04 Dec 2016

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: State of the Word 2016: Mullenweg Pushes Calypso as Future of WordPress’ Interface, Proposes Major Changes to Release Cycle

photo credit: WordCamp US organizing teamphoto credit: WordCamp US organizing team

Philadelphia welcomed 1,923 attendees to WordCamp US this weekend with an additional 2,028 enthusiasts watching via live stream. Matt Mullenweg delivered his 11th annual State of the Word address to a rapt audience ready to celebrate WordPress' progress over the past year and hear the project leader's vision for 2017.

He began by thanking sponsors and volunteers who made the event possible by covering the bulk of the $516 actual cost per person. Mullenweg said sponsors cover roughly 85-95% of the cost of WordCamps worldwide. In 2016, the events sold a total 36,000 tickets, with costs subsidized by more than 1,000 sponsors.

Mullenweg said meetups are the leading indicator for WordCamps and these events have had the fastest growth the community has seen in five or six years. More than 62,566 people attended a local meetup in 58 countries and roughly one third of those were new members.

It's been a great year for WordCamps and meetups - 115 total WordCamps hosted in 41 different countries. #wcus pic.twitter.com/yVGkT0j52C

- WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016

WordPress Foundation to Create WordPress Community Support Subsidiary

In order to better accommodate the extraordinary growth of the global community, the WordPress Foundation will be restructuring its management of WordCamps. In 2016 the Foundation took in an estimated $4.3 million, up from $2.8 million in 2015, with 99.9% of those funds related to WordCamps. Mullenweg announced that the 501c nonprofit will move WordCamps to its own company, WordPress Community Support, forming a PBC (Public Benefit Corporation) that is fully owned by the Foundation.

He explained that if certain things happened at WordCamps it could endanger the overall Foundation, so WordCamps will now be managed under their own entity where the events will have a little more flexibility in how they do things. The Foundation plans to support some like-minded nonprofits that are aligned with the overall education mission of the organization, including Hack the Hood, Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code. In 2017 the Foundation will also begin promoting hackathons to help nonprofits and NGO's.

The Foundation will focus on supporting like-minded non-profits, education/workshops, and hackathons that benefit non-profits/NGOs. #wcus pic.twitter.com/6VfdP82KuM

- WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016

Internationalization is Driving an Increase in Plugin Usage

Mullenweg shared a few stats about the plugin directory, which will soon be launching a new design with revamped search functionality. This year has seen a 20% increase in active plugin usage and a 34% increase in plugin downloads totaling 1.48 billion, which Mullenweg attributed to a spike in internationalization efforts over the past year. The number of translation contributors has grown from 5,000 in April 2015 to 17,000 as of November 2016.

This year there were 1,598 plugins with language packs (up from 314 last year) and 1224 themes with language packs (up from 641 last year). Mullenweg noted that 2/3 of the world speaks one of 12 languages with native fluency and that WordPress covers all of these and many more. In fact, the 4.6 release shipped with support for 50 available languages. WordPress' top 10 plugins are now 82% complete in the top 12 languages.

The top 10 plugins are 82% complete in the top 12 languages. #wcus pic.twitter.com/LnpEGv0p7o

- WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016

Mullenweg Continues to Push Calypso as the Future of the WordPress Interface

During the 2015 State of the Word, Mullenweg gave attendees a homework assignment to "learn JavaScript deeply" and promised to submit a JavaScript patch before 4.7 came out. He submitted his first pull request to Calypso yesterday, Automattic's from-scratch rewrite of WP admin using Node and React.

WordPress.com users have widely adopted the new interface for publishing. Mullenweg shared statistics showing that 68% of posts went through Calypso since its launch, 17% via mobile, and 15% through the traditional wp-admin. Mobile app and mobile browser usage are also up. "We now need to start thinking about mobile devices as the primary way people are going to interact with WordPress in the future," Mullenweg said.

From the time it launched, Mullenweg has said that Calypso, or something like it, would be the future of the WordPress interface. He reiterated this in his 2016 address and has committed some of Automattic's JavaScript developers from the Calypso team to contribute full-time to core.

If Calypso has a chance at becoming a promising replacement for the WordPress admin, its creators will need to broaden its interoperability with the WordPress plugin ecosystem. Mullenweg announced that Calypso is now plugin aware and is open to plugins with over 1M active sites.

