Issue #54
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This week in WordPress

WordPress 5.6 "Simone" release this week

"Meet Simone, our latest and greatest #WordPress release. Named for the legendary performer Nina Simone. Fire up a playlist with her best work and read on to discover what WordPress 5.6 has in store for you," tweets WordPress.org, linking to Release Lead (and WordPress Executive Director) Josepha Haden's announcement post, WordPress 5.6 "Simone".

Josepha runs through the new release's key features for users and developers alike, also celebrating that it "comes to you from the first-ever all-women release squad." She gives props to the 605 contributors who collaborated on nearly 350 tickets on Trac and over 1,000 pull requests on GitHub.

If you haven't already tested this release, there's a lot to explore. If you want an overview, WPTavern's Sarah Gooding has you covered: WordPress 5.6 "Simone" Includes New Twenty Twenty-One Theme and Improved Editor. WPBeginner has also published its usual overview: What's New in WordPress 5.6 (Features and Screenshots). Writer Nick Schäferhoff has put together a deep dive for Torque: WordPress 5.6: New Features, Changes, and What Else to Expect, which iThemes Communications Coordinator Kristen Wright matches with WordPress 5.6: Top 16 Features & Improvements.

As WordPress Core Team rep (and Yoast Core Team Lead) Francesca Morano says in The road to WordPress 5.6: a look behind the scenes, prominent women in WordPress — including Josepha and WordPress 5.6 Core Tech lead Helen Hou-Sandì (an OG WordPress lead developer and Director of Open Source Initiatives at 10up) — had previously brought up the lack of diversity in the release process. "So the goal was to increase the number of women and unrepresented folx who work on a release with the hope of seeing them return as regular contributors to WordPress," Francesca says.

"Most WordPress releases run very smoothy. The WordPress 5.6 release has been the smoothest I have seen for several releases. The release squad brought an extra layer of polish," tweets core contributor and Awesome Motive WordPress core developer Peter Wilson who says it would be a huge benefit to the WordPress project if the 5.6 release squad were to run another release soon.

Release Coordinator (and Human Made Project Manager) Dee Teal expands on Peter's sentiments, noting, "From my view as the co-ordinator, there wasn't a single person who didn't deserve to be there on merit. By removing this one barrier to entry they were unleashed to do amazing work, and undoubtedly to participate again in future releases. This is why representation matters so much."

Twenty Twenty-One default theme now available

"You know what's funny about this release? The biggest impact I think I made (with help ofc) was not actually in the core software, but in the way themes are previewed on WordPress.org. Check out the latest default theme - no more boat :)" tweets Helen Hou-Sandì, who links to the new Twenty Twenty-One theme at WordPress.org.

"I had the privilege of designing this year's WordPress default theme," starts Default Theme Design Lead (and Automattic product designer) Mel Choyce-Dwan, who gives a shout out to everyone she worked with in Twenty Twenty-One Available for Download. "Keep an eye on this space for a full breakdown of the design process sometime soon," she says.

Yoast strategic content specialist Edwin Toonen takes a behind-the-scenes look at Twenty Twenty-One, speaking to Default Theme Development Lead (and WordPress Themes Team rep) Carolina Nymark (who this week joined Yoast's core team).

On the iThemes blog, Product Innovation & Marketing Manager AJ Morris unpacks the new default theme's features and how to customize it.

Automattic Acquires MailPoet

Automattic has acquired popular email marketing solution MailPoet*. WooCommerce CEO Paul Maiorana says MailPoet has joined the WooCommerce family to help deliver a powerful, fully-integrated email marketing experience for stores.

"The WooCommerce and MailPoet teams share the same goal — to help all of our customers find success online. And while the initial focus of our work together is on WooCommerce users, we aim to evolve our collaboration in a way that can benefit the entire WordPress community," Paul says in Better Email Marketing: WooCommerce Welcomes MailPoet.

Email customization has long been a pain point for WooCommerce and nine-year-old MailPoet provides an elegant turnkey solution. MailPoet co-founder Kim Gjerstad says the WooCommerce team recognized email was mission critical and it needed to be in their core offering today, instead of relying on third-party solutions.

