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Issue #207
Happy Friday! It's April 12 and we're covering Automattic's latest acquisition, Woo.com's traffic woes, the vulnerability patch in WordPress 6.5, and much more.

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Three big headlines

1. Automattic buys Beeper, aligning with WordPress' open source ideals


WordPress.com owner Automattic acquires multiservice messaging app Beeper for $125M is the biggest headline in WordPress—and tech—this week.

TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez reports that the deal is Automattic's second acquisition of a cross-platform messaging solution after buying Texts.com last October. On April 2, Beeper founder Eric Migicovsky replaced Texts.com founder Kishan Bagaria as Automattic's new Head of Messaging. His entire team is now working with the Texts.com team to merge the two platforms under the Beeper brand. The plan is to launch a combined service later this year, according to Eric, who posted on X/Twitter, “Together, we are the most capable set of chat reverse engineers on earth!"

So, what's Beeper got to do with WordPress? As Eric explains, "Automattic is best known for supporting WordPress and WooCommerce – two open source software projects that underpin huge portions of the internet's publishing and ecommerce infrastructure. Together, we'll develop software for a third fundamental pillar of the internet: chat."

Also, Beeper is built on Matrix. Automattic invested $4.6 million in the open source federated chat system back in 2020. Thoughout last year, Automattic-sponsored contributors had been working to replace Slack with Matrix as WordPress's official communications platform before the plan was scrapped in October.

The acquisition comes on the heels of a highly publicized battle between Beeper and Apple after the messaging app found a way to recreate iMessage's infamous "blue bubble" messaging on Android. Wired's Lauren Goode reports on how Beeper's iMessage fight with Apple blew up into a debate over regulating big tech.

Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg, who is still on a sabbatical, wrote on his blog this week that he has "zero interest in fighting with Apple, I think instead it's best to focus on messaging networks that want more engagement from power-user clients."

According to The New York Times' Tripp Mickle, the deal also comes as regulators in Europe and the United States pressure tech companies to open their messaging services to third parties. Automattic is betting that the changing regulatory environment will make people more interested in finding a unified messaging system like Beeper, says Toni Schneider, Automattic's interim CEO.

Meanwhile, "Automattic might be the internet's most interesting holding company,” writes Mario Gabriele, founder of The Generalist. Listing Automattic's seemingly eclectic collection of products, he adds "Really curious to understand how all these pieces fit together better."

2. Woo.com now WooCommerce.com again after traffic plunge


Woo.com has been migrated back to WooCommerce.com after the company revealed last week that Google's March 2024 core update led to a significant drop in organic traffic.

Woo Marketing Manager Kevin Bates says Woo's rebrand and subsequent move to Woo.com last October had "created challenges" for users trying to find WooCommerce in Google searches. He says the situation was only made worse by the March update. The company pulled together a group of SEO experts to assess the situation and it was decided that reverting to WooComerce.com would be the best solution.

"The decision wasn't taken lightly, but ultimately, we believe this change is in the best interest of building on WooCommerce's recognition across the wider Woo ecosystem," Kevin says.

Search Engine Land's Julia McCoy says the March update brought about a "seismic shift" in the SEO industry. According to Elizabeth Tucker, Google's Director of Product, the update aimed to reduce unhelpful content in Google Search by 40%.

The company hasn't commented publicly on how much organic traffic it lost in March. On X/Twitter, SEO expert Cyrus Shepard has posted charts that show Woo's traffic fell off a cliff in November 2023 shortly after the move to Woo.com and never recovered.

"Changing a site's domain is always a risky move, and this story is a good example of 'if it ain't broke don't fix it,' or something like that," posts Elementor Head of WordPress Relations Miriam Schwab.

Jonathan Ross, QA Manager at Just Eat Takeaway.com, jokes, "I guess you can't just change a site domain name, you have to keep woo-ing your audience? (sorry it had to be done)"

3. WordPress 6.5.2 patches XSS vulnerability


WordPress 6.5.2 was released this week. The short-cycle release patches a vulnerability in WordPress core picked up by John Blackbourne from the WordPress Security Team.