The next step on Calypso's roadmap is to bring in support for Automattic's plugins - WooCommerce, Akismet, Jetpack, and VaultPress. Mullenweg said the big focus for 2017 is to make plugins Calypso-aware, starting with a handful of the most popular ones before opening it up to all plugins.

"The hope is that Calypso, or something like it, is actually what becomes the interface that drives WordPress," Mullenweg said. Since no one is currently building anything like Calypso and targeting core, it looks like the technology behind WordPress.com will be driving the evolution of WordPress in 2017.

If Mullenweg's goal is to make Calypso the primary publishing engine for core WordPress, one of the major challenges will be getting plugin developers on board with building compatibility for what is currently an Automattic product. What are the implications of contributing to greater Calypso adoption? If core brings in the Calypso interface in the future, would Automattic push to include its Reader and other WordPress.com functionality, as it has in the mobile apps? These are questions developers will need to weigh when considering whether to pursue a more application-type experience via the Calypso interface.

What's next for Calypso? We'll start bringing @Automattic's plugins in. #wcus pic.twitter.com/RL8ZduRczM

- WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016

WordPress Recommends Hosts Offering PHP 7+ and HTTPS by Default

WordPress core continues to update its recommendations and requirements with the help of hosts who are adopting the latest technologies. The official recommendation for WordPress hosting is now PHP 7 or higher. After WordPress.com switched to be 100% on PHP 7, Mullenweg said the network's performance doubled and CPU load fell in half. Just 4% of self-hosted sites are on PHP 7, but the new recommendation should help move more hosts towards getting their customers updated.

https://t.co/VrQffeOtG0 has been 100% switched over to PHP7, bringing significant performance improvements. #wcus pic.twitter.com/MChiS9QBJh

- WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016

Beginning in 2017, WordPress will have progressive enhancement for certain features that are only available for encrypted sites. Mullenweg announced that WordPress.org is now tracking HTTPS adoption. So far 11.45% of active WordPress websites are on HTTPS and the project will no longer recommend hosts that do not offer it by default. "We want to bring more of the web to be secure, which is especially important in the post-Snowden era," he said.

Trying New Things: Major Changes Coming to WordPress' Core Release Cycle

WordPress 4.7 release lead Helen Hou-Sandí joined Mullenweg on stage to highlight a few of the features and improvements that will be coming in the official release on Tuesday. The release is arguably one of the most exciting and successful updates for WordPress in some time, but Mullenweg has a new strategy for core development in 2017.

"We're at a junction for WordPress where what got us here wont get us there," Mullenweg said, after highlighting how the software's market share has grown from 13.1% to 27.2% in the past five years.

Mullenweg proposed a new structure for WordPress releases where design and user testing will lead the way. "I'm putting back on the 'product lead' hat for 2017," he said. The upcoming year will have no set release schedule. Mullenweg is upending WordPress' predictable release cycle in favor of tackling some larger items on the to-do list. He said the focus will be on performance and fixes to existing functionality in three main focus areas: WP REST API, the Editor, and the Customizer.

Mullenweg said he is particularly interested in getting first-party usage of the REST API in the admin, in hopes of having it evolve to something the project can use for the next decade. If it doesn't, he said core will consider bringing it back into a plugin specifically for developers.

Mullenweg said he feels the editor does not represent the core of WordPress publishing, a sentiment that many users agree with. He hopes to steer it toward a more block-based approach that unifies widgets and includes an interface for shortcodes.

Mullenweg's vision for the Customizer is to see all aspects of WordPress become more instant and provide the same interface and UI affordances as the editor. He announced that Ephox, the company behind TinyMCE, has agreed to work with the project to improve the core editing experience.

Shifting from a time-based release cycle to one that is more project-based is a major departure from WordPress' previous release philosophy of "Deadlines are not arbitrary." The project's philosophy page identifies the practice of delaying releases for one more feature as a "rabbit hole" that has been tested and found to be unpleasant. The new approach to core development makes no guarantee that WordPress will have any releases in 2017.

If the experiment is not a success, the project's days of frequent and fast iteration may be over for awhile. Mullenweg is willing to risk it in hopes of being able to provide more product-based leadership that will distinguish WordPress from its proprietary competitors.

