Issue #56
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This week in WordPress

WordPress.com launches custom website service, causes stir

Let's kick off 2021 with the news that WordPress.com has launched a premium website building service that promises to "build your dream website," starting at $4,900 USD. Launched in beta in the fall of 2020, the announcement this week has drawn mixed reactions from the WordPress community.
While some believe the competition is a good thing (If You're Afraid of Automattic Making $5K Websites, You Need to Change Your Approach, writes podcaster and course creator Joe Casabona), others say Automattic will be taking business away from freelancers and small agencies.
"Good grief! So @automattic is now totally competing with the ecosystem that helps to build, maintain, and use the ecosystem. That move is going to cause some attrition I bet," tweets marketer Bridget Willard, while software engineer Chris Wiegman tweets, "This is a big deal. It was one thing to compete with other hosts while monopolizing the brand name. Now it looks like they're about to compete with the agencies and devs that have made WordPress what it is over the years."

WordPress co-founder and Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg has been on the defensive, tweeting the new service will be "… actually referring business out" and "It's unclear if anyone wants this yet…" He adds, "I would be extremely surprised if this impacts anyone's consulting business, if you do have a current or potential client leave for it please let me know — it should be all new-to-WP users who wouldn't have been successful getting started."

For now, it's unclear how the new service will work. WordPress.com has previously partnered with Upwork to refer users for custom development. But as Sarah Gooding notes in WordPress.com Rattles Freelancer Community with New Website Building Service Launch for WPTavern, the announcement lacks information about whether WordPress.com will be partnering with agencies for a WordPress VIP-style approach since the copy uses phrases like "Built by us" and "Our experts can build it for you."

All in One SEO auto-updates break sites, apologizes to users

The team behind All in One SEO has apologized after turning on automatic updates without notifying users, resulting in broken sites during the Christmas period. The popular SEO plugin is installed on more than 2 million sites.

At WPTavern, Sarah Gooding writes in All in One SEO Plugin Turns on Automatic Updates without Notifying Users, Removes Functionality in Latest Release that, "After a seemingly endless run of releases (12 updates during a span of six weeks at the end of 2020), the plugin's developers decided to change its auto-update policy so that it defaults to ‘on.' Despite having auto updates turned off for the plugin, many users discovered the change when they received an email notification after the update.

Angry users have complained in the WordPress.org support forums ("Your once reliable plugin has destroyed hundreds of pages of social meta data on multiple sites, broken layout…" writes stemcpt), but in the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, web designer Eric Karkovack asks: When a plugin turns on the ability to automatically apply updates, does the developer have a responsibility to make this known to users?

Kinsta teases new tool for local development

Is Kinsta launching a new local development tool for WordPress?
The hosting company's Chief Business Officer Tom Zsomborgi has teased a "completely free" product on Twitter he says will be announced on 18 January. He includes a GIF that offers a sneak peek of how the tool will integrate with Kinsta's hosting.
"2021 is going to be the year of supporting 'local' in more ways than one! I thought this is what you were up too...I'm excited!!!" tweets Simon Harper, who runs SRH Design.

Liquid Web acquires The Events Calendar plugin

A new year, a new acquisition: iThemes Chief Operating Office Matt Danner announced this week The Events Calendar Plugin is Joining the Liquid Web Family.

As part of the deal, the 50+ team of employees from Modern Tribe who work on The Events Calendar will work under the Liquid Web umbrella — not as part of iThemes — and will continue working on the plugin and its related products.

Zach Tirrell, the Director of Product at Modern Tribe, announced on The Events Calendar blog that he would remain at the helm of the events plugin and the team structure would not be changing. He later tweeted, "I'm going to miss Modern Tribe dearly, but I'm very excited about what's next with Liquid Web. It's wonderful to be able to go on this journey with our whole team together."

Modern Tribe launched The Events Calendar plugin in 2011. It's free to download from WordPress.org and currently has over 800,000 active installs.

Gutenberg 9.5 and 9.6 released

The WordPress Core Team has launched versions 9.6 and 9.7 of Gutenberg. The 9.6 release features the ability to drag blocks from the inserter and offers a vertical layout for buttons. Version 9.7 includes drag and drop block patterns, reusable blocks, and matching block variations.

The releases come as Themes Team rep and Yoast Core team contributor Carolina Nymark launches her blogging theme, Armando, which makes use of Gutenberg's latest features. Justin Tadlock writes for WPTavern that Armando provides insight into the current state of full site editing. The theme is awaiting review for the WordPress theme directory but is available via GitHub.

WordFest Live 2021 speaker line-up and sessions announced

The full speaker line-up and session list for WordFest Live 2021 are now available. Forty-eight speakers from around the world will cover a diverse range of topics as part of the 24-hour festival of WordPress on 21 January (or 22 January, depending on your timezone).

