Issue #40
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This week in WordPress

Apple backs off, says it won't force free WordPress app to add purchases after all

Apple has issued a rare apology after apparently attempting to force Automattic to add in-app purchases to the free WordPress iOS app solely to extract its 30% cut of the revenue.

Last weekend, Automattic CEO and WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg took to Twitter to give a "heads up" as to why the app hadn't been updated in recent weeks. "… we were locked by App Store. To be able to ship updates and bug fixes again we had to commit to support in-app purchases for .com plans. I know why this is problematic, open to suggestions…" he tweeted.

For the most accurate and in-depth rundown of what happened, Sarah Gooding has the headline at WP Tavern: Automattic Tangles with Apple Over Lack of In-App Purchases in the WordPress for iOS App.

In a nutshell: Older versions of the iOS app displayed information about WordPress.com plans, though users couldn't actually make purchases. However, if users drilled down deep enough into web help pages, they could find a window to escape the walled garden. "While this seems like an unlikely way that a user would purchase an upgrade, Apple held the app's updates hostage in order to gain full compliance from Automattic," writes Sarah.

But just a day later, Apple backed down, saying the issue with the WordPress app had been resolved, reports The Verge's Sean Hollister.
Matt also updated users, tweeting "I am very grateful that folks at Apple re-reviewed @WordPressiOS and have let us know we do not need to implement in-app purchases to be able to continue to update the app. Bad news travels faster than good, usually, so please consider sharing that they reversed course."
Matt's initial tweet invited ideas on how to avoid in-app purchases and it's worth highlighting core contributor John James Jacoby's suggestion: "Gift WordPress.com to the WordPress Foundation. Make it a brokerage for hosting accounts from "qualified third-parties", donating 5% of proceeds for the future. ‘Jetpack Hosting' becomes just-another third party. Paves the way for one-click site transfer everywhere. 🏴‍☠️" he tweets, adding "Remove all IAPs from this app, and use it as the free and open WordPress for iOS app. Automattic/Jetpack/Tumblr builds a new app for its own offerings with its own IAPs."

Plan proposes bumping PHP support on a transparent and predictable schedule

A proposal to drop WordPress support for old versions of PHP on a fixed schedule is gaining widespread support.
Under core contributor and PHP developer Juliette Reinders Folmer’s plan, WordPress would support every version of PHP for five years, and provide security updates for the past four years of WordPress releases.
Matt Mullenweg, Yoast CPO and founder Joost de Valk, and Yoast-employed core committer Sergey Biryukov vetted the proposal before it was published.

Theme developer Ben Gillbanks points out in the latest MasterWP newsletter the proposal suggests a nine-year support cycle for PHP versions, which is a lot longer than the three-year cycle typical of PHP. Scrolling through the comments on Juliette's post, there's a lot of support for a seven-year cycle. "This would still be longer than the 3 years PHP offers, but would allow us to use the new shiny things a lot quicker," Ben writes.

But as Sergey comments, "… I would personally also like to see this [a three-year cycle] as an eventual end goal at some point in the future, so that we're more or less in line with the versions the PHP project officially supports. One step at a time though. A predictable schedule like the one proposed would already be a huge step forward 🙂."

Envato CEO Collis Ta'eed stepping down

Fifteen years after starting Envato with his wife Cyan Ta'eed in their garage, CEO Collis Ta'eed is stepping down amid record project share, reports the Australian Financial Review's Rich List editor Michael Bailey.

Startup Daily's Simon Thomsen reports more than 600 staff globally will share in a 20% stake, worth $3.75 million, of Envato's profit share program — double 2019's 10% allocation — which Collis announced at all-hands meeting this week.

Envato is, of course, home to ThemeForest, the marketplace that has given WordPress developers and agencies a platform to sell their themes — and has turned some into millionaires. ThemeFusion, for one, has pulled in over $25 million in total sales revenue. The company's Avada theme remains the highest-selling theme ever.

But back to Collis. He posted his announcement in the Envato Forums, telling users he'll be finishing up at the end of 2020 and moving to the Envato board. A new CEO will be announced soon. He writes: "It feels like the end of an era for me, but the beginning of an even greater one for Envato… It's really humbling to look back and see what we've been able to create together, especially as we're tracking to another year of record community earnings."

Atomic Blocks rebranded as Genesis Blocks

StudioPress has rebranded its popular Atomic Blocks plugin Genesis Blocks. WP Tavern's Sarah Gooding reports in Atomic Blocks Rebranded to Genesis Blocks, Migration Path to New Plugin Coming Soon that the purpose of the rebranding is to more tightly align the block collection with the Genesis brand.

Atomic Blocks founder Mike McAlister tweets: "Genesis Blocks will carry the torch of Atomic Blocks and take block building to the next level. We have a game changing feature launching soon! The rename is an effort to bring our block tools under the Genesis branding to keep it consistent."

Since WP Engine acquired StudioPress and Atomic Blocks in 2018, the plugin's user base has grown from 3,000 active installations to more than 60,000.

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In other news...

  • WordPress 5.5.1 RC1 is now available for testing. It features 28 bug fixes and four enhancements, as well as five bug fixes for the block editor.
  • – "Got my own series, y'all!" tweets WP Buffs Community Manager Allie Nimmons, who this week launched wpama, a weekly Q&A-style interview series. "What I love about this format is that each interviewer will only answer user-submitted questions so that each answer is info you need, not info we hope you need," tweets Allie.
  • – So I've been mulling over what I can do to put out more, better content for the WordPress community. I've missed speaking (and attending WordCamps) and I want to help make sure the community still grows," tweets freelance web developer and educator Joe Casabona who this week launched WordPress: A Year in Review. Joe's plan is to offer three types of content: an ebook about how WordPress has changed in 2020, a series of interview with WordCamp speakers, and video tutorials that focus on new things added to WordPress this year, writes WP Tavern's Justin Tadlock in WordPress: A Year in Review, New Project to Fill the WordCamp Void. The content will be free, but Joe is crowdfunding to cover costs.
  • – Security company Wordfence is urging Advanced Access Manager users to upgrade to the latest version after identifying a high-severity authorization bypass vulnerability. Developer Vasyl Martyniuk has released a patch. The free plugin has over 100,000 active installations.
  • – "WordPress developers: Today I'm opening sign ups to a newsletter I'll be starting soon called @beyond_wp. It will be a resource that brings developer tools and ideas from outside the WordPress ecosystem to WordPress developers," tweets freelance software developer Ross Wintle, adding "… it will be an occasional email (I can't promise a schedule) with useful stuff from outside the WP bubble that I think will interest and inspire WordPress developers." Ross, who runs web development agency Oikos Digital, links to BeyondWP: Unblock your developer knowledge.
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