Words of wisdom from @kristatippett: "We only learn to walk when we risk falling down-" #wcus pic.twitter.com/6t5sD6Xjbm

- WordCamp US (@WordCampUS) December 3, 2016

"I think we're trying to counter stagnation," Mullenweg said when asked about the new approach to releases in the Q&A segment. "Even though we've had lots of releases, certain parts of WordPress have stagnated and haven't made the leaps that they could." He suggested that being part of a feature plugin team will give developers a way to be involved in more active releases and continue to build momentum for eventual inclusion of their projects in core.

Mullenweg plans to identify a tech lead and a design lead and will be working with them as the overall product lead. He envisions that when one area of WordPress gets to the point where the software can ship significant user-facing improvements, a release will be born.

"We're at the point now where the steps WordPress needs to take are more significant to get the other 73% of the web it doesn't have yet," Mullenweg said.

In a return to WordPress' poetic roots, he concluded by reading a poem called Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander.

The video of the State of the Word address will soon be available on WordPress' new YouTube channel.

04 Dec 2016 6:50pm GMT

03 Dec 2016

feedWordPress Planet

Post Status: Matt Mullenweg State of the Word, 2016

Matt Mullenweg just completed the 2016 State of the Word presentation at WordCamp US 2016.

This year, Matt focused on a variety of important topics, including the state of user experience in WordPress today, goals for future interface improvements, a WordPress growth council, internationalization gains, the further proliferation of secure websites, and important changes to the WordPress development process.

WordCamp US in Philadelphia

Matt began his talk by thanking the city of Philadelphia for being a great host of the first two WordCamp US events, as well as the sponsors, organizers, and volunteers that helped make WordCamp US one of the most successful and smoothest run WordCamps ever.

He also said the per person cost for WordCamp US is over $500 per person, and that only the sponsors make that happen. And next year, WordCamp US is making its way to Nashville.

WordCamps and meetups in 2016

There were 116 WordCamps in 2016, and over 36,000 attendees, 2,056 speakers, 1,036 sponsors, and 750 organizers.

There were 3,193 meetup events in 58 countries. These were attended by more than 62,000 people, or nearly double WordCamps.

Matt says it's the fastest growth there has been for these events in around five or six years. WordCamp Europe actually had more people than WordCamp US this year, which Matt took as a personal challenge for Nashville.

WordPress.tv publishes more than 26% of all talks, and now there is an official WordPress channel on YouTube, so more and more videos will begin to be available wherever people want to watch them.

WordCamp public benefit corporation

More than a year ago, work began to separate WordCamps from the WordPress Foundation, in order to make WordPress event organizing more flexible and to better protect the WordPress trademarks that the foundation holds.

One of the things the new public benefit corporation will be able to do is support like minded non-profits, and in 2017 will be sponsoring three: Hack the Hood, the Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code.

Also, the organization will start to promote hackathons for non-profits and NGOs.

WordPress's extended family

Matt gave a shoutout to WordPress's "cousins" like BuddyPress and bbPress, highlighting a lot of features that have gone into the software in the last year.

BuddyPress and bbPress

WordPress.org itself uses BuddyPress and bbPress. For ages, it's used outdated versions of bbPress, and in the past year launched a new support form that uses modern bbPress and WordPress profiles use bbPress. Matt says projects like these will get new support and engagement over the next year.

HackerOne

HackerOne is a security website that allows software organizations to offer bounties to hackers for responsibly disclosing security bugs.

GlotPress

GlotPress has had a big transformation in the last year, as it is no longer standalone software on top of BackPress, but rather a plugin for WordPress. If you've never been to translate.WordPress.org, you've seen GlotPress in action, and it's pretty amazing.

WordPress.org

WordPress.org is a central hub for the WordPress community. Matt highlighted some of the work that's been going on this past year around languages, support forums, and more. He also says that new work will be going into P2/O2, which are used for the Make WordPress blogs.

And he gave attention to the new WordPress plugin repository, which finally uses WordPress itself, and has a whole new design. You can see the new design in action on the new demo site, which should role out to the main Plugins directory soon.

WordPress in all languages

WordPress 4.6 was available in 50 languages the day it was released. And the top 10 plugins are 82% translated in the top 12 languages used in WordPress.

Language packs have been a huge help in helping translate plugins as a community project on Translate.WordPress.org, rather than having to ship translations inside the plugin itself.

1,598 plugins are now using language packs, and 1,224 themes use them. This is huge for the future of WordPress working great in every language.

Also, in WordPress 4.7, we'll see per-user language choices.

Learning JavaScript Deeply

Last year's homework for the community was to learn JavaScript deeply. He says that WordPress is 28% JavaScript now, which hasn't changed, but he says we've still made a lot of progress.

