Issue #203
Well, this issue is a bit late! It's March 11 and after a big week in Taipei, we're covering what happened at WordCamp Asia, the Cwicly controversy, the latest on WordPress 6.5, Bluehost's new cloud offering, and much more.

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Four big headlines

A smiling group of people crowded together for a photo, giving thumbs up and peace signs, and wearing conference lanyards.

1. Next stop, Manila: WordCamp Asia over for 2024


WordCamp Asia 2024 wrapped up on Saturday in Taipei, Taiwan, and as Taco Verdonschot, Head of Relations at Yoast, posted, "I've completely lost track of the days of the week, but it doesn't matter. Because my heart is filled with happiness, my head has a ton of faces and memories to process, and I'm so proud of everyone who worked so hard to make #WCAsia a success! Thank you @yoast for sending me 🙏"

All up, 1,320 people (including 36% first-timers) from 70 countries attended the three-day event. The conference kicked off on Thursday with a Contributor Day, bringing together 627 people (including 110 first-time contributors) who volunteered across 14 Make teams.

This year's packed program featured an impressive lineup of 55 speakers, including WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Stratechery founder Ben Thompson, Human Made co-founder Noel Tock, and JU-CHUN KO, an At-Large Legislator and adjunct assistant professor at National Taiwan University. Before the event, there was hype around invited speakers Tim Ferriss and Joseph Jacks. Both were last-minute cancellations.

WordCamp Asia 2024 was promoted as "The premier open source web summit of Asia," a move WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomphosy told The Repository she strongly supported. "I'm all in on it. I think it's all a good idea. It's been a very long time that WordPress has been talking to itself," she said. Following an interview with a local Taiwanese media outlet, Haden Chomphosy emphasized the need to better communicate with audiences outside of WordPress what the project is all about. "As we approach the future of WordPress, working to get to 51% of the web, we have to start speaking clearly and coherently outside of ourselves. And so [publicizing WordCamp Asia] outside of WordPress-specific media outlets is a really smart move that I have enjoyed seeing."

Read our Q&A with WordCamp Asia co-lead Jon Ang for more on WordCamp Asia's ambition to evolve beyond regular WordCamps.

On March 8, International Women's Day, Angela Jin, Automattic's Head of Programs & Contributor Experience, hosted an empowering panel discussion, Shaping the Future with WordPress Women, featuring digital marketer Chiaki Kouno, entrepreneur Olga Gleckler, and Hannah KAO from the Taiwan Gender Equity Education Association. The panelists shared personal stories about their experiences as working women and discussed broader issues of workplace gender bias and the ongoing need to support women's participation in tech.

Speaking of impressive women, Elementor's Head of WordPress, Miriam Schwab, had a special guest at her talk, Building a career in WordPress while raising seven kids: Maya Yaron, the Israeli Representative to Taiwan. Yaron told WordCamp Asia organizers that she built her first website with WordPress and "it's super easy to use." Schwab told The Repository she reached out to the Israeli embassy in Taiwan as a safety precaution due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg wrapped up the conference on Saturday with a Q&A. He also announced that this year's State of the Word will be live-streamed from Tokyo, Japan, on December 16.

The location of next year's WordCamp 2025 was also revealed: it will be held in Manila, Philippines, in February. The organizing team has already issued a call for organizers.

For more, GoDaddy has published an extensive recap of WordCamp Asia 2024, including summaries of many of the talks. The event live streams are also available to watch on the WordPress YouTube channel.

The Repository is a proud media partner of WordCamp Asia 2024.

2. Bluehost teams up with Automattic to launch WP Cloud-powered cloud hosting


The big news this week: Bluehost has launched a new cloud offering pitched at agencies and freelancers—and it's built on WP Cloud, Automattic's cloud infrastructure.

Bluehost Cloud promises "the power of WP Cloud combined with Bluehost's expertise." Plans start at USD $29.99. And in a somewhat surprising move, WordPress.com's (already crowded) pricing page has been updated to promote Bluehost Cloud—including Bluehost's branding—right next to VIP's Enterprise plan. Wild.