John, a long-time core committer and Principal Web Engineer at Human Made, reported the cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability affecting the Avatar block type. He led the 6.5.2 release with Automattic-sponsored core committer Isabel Brison and independent core committer Aaron Jorbin.

For more on the cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability, Threat Intelligence Lead Chloe Chamberland shares her analysis on the Wordfence blog: Unauthenticated Stored Cross-Site Scripting Vulnerability Patched in WordPress Core.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering why there was no WordPress 6.5.1, Aaron says it's because there was an error with the initial package.
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In other news

WordPress project

> Support for PHP 7.0 and 7.1 will be dropped in WordPress 6.6, which is scheduled for release on July 16, 2024. According to core committer John Blackbourn, the recommended version of PHP remains at 7.4 or greater. The latest WordPress usage stats show that 42.6% of websites are running PHP 7.4, 16.5% on PHP 8.1, 12.2% on PHP 8.2, and 12.1% on PHP 8.0. The remaining 16.6% are running on versions 5.2 through 7.3 (Make WordPress Core | WordPress Statistics)

> The WordPress Support Forums are sporting a new look. In addition to standardizing the structure, fonts, spacing and colors, the Forums homepage now matches the layout of the newly redesigned Developer Resources, improving consistency within the Learn section of the site. Automattic-sponsored design contributor Nick Diego says the refresh is part of a broader effort to establish a design language across WordPress.org and sets the stage for a planned redesign (Make WordPress.org)

> Gutenberg 18.1 is now available. With more than 150 pull requests, this version features new pattern and template part insertion functionality, site backgrounds in global styles, and accessibility and performance improvements (Make WordPress Core)

> Automattic-sponsored contributor Anne McCarthy has put together a video diving into the WordPress Playground and the various ways it can be used as a learning, testing and teaching tool (YouTube) | WordPress Playground creator Adam Zieliński joined The WP Minute to talk about the technical aspects of the project, potential use cases, and what's in store for the future (The WP Minute+)

> Forty-four people have graduated as part of the second cohort of the WordPress Contributor Mentorship Program. Over the past six weeks, 28 mentors supported the new contributors as they translated thousands of strings and documentation into several languages, participated in testing releases, moderated WordPress.tv, organized a WordCamp and led contributor tables, and wrote documentation (Make WordPress Community) | How does the program support mentees? Graduate Diana Gunn says it helped her build confidence and community. Diana was supported by the LGBTQ+Press Empowerment Program to take part in the program (CodeInWP)

WordPress community

> Marcus Burnette is continuing to build out The WP World, this week introducing a new "Presser Notes" feature that turns the information-dense website into a light-weight CRM. Marcus says the update is "a small step towards making your interactions on The WP World more meaningful and personalized." (The WP World)

> Misogyny in tech is still real, writes Post Status Executive Director Michelle Frechette, who says 5-10 men a week "slide into her DMs" with unwelcome advances. She says women in tech generally use their social media accounts for professional communications, and "Twitter isn't Tinder, Facebook isn't e-Harmony, and LinkedIn isn't Bumble" (Post Status)

> Samah Nasr has joined Michelle Frechette as Underrepresented in Tech's new co-host and partner. On the latest episode of the podcast, Samah talks about her role at Yoast (she's a project manager on the community team) and how her views on diversity and inclusion have been influenced by her time as a Palestinian refugee in Syria. She replaces Allie Nimmons, who left the podcast in December 2023 (Underrepresented in Tech)

> The latest episode of WooBits features Leoni Rossberg and Vanessa Nalugya from Groundbreaker Talents, an initiative providing full-time residential scholarships in software engineering to young women from financially constrained communities in Uganda. Leoni highlights the industry's positive reception to the initiative at CloudFest 2024, emphasizing the importance of changing negative perceptions about tech talent in the African country (Do the Woo)

> The Divi Community Meetup Network has 12,619 members from 13 countries across 38 groups, according to Elegant Themes's latest community update. Members have hosted 2,081 global events since the network launched in 2022 (Elegant Themes)