Matt gave himself a personal challenge to learn JavaScript, and he said that 364 days into this challenge, he submitted his first patch to Calypso (Automattic's WordPress administration interface). He said, learning JavaScript and becoming as native with JavaScript as with PHP is going to be really important - especially as the REST API gets included in WordPress 4.7.

WordPress Growth Council

Matt recently posted about a WordPress Growth Council to help WordPress grow and maintain marketshare.

He says that what got WordPress to where it is today, won't get WordPress to where it can be tomorrow. He blogged about this new growth council, which folks can apply for, which will help guide product direction in WordPress going forward.

Matt actually said in Post Status Slack recently that if WordPress doesn't make changes to the interface and otherwise, he'd expect WordPress marketshare would begin to decline by 2018.

HTTPS & PHP7

11.45% of WordPress websites are now served via HTTPS. Matt talked last year about how LetsEncrypt and PHP7 were going to be a big deal, but they've turned out to be, "huge." And WordPress will now start applying progressive enhancement techniques for WordPress websites.

WordPress.com is now fully on PHP7, which he says was an enormous accomplishment. He's also announced that WordPress.org will now recommend PHP7 by default.

Calypso

Matt gave some updates on Calypso's adoption since it was released last year. He says that 68% of posts on WordPress.com are now written in Calypso. 17% of posts are written via a mobile device, and only 15% of users are using the WordPress admin. For reference, Calypso is the default method of publishing on WordPress.com now, so that includes the desktop website, desktop app, and mobile app.

Matt says that building Calypso is like, "building a plane while it's flying." And while it's hard, he says it's worth it, but it's like rebuilding WordPress - which took 13 years to do - in only two years.

The future of Calypso includes making it "plugin aware", so that prominent plugins (most Automattic plugins included) would be recognized and manageable via Calypso.

In fact, Calypso is plugin aware today, as the merge has just happened. So now plugins can include custom code to be manageable via Calypso. This is an interesting move to me, especially since Calypso - while open source - isn't an official WordPress project, but rather an Automattic-owned interface.

Matt says that someday he's like to see Calypso, "or something like it," eventually to become the WordPress interface.

Core releases in 2016

WordPress 4.5-4.7 will have been released by the end of 2016. Matt says, "this is very much a year about doing things differently." And in that spirit, he's pre-announcing the jazz musician in the release. I'm sure Jeffro will be pleased 😉 WordPress 4.7 will be named "Vaughan", after jazz musician Sarah "Sassy" Vaughan.

Helen Hou-Sandi came to the stage to discuss WordPress 4.7 in more detail.

WordPress 4.7

WordPress 4.7 will include a variety of features, and will be released on Tuesday, December 6th.

New default theme

WordPress includes a new default theme that with a multi-section home page that's a brand new WordPress feature. And generally Twenty Seventeen has a lot more broad base appeal for businesses and non-blogging applications than many past themes.

Theme setup process

Helen really wanted to focus on user interactions in WordPress 4.7. She used the example of her "tweet storm" about what it's like to change a theme, which took dozens of steps and included a lot of unclear processes.

Themes in 4.7 can define content that ships with the theme, such as a nav menu setup, sample page content, a password protected page, and other content that would be utilized in the theme. This will be a massive improvement in the initial theme setup experience that I love to see in 4.7.

Better menu handling

WordPress 4.7 includes better menu building that will also assist the new user experience. Now when you are building a menu in the customizer, you can add a page right from the menu screen, so that if you haven't yet written your "about" page or whatever else, you'll be able to create that draft straight from the menu screen, so the user doesn't have to know exactly which flow is necessary to setup their site.

"Sleeper hits"

Helen highlights sleeper features, like thumbnail previews for PDFs and user dashboard languages so a user can use a different language than is set by the site administrator.

The WordPress REST API

To big applause, Helen noted the inclusion of the WordPress REST API Content Endpoints in 4.7. She says that she's excited to take the momentum and excitement around the API and turn it into more real-world projects where people test and put it to practice.

Deputy leads

Jeff Paul and Aaron Jorbin were the deputy release leads for 4.7, and more than 475 contributors submitted code to 4.7. Over 200 of those contributors are first time contributors.