For more, WordPress.com announced the news on their blog: WP Cloud Is Powering the Future of WordPress.

In a press release, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg says, "WP Cloud is the first hyper-cloud platform purpose-built for WordPress, with thousands of high frequency servers across 25+ data centers and points of presence, it's designed to serve WordPress as fast and securely as possible." He says he's excited to partner with Bluehost, "a company that has partnered with WordPress.org for 15+ years."

Bluehost is the first large hosting company to use WP Cloud’s infrastructure, unlike other managed WordPress hosting companies that use AWS, Google Cloud and other better-known cloud platforms.

According to Kevin Walker, SVP of Marketing at Newfold Digital, Bluehost's parent company, partnering with Automattic was a no-brainer. "Bluehost is a WordPress-first brand. It would be foolish not to use infrastructure built specifically for WordPress," he says. "We're going to market together. It's a partnership. We both benefit when it's successful."

Bluehost and Automattic agreed on partnership terms late last year before developing Bluehost Cloud relatively quickly. Walker says last week's launch was in the context of early access, with a rapid iteration of improvements to come over the next six months. "We have a pretty long list of follow on features but our priorities will be dictated by early access customers."

Walker's under no illusion that Bluehost is the only hosting company talking to Automattic about using its cloud infrastructure. "We have a small window of opportunity here [as early WP Cloud adopters] so we want to nail support and develop Bluehost Cloud's reputation as a first-of-its-kind WordPress platform," he says. "The infrastructure's amazing but people need more than just infrastructure. What we're doing is bringing access to it in a self-service way and we're putting our best, most dedicated support team members in the US on this product."

Bluehost Cloud is pitched at agencies and freelancers, but time will tell if it's a good product fit, says Walker. "People are already buying the product, and when you dig into who they really are, they aren't all agencies. It'll be interesting to see how this product evolves over time."

Bluehost has been working hard to turn around historically negative perceptions of the company through big investments in performance and support. As Review Signal's Kevin Ohashi notes in his <$25/Month hosting performance benchmarks 2023, Bluehost took a year off participating in the site's benchmarking in 2022 following disappointing results only to return in 2023 with perfect uptime and "snappy" top-tier results.

What is is WP Cloud? Pressable's Jessica Frick published a timely guide: What is WP Cloud: A Complete Guide for Developers and Website Owners.

Meanwhile, Walker says there will soon be an official announcement about the company's new AI site-building tool, which has been rolled out to 5% of customers. The Bluehost team previewed this new feature to attendees visiting their sponsor booth at WordCamp Asia 2024.

3. Cwicly founder breaks silence, shares support plans


Cwicly founder Louis-Alexander Désiré briefly resurfaced yesterday to reassure customers following his shock announcement this week that he's sunsetting the "visionary" page builder due to relentless criticism and personal attacks.

In a brief message posted on Cwicly's Discourse site yesterday, Désiré announced that maintenance plans would become available at a discounted rate in January next year to "ensure the sustainability of current and prospective websites built with Cwicly."

The news was welcomed by Cwicly customers who shared their support for Désiré and encouraged him to explore all avenues to keep development of the page builder going.

Earlier this week, Désiré emailed customers with the abrupt news that Cwicly's development had ceased and only necessary security updates and occasional bug fixes would continue until the end of this year. In a now-deleted message that was posted on the Cwicly website (but was shared on Reddit), he told customers:

"Unfortunately, the relentless onslaught of destructive posts and comments by certain WordPress influencers has created an atmosphere that has made it increasingly challenging for us to continue with our vision for Cwicly.

"Since the launch of Cwicly, not only have we had to build our product but have suffered the constant undermining of our choice to embrace the WordPress vision in Gutenberg. In addition, personal attacks on both myself and team members have been made and openly tolerated throughout.

