Issue #49
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This week in WordPress

Auto-updates UI announced for WordPress 5.6 as misfire erodes trust in the system

WordPress 5.6 will feature a new UI allowing users to opt into auto-updates for major versions of core, reports WPTavern's Sarah Gooding. Since auto-updates for minor versions was introduced in WordPress 3.7 in 2013, users have had to manually enable major core updates. WordPress 5.6 will make this setting more accessible for users.

WordPress Core Team rep and Whodunit CTO Jb Audras has shared instructions on how developers can extend the new auto-updates UI to display more options. There's also discussion about adding a filter to allow developers to hide the UI for major versions.

"Why does WordPress insist on forcing updates? Didn't they learn anything about the forced alpha version update a few days ago?" comments WPTavern reader Rod Olman, which brings us to Sarah's other story this week: WordPress auto-update system misfired this week, updating live sites to an alpha release. She reports that sites that were accidentally updated also installed all the default Twenty themes as well as Akismet. Developers will need to manually delete the themes they don't need.
"Crap. Well, it's not just me then… So much for my day off. At least 30 installs to roll back 😠," tweeted Freelance Writing Pros owner Jenn Mattern after the incident.
All affected sites were automatically returned to WordPress 5.5.2 in less than an hour. Jake Spurlock, a Technical Account Engineer at Automattic and the release lead on the Core Security Team, shares more about what happened in WordPress 5.5.3 Release – Some Technical Details. But as Sarah explains—and ready comments on her article show—the misfire has eroded trust and damaged confidence in the auto-update system.

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WPTavern and Post Status unpack 2019 WordPress Survey results

WPTavern and Post Status have shared their key takeaways from the 2019 WordPress Survey results. Sarah Gooding offers a more general take on the results in WordPress 2019 Survey Results Show Professionals Slow to Adopt Block Editor, 2020 Survey Now Open for WPTavern, highlighting:
  • WordPress' 2019 Net Promoter Score (NPS) was 54, an increase from previous scores of 50 and 52. Promoters remain static while detractors are steadily shrinking.
  • 76% of professionals use WordPress as a CMS. Blogging usage among professionals is consistently declining.
  • WordPress professionals have been slow to adopt the block editor, with 53% saying they use the Classic Editor.
  • WordPress users remain uneasy about auto-updates with positive sentiment on the decline since 2015.
Brian Krogsgard offers a developer's take on the results for Post Status, noting:
  • WordPress users (at least 6,000) are working on more complex sites with greater efficiency: "The number of professionals who report providing a heavily customized experience to clients has increased substantially, while at the same time the amount of time reported on creating those sites has decreased."
  • More than three-quarters (78%) of users say a lot of custom work has been done to their WordPress installation. Like the professional groups, 4% say everything on the site has been customized.
  • Nearly half (49%) of professionals say it takes 20-60 hours to launch their typical WordPress project. The proportion of professionals who say it takes more than 200 hours to launch has significantly declined from 6% in 2016 and 2017 to 4% in 2019.
Brian also points to a disappointing stat: "What is striking is that very few people took the 2019 survey—only about 6,000 compared to 45,000 responses to the first survey of this kind back in 2015! 6,000 people cannot possibly represent the diversity of the WordPress community, so please take the survey this year," he writes in the latest issue of the Post Status newsletter.

Meanwhile, WP Buffs Community Manager Allie Nimmons tweets: "I am frustrated that learning more about how diverse the WordPress world is/is not was not prioritized here in year 2. No questions about languages spoken, ethnicity/race, disabilities, etc." "The lack of questions about disabilities/accessibility was a big grumbling point about last year's survey too," replies writer and marketer Stanford Griffith, adding, "Some at WordCamp 2019 had questions for leadership during the keynote about that. They weren't addressed."

What's new in Gutenberg 9.3, and where full-site editing is going

Gutenberg 9.3 dropped this week and as is customary, WPTavern's Justin Tadlock has extensively tested its features. He offers his thoughts in Gutenberg 9.3 Provides Indicator of Where Full-Site Editing Is Going, a Future Without Widgets and Customizer Screens.

The "biggest story" around Gutenberg 9.3, according to Justin, is discussion on a ticket about removing the Customizer and Widgets screens when a user has full-site editing (FSE) enabled. This release hides both items from the WordPress admin menu, but they are still accessible by directly going to the URL and in lingering links within various parts of the WordPress admin like on the Themes screen. Justin says this change could have implications for the future of those screens.

Automattic IPO in 2021?

Will 2021 be the year Automattic goes public? With every year that goes past from now on, the IPO becomes much more likely, writes MasterWP's Alex Denning in this week's MasterWP newsletter. Alex has been closely following whispers of an IPO, just a few weeks ago sharing Robert Jacobi's speculation that 2021 will be the year Automattic goes public. This week, he links to the WPMRR podcast's interview with Brian Krogsgard from Post Status.

Brian argues the pressure for Automattic to go public will be "significant" between 2021 and 2022. He says an IPO would impact everyone who works with WordPress ("… whether it's Google or Facebook, Amazon, several of those companies are starting to put more attention into the WordPress space.").
There will also be confusion between WordPress.com, WordPress.org and Automattic ("… it'll be infuriating for all of us in the WordPress space for everyone to be saying WordPress went public and it's no, that's not what happened.").
"just finished recording a #WPMRR episode with @JosephHHoward and @Krogsgard about the future of WordPress and especially what more investor interest in the ecosystem might mean for all of us," tweets host Christie Chirinos.

"… this episode goes deep… I learned a lot here, great listen!" writes Alex.

The SEO attribute you want to know about (and Weglot can help you get to know)

Ah, hreflang tags. You know, the HTML attributes that tell search engines about the pages on your site that are similar in content but target different languages.
Even if you're not familiar with these tags, you may well come across them if you're thinking about creating a multilingual WordPress site. They're a must-have because they ensure search engines don't mark your content as duplicate. Any duplicate content is bad because it can lead to deindexing 😱

The problem is, they're pretty hard to implement (even Google's SEO expert John Mueller says so). But if you're using a fully-fledged multilingual WordPress plugin like Weglot then you need not worry — we take care of it automatically for you.

We've also gone and created a hreflang checker tool so you make sure your tags have been set up correctly. Because if you've manually added them yourself (you went to all that trouble… 🤔) then you'll want to know for sure that everything is working correctly. So, voilà, try our tool for yourself! Just add your URL.
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In other WordPress news...

  • WordPress 5.6 Beta 3 is now available for testing. Highlights in this release include added block patterns for the Twenty Twenty and Twenty Nineteen themes, added theme support for navigation-widgets, and bug fixes in the block editor. The final release of WordPress 5.6 is due out on 8 December.
  • – "Weglot will be donating 50% of all sales made during #BlackFriday & #CyberMonday to charities," tweets the translation company's CMO Eugène Ernoult. He adds: "It feels like the right thing to do during this crazy year. So proud of the team ❤️." The donations will go to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • – Why do we discount WordPress products and services in a race to the bottom? asks Pixelgrade CEO George Olaru in I discount, you discount, we both lose. George argues that while the cost of building products is increasing, their average price is steadily going down, shifting the focus on the mass adoption of barely good-enough products. He urges developers not to undervalue their products and asks users to pay a fair price when buying from small businesses.
  • Frontity has launched a partnership program to support the maintenance of its open source framework for building React-based WordPress sites, reports WPTavern. 10up, an agency that works with enterprise customers, is the first partner to support the project.
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