Sneak preview video

To end the preview of WordPress 4.7, Helen shared a sneak preview of the WordPress 4.7 video, created by friend Rami Abraham, that highlights "Carly", who is a small business owner building her business website. The video shows a couple more great sleeper hits, like customizer preview icons to help editing, and video headers.

That's WordPress 4.7

WordPress 4.7, I believe, is going to be one of the best releases we've seen in a long, long time. It's jam packed, and while I'm sure we'll have plenty of follow-on work, there's been a hugely ambitious effort with tons of awesome contributors. None of it would've happened without Helen.

WordPress REST API and examples

After the video, Matt came back on stage.

Matt highlighted some of the REST API examples, including the new Guggenheim Museum website and Vocativ, which both use the new API, and are powered by Content Endpoints.

A look at the past and future

Matt spent a few minutes reflecting over this past, and busy, year; but also spent time discussing the past few years and what's in store in the future.

Matt recognized the "predictable" release cycle that we moved to around WordPress 3.8, and how that's been a huge benefit for the platform in general.

In the past five years, we've seen WordPress go from 13.1% to 27.2%, and this kind of marketshare for a CMS is "unprecedented."

He says, "What can we try next?" In other words, he wants to do things differently going forward: "What got us here, won't get us there." In order to do this, he's proposing a new structure for core development.

Matt said he wants to see a simpler, faster UX, while simultaneously making it more powerful. This has been my number one goal for WordPress the last few years, so I'm thrilled to see him highlight it. In the coming releases, he, "wants to see design leading the way."

In 2017, Matt says he's going to be a heavily involved project lead again.

No set major releases in 2017

Matt made a huge announcement by saying that there will be no set releases in 2017. WordPress Core will continue to move forward, managing maintenance and other items, but will shift to three main focuses for features that will dictate the next several major releases:

Number 1) The WordPress REST API

He says we need shift from thinking about the input, to measuring the output. He wants the conversation of success metrics to get beyond the "thousands" when, "WordPress is in the tens of millions."

Matt sees powering the WordPress admin with the REST API as a core focus for 2017. In addition, this effort will include shipping authentication tools in WordPress core, so that external applications can connect to WordPress websites. He says if we can't move forward with this goal, then we need to consider making the API a plugin again.

Number 2) The Editor

Matt wants to see a lot of work on the WordPress editing experience. Matt says he showed "block-faced editor" in a State of the Word slide a few years ago, and calls it his "white whale".

He says we need to be candid about our shortcomings with WordPress so that we can more effectively move forward. Andrew Ozz and Ella Van Isuelde have been massively influential on the editor improvements we've seen over the past few years, and their contributions will be huge for moving this goal forward.

Number 3) The Customizer

"The customizer is not yet fast enough, and flexible enough, to meet our current needs." He's excited to see all the new work going into the customizer, but knows there's a lot of work to do to take the customizer to the next step.

How to get these goals accomplished

He says that new major versions of WordPress will not be released until these features are ready. He says that as each project is completed, there will be a major release to go around it.

I'm fascinated by this new approach. It's like taking the current feature project framework and taking it multiple levels up. It's definitely a way to shake things up, and that may be great, considering so many people in the WordPress space enjoy complaining about the slow process that is WordPress feature development.

Matt, as project lead, says he'll personally be taking these on as the lead. And work will begin immediately to make it happen.

So, I don't know if the next release will be called WordPress 4.8, or when it will be, but I'd be shocked if it's four months like past releases. But I guess we'll see a lot of minor releases for all the other aspects of core development.

Matt says he thinks we'll fall while we learn to walk in this new way, and that's okay.


I have to admit, these are some pretty surprising announcements. I'm excited to dig more into the particulars over the coming weeks, but I do think this serves as a worthwhile and important jolt into WordPress core development. That's not to say I think WordPress development has been bad, I think it's been great.

Matt finished by reading a poem by Elizabeth Alexander, titled, "Praise Song For The Day" that marked a fitting end to the talk.

I think the key takeaway should be like he said: "what got us here, won't get us there." Let's see how this goes.

Photo credit: Brian Richards for Post Status.

03 Dec 2016 10:20pm GMT

Matt: WordCamp Live Stream

Later today (3:45pm ET) I'll deliver my annual State of the Word speech, which I'm very excited about. If you'd like to watch remotely, this year live stream tickets are free and you can tune in here.