"The negativity and hostility directed towards Cwicly, especially in comparison to other page builders, have taken a significant toll on our morale and motivation. Every effort we make to enhance or introduce new features is met with unwarranted criticism and untruths, making it increasingly difficult for us to operate in such a hostile environment. The passion and dedication that we have had from the start has been gradually diluted, enthusiasm has given way to dread."

Cwicly's website has since been updated with a shorter, less impassioned message about the product's discontinuation.

As WPTuts owner Paul Charleton notes in his excellent 10-minute analysis, The "Cwicly Aftermath" - Looking at the BIGGER picture, Désiré's announcement was initially met with an outpouring of support due to the negative mental health impacts cited by Cwicly's team. But sentiments quickly gave way to the reality of the closure's impact, leading to frustration, skepticism, and speculation among users.

Charleton, who describes Cwicly as a "visionary product," also unpacks the wider implications of the page builder's closure, noting the mistrust and lack of confidence it has created for other small development teams.

As developer and marketer Marcel Heiniger commented on Charleton's video, "Three months of effort have been rendered obsolete due to the discontinuation of Cwicly, wi'll (sic) have to recreate our ongoing projects." Similarly, De Nic says they were "heavily invested in Cwicly" and its "demise has put us in a difficult situation."

In Post Status Slack, Gravity's Carl Hancock speculated on the competition between Cwicly and Bricks, adding, "But even with that said… it's wild to shut down because of it. You have customers. WTH?"

For more analysis, Matt Medeiros at The WP Minute wrote about The Brittle WordPress Business, noting that "… in a hyper-competitive space (page builders in this case) that carries the baggage of an incredibly toxic user base, and yeah, I can see how difficult that can be on a founder."

Jyolsna J E reported Cwicly's unexpected farewell for WP Tavern, and Roger Montti covered the story for Search Engine Journal: WordPress Site Builder Closes – Devs Forced To Rebuild Client Sites.

Meanwhile, it seems competitors are pouncing on the news. Search for "Cwicly" in Google Search and Kadence pops up as "the best Cwicly replacement."

4. Josepha Haden Chomphosy approves Font Library for inclusion in WordPress 6.5


The highly-anticipated new Font Library will ship with WordPress 6.5 while synced pattern overrides have been punted to WordPress 6.6 following an intervention by WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden Chomposy this week.

As Brian Coords reports for WP Tavern, the Font Library includes a new directory in wp-content/fonts, at the same level as plugins and themes. But because fonts will be uploaded by users and fetched as resources, some contributors felt they should be stored in the wp-content/uploads directory where other uploads and media live. "On the one hand, it's a bit of a philosophical debate: are fonts just "uploads" or are they something more fundamental to how we build websites?" writes Coords.

Haden Chomphosy unblocked the stalemate on Wednesday, affirming that the Font Library will use wp-content/fonts as the default storage folder. She also called for further work to explore a means to move the canonical location of the fonts directory and the development of a roadmap outlining where project components are headed for new first-class concepts outside of previously established paradigms within WordPress.

She also made the call to push synced pattern overrides back to WordPress 6.6, citing "unforseen side effects" following a change that switched how blocks are named and marked as overridable patterns.

Meanwhile, the first release candidate for WordPress 6.5 is now available for testing. The official release is on track to drop on March 26.

For more, PootlePress's Jamie Marsland explains WordPress 6.5 in 250 seconds.
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In other news

WordPress project

> WPTavern triallist Brian Coords covered Anne McCarthy's recent Hallway Hangout following her viral post about overlapping problems in the Site Editor. As Coords writes, "What do you get when you put a handful of outspoken WordPress developers, agencies, product owners, and community advocates on a video call with the Lead Architect and Product Managers of the entire Gutenberg project? Hopefully progress." While Tavern readers thanked Coords for his "superb summary," McCarthy, the Automattic-sponsored contributor behind the original Full-Site Editing outreach experiment, took issue with the framing of the article. She reiterated her continued involvement in the Outreach program and the Gutenberg leadership team's dedication to working through the overlapping issues (WP Tavern)