"While MailPoet remains a fairly simple solution, it's tightly integrated within the admin. This fits with their vision of having all core services sitting inside WordPress," Kim says.

"The MailPoet team were able to prove that we can service WordPress and WooCommerce websites at scale, and efficiently at that. This includes all types of emails: newsletters, automated emails and transactional emails.

"Moreover, we gained extensive knowledge in deliverability infrastructure throughout the years thanks to our in-house sending infrastructure. This allows us to scale at a lower cost and to offer generous free plans. "

Under the deal, Kim and his colleagues will join Automattic as a team, though Kim will only stay for six months during the transition. Following that, he plans to work on a new tech project.

After 9 years running MailPoet, a company he originally founded with three others, Kim says he's feeling great about the transition.

"It's been ideal for the team, for our users, our product and myself personally. As a founding member, this is what you aim for as the ideal exit," he says. "I was very sensitive to the outcome of my teammates. I cried when I broke the news to them."

Kims says other companies had expressed interest in acquiring MailPoet over the years but "my team and I were happy to answer to ourselves only. That is until Automattic showed interest."

"MailPoet is ready to get bigger, much bigger. I'm thrilled that WooCommerce want to take MailPoet further. WooCommerce have the means and the vision to do that," he says. "We have big ambitions for our work together, and will be sharing more over the next couple of months as we work more closely with the WooCommerce team."

* Words By Birds and MailPoet teamed up last year to bring The Repository to the WordPress community. We wish Kim and his team all the very best as they transition to working at Automattic! It does mean MailPoet will no longer be involved in running The Repository. We acknowledge and thank Automattic for stepping in to fund The Repository during the transition.

State of the Word to stream online

This year's State of the Word is going virtual. It will be streamed on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter on Thursday 17 December at 4pm UTC. WordPress co-founder Matt Mullenweg's annual keynote address typically attracts big crowds at WordCamp US, but this year's event was canceled due to pandemic stress and online event fatigue.

As Sarah Gooding says at WPTavern, Matt usually talks about the highlights and milestones the WordPress community has achieved over the past year and uses the time to recast his vision for the project and deliver important announcements.

The Q&A section of the address will still go ahead, albeit with pre-recorded videos of questions. In her announcement post, WordPress Executive Director Josepha Haden provides instructions for submitting questions, which need to be submitted by 11 December, aka today.

Sarah notes there are pros and cons to pre-recorded questions. While they can create a more polished and efficient Q&A and allow people living in all time zones to participate, it means the questions will be screen and pre-selected, giving more preparation time for answers and less of an opportunity to catch Matt off guard.

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In other WordPress news...

  • – Statistical analysis news site FiveThirtyEight shattered traffic records with zero downtime during the U.S. Election. WordPress VIP writer Rachel Zick says almost 1.3 billion page views were served from Monday to Friday during election week. On the Tuesday night alone, the site served 132,000 requests per second, with WordPress VIP's server response time staying flat at 144 milliseconds.
  • – In security news, Easy WP SMTP 1.4.3 patches a sensitive data disclosure vulnerability, reports WPTavern. Meanwhile, Wordfence threat analyst Ram Gall warns reflected XSS in the PageLayer Plugin page building plugin has impacted over 200,000 sites.
  • – Why hold a company yoga session? To give your team some useful breathing techniques ahead of a three-hour outage that tests your Plan A, B, C and D notes Pagely co-founder and CEO Joshua Strebel. In The Final Lesson of 2020, he reflects on 2020 and says he's thankful he works with a great team. He says, "I'll save you the rest of the corporate platitudes and thought leadership BS and just say that who you work with makes all the difference in the end."
  • Automattic may be the biggest player in WordPress, but it's not the only one with influence. Two other companies—Whodunit, a relative newcomer to contributing, and Yoast, a WordPress core veteran—are actively developing features they want in core. And they're encouraging other companies to join them in putting more people and resources into the WordPress project. ICYMI, we spoke to Yoast CEO Marieke van de Rakt and Whodunit CTO Jb Audras for our story: Yoast and Whodunit on why they contribute to WordPress core—and the features they're pursuing.
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