03 Dec 2016 11:54am GMT

WPTavern: DigitalCube Launches Shifter, Serverless Hosting for WordPress

shifter-logo

DigitalCube launched Shifter at WordCamp US today, the first serverless hosting product for WordPress. The Japanese development company specializes in WordPress and AWS integrations. Shifter was built by the same team behind the company's Amimoto cloud hosting platform.

Shifter converts WordPress sites into a series of static HTML files and serves them up via a global CDN (AWS) for high performance hosting, eliminating the burden of software maintenance and server updates. The product targets websites that have a low frequency of updates, such as business or portfolio sites, as well as maintenance and support providers.

Shifter allows site owners to turn WordPress on or off in its administration center. The service is a hybrid of a WordPress static site generator and a hosting solution. Shifter hosts the static files it creates and allows users to connect their domains. It leaves the standard WordPress management and administration workflow intact and compiles a new version of the static files anytime users update content inside WordPress. The service starts at $30/month and offers support for unlimited sites.

Shifter dashboardShifter dashboard

As the first commercial product to provide serverless WordPress hosting, Shifter offers a unique way to tackle the security concerns that plague WordPress and its plugins and themes. Because the software is used by more than 27% of all websites, it has become a big target for hackers and spammers alike. Shifter's creators see WordPress as a prime candidate for serverless architecture.

DigitalCube team members met the Philadelphia-based J2 Design company at last year's WordCamp US and partnered with them to improve their branding, copy writing, and approach.

"At that time, we were having problems in design, branding, and communication," product liaison Shinichi Nishikawa said. "The name 'Amimoto' was originally a Japanese word and was difficult for people to pronounce or remember. We saw their work and asked them if we could form a partnership."

Together the Amimoto and J2 Design teams took the project from concept to launch in about three months. They built Shifter with AWS, Docker, and the Serverless Framework. The development team behind the project also supports and manages sites such as The Japan Times, AOL Japan, and Mazda. They frequently contribute to open source projects, including WordPress, Serverless Framework, and WP-CLI.

Shifter has exited beta and the company has launched a Kickstarter campaign with a $10,000 goal to fund future development on the project's roadmap, including domain mapping, a way to visualize usage of bandwidth and storage, multi-factor authentication, advanced scheduling, and WP-CLI support.

03 Dec 2016 3:44am GMT

02 Dec 2016

feedWordPress Planet

Matt: WP Growth Council

In the WordPress world, when we look back an 2016 I think we'll remember it as the year that we awoke to the importance of marketing. WordPress has always grown organically through word of mouth and its passionate community, but the hundreds of millions being spent advertising against WP has started to have an impact, especially for folks only lightly familiar with us.

I've started to hear about a number of folks across many WordPress companies and industries working on this from different angles, some approaching it from an enterprise point of view and some from a consumer point of view. There's an opportunity for learning from each other, almost like a mastermind group. As the survey says:

Never have there been more threats to the open web and WordPress. Over three hundred million dollars has been spent in 2016 advertising proprietary systems, and even more is happening in investment. No one company in the WP world is large enough to fight this, nor should anyone need to do it on their own. We'd like to bring together organizations that would like to contribute to growing WordPress. It will be a small group, and if you or your organization are interested in being a part please fill out the survey below.

By working together we can amplify our efforts to bring open source to a wider audience, and fulfill WordPress' mission to truly democratize publishing.

If this sounds interesting to you, apply using this survey.

02 Dec 2016 4:22pm GMT

01 Dec 2016

feedWordPress Planet

WPTavern: WordPress Will Only Recommend Hosting Companies Offering SSL by Default in 2017

In October, Let's Encrypt was managing more than 10 million active SSL certificates. That number doubled to 20 million in November as large providers continue to partner with the organization to manage their customers' certificates.

In 2014, Google announced that HTTPS is a ranking factor. Earlier this year, the Google Chrome security team announced that Chrome 56 will mark HTTP sites that transmit passwords or credit cards as insecure.

chrome-http-warning

In 2017, managed WordPress hosting companies will have one more reason to enable SSL by default for new accounts. In a post on the WordPress.org blog, Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of the open source WordPress project, explains what the project is going to do to encourage HTTPS by default across the web.

"Early in 2017, we will only promote hosting partners that provide a SSL certificate by default in their accounts," Mullenweg said.

"Later we will begin to assess which features, such as API authentication, would benefit the most from SSL and make them only enabled when SSL is there."

Unrelated to SSL, Mullenweg also commented on the significant performance improvements in PHP7 and will consider whether hosting partners use PHP7 by default for new accounts in 2017.