> Meetup organizers around the world are struggling to find free venues, speakers and time to organize events, according to an analysis of the 2023 WordPress Meetup Survey results. A total of 595 people from 65 countries completed the survey, which aimed to answer two questions: how can the WordPress Community team increase the number of WordPress events and how can the team increase the number of WordPress users worldwide? A working group has proposed several meaningful actions for 2024, including improving the marketing of events and providing organizers with more and better resources, training and support (Make WordPress Community)

> "Sure it's news from three months ago, but I felt like @wptavern needed to document the WordPress Developer Resources redesign," posted Brian Coords on X/Twitter this week. Coords, who's trialing for a job at WP Tavern, interviewed Automattic Developer Advocate Nick Diego to learn the story behind the redesign and what folks can expect from WordPress.org's multi-year transition to a new look and feel (WP Tavern)

WordPress community

> Joost de Valk has built a proof of concept for an eco-friendly robots.txt designed to reduce a website's server load and carbon footprint. It works by blocking unnecessary crawlers while allowing major search engines and specific tools. "I see no benefit to site owners from their crawls and it's costing tons of energy," says de Valk, adding that it could be proposed as a change to WordPress core (X/Twitter)

> Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging advocate Birgit Olzem is the latest addition to Bob Dunn's Do the Woo hosting team and her debut show this week is worth a listen. She interviews Angela Jin, the Head of Programs & Contributor Experience at Automattic, about the need for a learning mindset and shared language around DEIB, contributor burnout and the importance of creating a welcoming space for new contributors (Do the Woo) | Angela Jin also joined The WP Minute+ podcast this week to talk about bringing younger generations into WordPress through education initiatives and pathways for contribution, and the challenges facing community organizers, including rising costs and the need for an incident response team (The WP Minute+)

> Matt Mullenweg says that in the wake of tech companies forcing their employees back to the office, Automattic has been able to hire top talent who would otherwise be "lifers" at places like Snap, Slack and Facebook. In one example he shares on Freemius' plugin.fm podcast, he says 900 former Twitter employees applied for jobs at Automattic after Elon Musk bought the social media site. At the time, Automattic published a landing page stating, "We are open to bringing over individuals — even entire teams — if there's a clear path to have a 10x impact on Tumblr's growth and revenue." Mullenweg says Automattic hired 15 ex-Twitter employees (plugin.fm)

> Gutenberg's first design lead, Tammie Lister, has published a new book. WordPress Styling with Blocks, Patterns, Templates, and Themes introduces readers to full-site editing and block design tools with clear explanations and easy-to-understand examples (Packt)

Business, enterprise & acquisitions

> Ronnie Burt, who's leading the reinvention of Gravatar at Automattic, has published a preview of what's planned for the 17-year-old plugin in the coming months. Upcoming features include privacy-first profiles, powerful APIs for developers and a new passwordless authentication service. He says Gravatar's advantage in the market is that it's linked to an email address rather than a name, allowing people to "curate" multiple profiles for life, work and play. And in a comment revealing he's going after platforms like Linktree, he says Gravatar is the original ‘link-in-bio' tool (Gravatar)

> The team behind Kestrel, a new venture by the founders of Skyverge, announced this week that they now have over 30 WooCommerce plugins available for sale. The news comes after it was recently announced that Kestrel had acquired seven of Barn2's plugins. GoDaddy acquired Skyverge (a WooCommerce business very similar to Kestrel) and all its plugins in 2020 (Kestrel)

> WordPress.com is bringing back the classic WordPress dashboard for customers on Creator and Entrepreneur plans. For several years, the default interface has been “Calypso,” a sleek single-page web app. Early access developers can now choose wp-admin as the default view after logging in (WordPress.com)

Plugins, themes & products

> A new 2,500-word limit has been applied to descriptions in the WordPress.org plugin repository. Automattic-sponsored core contributor Dion Hulse says while 99% of plugins have descriptions with 1,500 words or less and 99.8% have less than 3,000 words, 0.2% of plugins blatantly violate the plugin guidelines – including one plugin with a 26,000-word description (or about 50 pages of text) (Trac)