Sessions include Chair Yoga For Remote Workers, Win More Clients By Sharing Your Story, and Digital Sustainability: What It Is and How You Can Help, to name a few.

Registration is free with donations going to mental health and well-being initiative Big Orange Heart.

"#WordFestLive2021 is fast approaching and there's a flurry of activity happening behind the scenes, all to pull of one totally unique, 24-hour, globe-spanning festival of #WordPress. Don't let the party pass you by; grab your ticket today!" tweets Big Orange Heart, linking to the WordFest registration page.

Internet industry leaders launch Internet Works

Automattic has joined several other internet industry leaders to launch Internet Works, a coalition that will work with the United States Congress to promote the benefits of Section 230, a provision of the Communications Decency Act.

According to Wikipedia: "Coupled with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Section 230 provides internet service providers harbors to operate as intermediaries of content without fear of being liable for that content as long as they take reasonable steps to delete or prevent access to that content. These protections allowed experimental and novel applications in the Internet area without fear of legal ramifications, creating the foundations of modern Internet services such as advanced search engines, social media, video streaming, and cloud computing."

Also according to Wikipedia:"… Section 230 has frequently been referred as a key law that has allowed the Internet to flourish, and has been called "the twenty-six words that created the Internet.'"

Other companies that have joined the Internet Works coalition include Cloudflare, Dropbox, eBay, Etsy, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Medium, Nextdoor, Patreon, Pinterest, Reddit, Snap Inc., Tripadvisor, Vimeo, and the Wikimedia Foundation.

From €330,000 to €472,000 MRR: How to grow a WordPress business during lockdown

How does a WordPress company achieve its best six months ever while its employees deal with being in and out of lockdowns? But more importantly, how can online cooking classes and sports training help a company increase its monthly recurring revenue by €142,000?
Okay, maybe it wasn't just the cooking classes that got us through 2020. But as our co-founder Rémy Berda explains in his post From €330,000 to 472,000/monthly: Growing while adapting, adapting the way we work remotely, making our product bigger and better (check out our new Enterprise offering 🙌🏼), and building features our users ask for have ensured we're starting 2021 in the strongest position a WordPress company could hope for.
While 2020 was a tough year for most, we were able to really accelerate Weglot with a new dashboard, URL translations, new requested languages, URL management and more (check out our changelog). Thanks, users 🙌 We couldn't have done it without you!

Want more insights on how to grow a WordPress business? Read Rémy's post in full. And if you're looking to try us out, get a 10-day free trial.
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In other WordPress news...

  • Updates to the default Twenty Twenty-One and Twenty Nineteen themes were released last month. Bluehost WordPress developer and core contributor Jonathan Desrosiers notes that default themes are often updated together with WordPress releases, but it was deemed preferable to fix some bugs in Twenty Twenty-One before the end of 2020.
  • Several WordPress businesses have published 2020 year in review posts, including WPBuffs ("…through the absolute shitshow that this year brought us, it also opened up me and our team to some special moments that I'm thankful for.), Yoast ("The year 2020 is coming to its end and what a wild year it's been!"), Delicious Brains ("TL;DR – 2020 has been a difficult year for us, but we still did very well and feel very fortunate.") and WPTavern ("We have had a solid year of publishing here at the Tavern… Our word count average soared… 'Likes' were up this year too.")
  • "So a few days ago I mentioned that I'm not a fan of #WordPress list posts and I'd like to see them end. I also threatened to do a teardown of someone doing it, well guess what? I did. Enjoy :)" tweets Ben from LayerWP, linking to his post Why WordPress List Posts Can Be A Bad Idea & A Real World Example/Teardown. "You've hit the nail on the head with that post! When I'm doing research, I'll inevitably stumble upon a listicle and wonder why I wasted my time," tweets developer Nathan Dawson, while Sarah Phillips tweets, "New idea for content on my blog: lists for everyone and everything 😂😂😂 jkjkjk."
  • "Life's too short to be unhappy in someone else's world. Create your own and invite others. WordPress is a great place to do that," writes Pagely co-founder Sally Strebel in her must-read piece Marginalized for HeroPress. Sally shares her story as a female co-founder and the sexism she has endured. She finishes with this advice: "Last, being underestimated is a gift. They'll never see you coming until they can't help but notice. If you're with the right people while that's happening, there's no better feeling."
  • After speaking about the future of WordPress at several events last year, WordPress Core Team rep and Yoast Core team lead Francesca Marano has turned her talk into an article. The Future of WordPress: 2020 edition is a great introduction to how the WordPress project works, covering everything from how changes happen in the project to the four stages of Gutenberg.
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