These moves are a continued effort by Mullenweg to secure and encrypt as much of the web as possible. Earlier this year, WordPress.com encrypted all of its sites using Let's Encrypt.

Let's Encrypt is an initiative which aims to encrypt 100% of the web by making trusted certificates available to everyone at no cost. It's a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of one month of operations totaling $200K.

Josh Aas, ISRG Executive Director, explains the reasons behind the crowdfunding campaign, "First, there is a gap between the funds we've raised and what we need for next year," Aas said.

"Second, we believe individual supporters from our community can come to represent a significant diversification of our annual revenue sources, in addition to corporate sponsorship and grants."

To learn more about the campaign and to contribute, visit Let's Encrypt's Indiegogo page.

01 Dec 2016 9:10pm GMT

Dev Blog: Moving Toward SSL

We're at a turning point: 2017 is going to be the year that we're going to see features in WordPress which require hosts to have HTTPS available. Just as JavaScript is a near necessity for smoother user experiences and more modern PHP versions are critical for performance, SSL just makes sense as the next hurdle our users are going to face.

SSL basically means the link between your browser and the server is encrypted. SSL used to be difficult to implement, and often expensive or slow. Modern browsers, and the incredible success of projects like Let's Encrypt have made getting a certificate to secure your site fast, free, and something we think every host should support by default, especially in a post-Snowden era. Google also weighs SSL as a search engine ranking factor and will begin flagging unencrypted sites in Chrome.

First, early in 2017, we will only promote hosting partners that provide a SSL certificate by default in their accounts. Later we will begin to assess which features, such as API authentication, would benefit the most from SSL and make them only enabled when SSL is there.

Separately, I also think the performance improvements in PHP7 are particularly impressive, and major kudos to everyone who worked on that. We will consider whether hosts use PHP7 by default for new accounts next year as well.

01 Dec 2016 5:20pm GMT

WPTavern: Flywheel Acquires WordPress Local Development Tool Pressmatic

Flywheel has acquired Pressmatic, a local WordPress development application for OS X. The application was created by Clay Griffiths, who will be joining Flywheel to support the product as part of the acquisition.

Pressmatic launched in July 2016 with a $129 price tag but Flywheel is opening it up for free for all users. The company is rebranding the product as "Local by Flywheel" and plans to create a Windows application, add off-site backups for local sites, and sell premium support.

"From the start, the application encompassed so many of Flywheel's core values: speed, simplicity, and allowing designers and developers the freedom to do what they love," Flywheel CEO and co-founder Dusty Davidson said. "It's a perfect fit."

Griffiths told the Tavern that he is excited for the opportunities that Flywheel can provide for Local going forward. "I originally built Pressmatic because I saw the gap that existed for a truly great local WordPress development experience, and now with the resources and team at Flywheel we're set to really build something great," Griffiths said. "I certainly could have continued to go at it alone, but after meeting the team it became clear that the right answer was to partner up and really go big."

Griffiths Plans to Continue Headway Themes Support and Development in his Spare Time

The acquisition comes just months after Griffiths, who is also the co-founder of Headway Themes, was embroiled in the controversy surrounding the company's lack of communication and decline in support. Many potential customers were turned off to Pressmatic as the result of Griffith's lack of support for Headway Themes' customers and its mistreatment of employees. They company publicly confirmed its financial troubles and apologized to customers after a former employee went public about not having been paid and customers not receiving support.

When asked how the Pressmattic acquisition affects Headway Themes customers, Griffiths confirmed that he will continue to be involved with support and development of Headway.

"This acquisition and employment will provide myself and my family much more stability than we've had in a long time, and will allow me to better focus on Headway in my spare time," Griffiths said. "This includes rolling out the upcoming 4.1 release, and working hard to make sure the support and other outstanding issues are resolved for all our customers."

Pressmatic is used by hundreds of WordPress developers and is Flywheel's first acquisition. The application was built on top of Electron, an app framework that enables developers to build cross-platform desktop apps with JavaScript, HTML, and CSS. It allows users to run apache or nginx, switch between PHP versions for any site, create multisite installations (including subdomain setups), and create remote tunnels to share local development. Mac users can download the new Local by Flywheel application at local.getflywheel.com.

01 Dec 2016 3:03pm GMT

30 Nov 2016

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HeroPress: WordPressing The Hard Way In Malawi

Pull Quote: WordPress has allowed me to find income I otherwise would not have any way in hopes of earning.