> Joost de Valk has built a Blueprint Builder for the WordPress Playground that can create a blueprint of a site's plugins, themes and options. He says Playground creator Adam Zielinski asked him to open source it, and it might one day be used as part of the project (Joost.blog)

Conferences, events & awards

> CloudFest 2024 will kick off in Europa-Park, Germany, on March 18 with WP Day, a day dedicated to WordPress. Guildenberg's Jonathan Wold will again MC this year's event, which will feature talks by Review Signal founder Kevin Ohashi and WebPros CTO Jan Löffler, and panel discussions on product creation in an evolving WordPress, UX and security, generative WordPress, and sustainability and inclusion (CloudFest WP Day) | CloudFest CEO Christian Jäger and CloudFest Hackathon organizers Carole Olinger and Alain Schlesser joined Do the Woo to discuss the four-day conference and the 11 open source projects that attendees will work on during the hackathon, including a project to enable Mastodon apps for WordPress and plugins, and an inclusive language check for open source contributors (Do the Woo)

> Voting is now open for Plugin Madness 2024. The bracket-style competition kicked off this week, with 64 plugins in four categories (marketing, optimization, maintenance, and ecommerce) going head to head over the next seven weeks (Torque)

> Switzerland Community Day is scheduled for March 23. The event, pitched as "at the crossroad of WordCamps, Contributor Days and meetups" is aimed at existing contributors and people new to WordPress who want to learn how to get started contributing (Switzerland Community Day 2024)

> Over 1,500 photos from 163 contributors were submitted to the WordPress Photo directory during the recent week-long WordPress Kerala Photo Festival hosted by the WordPress community of Kerala, India. The event helped the directory pass the 15,000 photo milestone (WordPress Photo Festival 2024)

#WPCommunityFeels: Green Yang

A man with dark hair wearing a grey shirt and glasses looks to the right.
This week, what's inspiring Green Yang, owner of Ke2B.

Want to nominate someone (or yourself!) for #WPCommunityFeels? Reply to this email and let us know!
A podcast worth listening to: I almost never listen to others' podcasts besides mine, Read Jazz 嚼世人蔘 | Podcast on Spotify. But I recommend my music playlists instead, Spotify – Read Jazz 嚼世人蔘. I regularly listen to live voice streams. One reason is for my selected chill sounds, no matter the voices or instruments. Another reason is that I’m an old-fashioned person who likes radio broadcasts "On Air" with a bit of interactivity.

A concept worth understanding: The Tenth Man Rule: "If nine of us with the same information arrive at the exact same conclusion, it’s the duty of the tenth man to disagree. No matter how improbable it may seem, the tenth man has to start thinking with the assumption that the other nine were wrong." Via the film World War Z.

An X/ Twitter account worth following: WP Tavern provides news that is combined with various topics and materials. The way they choose to posted on X/Twitter is good as well with a consistent layout.

An article worth reading: Why Jazz? by Matt Mullenweg. He explains why each release is promoted with jazz musicians, and what jazz, WordPress, and a form of expression look slike. I've loved jazz since my university days before touching WordPress.

A habit worth forming: Try to get a feel for the theme and plugins that are applied to a WordPress site when you see someone post a link on a Facebook group or share it at a meetup. Combine that with your practice experiences—you may get some sense for your own work, whether you press F12 or not.

Meanwhile...

🙃 Chris Coyier tried to get CSS-Tricks back after selling it to Digital Ocean.

🤖 Joost de Valk says ChatGPT is like having a dozen interns.

👩🏼‍💻 Core committer Tonya Mork is leaving Automattic and her open source sponsorship.

💻 Gravity Forms needs $500 to reach its $25,000 goal to buy computers for TechLit Africa.

💔 PCMag's Chandra Steele is heartbroken over reports that WordPress wants to turn her "old blog into an AI zombie." (Editor: a senior features writer for a tech publication who doesn't know the difference between .com and .org? Hmm…)

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