Business, enterprise & acquisitions

> The latest episode of Inside Woo brings together Woo CEO Paul Maiorana, Woo Customers Success Manager Travis Lima and Douglas Costello, the founder and creator of Wyrmwood Gaming. Douglas gives an entertaining account of Wyrmwood's journey from a failed woodworking business to a renowned force in the tabletop gaming market (Do the Woo)

Plugins, products & themes

> Rocketgenius, the company behind Gravity Forms, has released its first standalone product. Gravity SMTP lets users send and track emails from their websites, ensuring improved email deliverability and reliability. Currently, it's only available to Gravity Forms Elite license customers (Gravity SMTP)

> Paid Memberships Pro v3.0 is now available. Described as "a monumental update that is over three years in development," it introduces a CRM-style member dashboard, multiple memberships per user, an overhaul to subscription and order management, and enhanced payment features. Launched in July 2011, Paid Memberships Pro now powers over 90,000 membership sites (Paid Memberships Pro)

> The Crocoblock team recently celebrated three years since launching their JetFormBuilder plugin after "many sleepless nights during the pandenic." (Crocoblock)

Conferences, events & awards

> WordCamp US 2024 organizers have shared a series of updates ahead of the September 17-20 event in Portland, Oregon: tickets are now available; organizers want to know what kinds of topics, speakers and session types attendees are interested in; and there's a call for speakers. This year's event will include a Showcase Day on September 18 that will explore innovative uses of WordPress (WordCamp US)

> The team behind the recent WP Publisher Success Week will host Monetization Week from May 27-31. The virtual event will feature one session per day with the focus on revenue strategies for publishers (State of Digital Publishing)

WordPress community: Remkus de Vries

Photo of Remkus de Vries.
This week, what’s inspiring Remkus de Vries, a WordPress veteran, performance specialist, content creator, and publisher of the Within WordPress newsletter and podcast.
A podcast worth listening to: Even though I host a podcast myself, I don’t find myself listening to a lot of podcasts. That said, there’s one that I make time for to listen to most episodes and that’s Huberman Lab.

A concept worth understanding: How to avoid the Abilene paradox. It is a common phenomenon in group decision-making. It's where a group of individuals collectively agree to a course of action that none of the individual members actually desire. For me, this is related to truly putting in effort to understand someone else's perspective. And you can only do that to listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to apply your own point of view. It’s very powerful to actively work on looking beyond your paradigm, your dogma, your bubble.

An X/Twitter account worth following: I get a lot of joy out of following Przemysław Hernik (@przemekhernik) and seeing him share his learnings, especially because he’s taken an interest in WordPress development tasks and performance. But, in that same breath, I have to mention Calvin Alkan (@calvinalkan) as well.

An article worth reading: Why time seems to pass faster as we age.

A habit worth forming: I'd normally say something about developing one's curiosity to the point of it becoming a driver in life. But that's very much a meta statement. One very specific thing would be this: Learning how to lift weights in a progressive manner. Every next day, one rep extra or half a kilo extra. Or both.

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Meanwhile...

Read

🍫 Automattic's design team met in Italy to evolve their design systems and swap snacks.

🤖 After asking ChatGPT to code a plugin, Matt Cromwell says he fears the future of plugins in the WordPress.org repository, and the impact it will have on plugin reviewers.

✨ Rafal Tomah, who led product design for StudioPress back in the day, says he's excited about WordPress again.

🍴 Mika Epstein explains how to fork code without being an a-hole.

🛹 Marieke van de Rakt says startups need to do all the things to achieve success, not just bet on a miracle, aka "startup trick."

Listen

🗺️ Marcus Burnette talks about building The WP World (WPCoffeeTalk)

📣 Jamie Marsland talks abou the marketing hurdles WordPress must navigate to maintain its market share (WP Tavern Jukebox)

🖥️ BigScoots CEO Scott Stapley talks about the evolution of managed WordPress hosting (Within WordPress)

📢 Corey Maass reflects on the challenge of balancing work responsibilities with marketing OMGIMG for WordPress (Post Status)

Support

🖼️ Matt Cromwell is pushing for dynamic social share images for plugins, themes, blocks and patterns at WordPress.org

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