I am a self-taught graphic designer/ motion designer turned web designer and aspiring web developer from Malawi, Africa. I am a digital tinkerer who has fallen in love with and currently gone steady with WordPress. Still, the journey is rough.

A little about my home country before you hear my story…

Malawi

Gif of guy reading book, another guy slapping it away, saying Google ItMalawi, is at the time of my writing, the poorest country in the world. A tiny land locked country with a population of 17 million, AND still largely rural (about 75%) and struggling to develop.

The average entry level monthly pay for skilled jobs is about $110.

You are really fortunate if you are employed, young, working in the creative industry and earning somewhere near $300 a month. I doubt if anybody actually employed by someone in the design, creative and web services industry earns this much.

That being said, I have been a freelance graphic designer since about 2011, doing gigs from my dorm room in college and my bedroom at home. Earnings from my freelance gigs increased my interest in entrepreneurship and I soon started entertaining the thought of starting my own creative agency or media powerhouse.

HOW I FIRST CAME INTO CONTACT WITH WORDPRESS

I first came into contact with WordPress in 2014 when a friend of mine from University were planning to start a local tech blog. Before WordPress, all I had was basic and outdated HTML knowledge I learned from high school and some knowledge in Adobe Dreamweaver.

In 2014 very few websites in Malawi actually ran on WordPress as far as I remember. Most of the websites made in Malawi looked pretty archaic. With what to me was my partners expertise with WordPress Our blog looked like it came from the future. My partner knew where to get the themes (I did not know how he did it then, and still understood very little about WordPress).

In a little while, ecstatic from the praise and positive feedback from the blog we decided to pursue the idea of opening our own content and media publishing outfit.

Because our blog looked spectacular we got a few web redesign jobs thanks to the exposure the blog brought. We were ecstatic.

Unfortunately, we both had very little administrative and business skills we could not maintain the business and we ended up going our separate ways.

Fast forward post college, out of my first real job that I got in the TV industry ( terrible pay, overworked, and not being paid for about 5 months!) and failing to get more rewarding gigs as my creative agency start up side was cash strapped.

Rowan Atkinson looking shockedI finally took it upon myself to learn the ins and outs of WordPress. I learned how to install WordPress on a server and did some research on customising Themes. That knowledge alone and presto: I got my first web design clients and started making earning nearly as much as I did at my first job, sometimes a little more, when I get fortunate some times I even earn three times as much as I used to in a month.

It only took a very short while for me to realise that free WordPress themes can only go so far, especially with my limited code skills.

For most WordPress designers in Malawi, all we did was get nulled themes and customise them. This is the way most WordPress designers in developing countries survive. This is also why I would like to build my own themes from scratch, to avoid the situation where I have to use pirated themes that are not only unsafe for clients but unethical. In addition, I know learning to code will also set me apart from my competition.

Which leads me to the next bit….

HOW THE LACK OF AN ONLINE PAYMENT SOLUTIONS AFFECTS DESIGNERS/DEVELOPERS IN COUNTRIES LIKE MINE

My country apparently has PayPal "available", but the truth is you cannot get yourself a credit card to be able to join creative markets, and do online courses in order to improve your WP skills. The banks here only issue out credit cards to people who travel overseas or apparently have millions in their bank account.

City Street in Malawi

Even so, most of the bank personnel themselves know very little about credit cards and let alone online payment solutions. It is often very frustrating to talk to bank personnel concerning this. Wire transfer and Western Union is still the most popular way to make transactions for goods and services. So many services that we would like to access: plugins, features, etc related to the WP community are far from our reach. The learning and growth often stops the moment you see the "$" sign on websites offering WP solutions and themes.

THE CHALLENGES OF BEING SELF TAUGHT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

As I mentioned earlier, I do not have any programming background, I have always been more of a creative and artsy kind of person. Sure I have an eye for design but in order to grow, I need to learn to code PHP, and PHP hard and it is not easy to do so as premium online courses are inaccessible.

When you are in a position like mine, you are already deep in freelancing and getting a job is currently not the best option because the pay is terrible for people in your industry, and you have to keep on earning, plus make time to learn code. Getting to actually code well is a chore as you have to mind all the other obligations.

Between the time to make pitches to clients, finish up graphic design projects, deal with our current load shedding program (we only have about 5 hours of power a day on average now! ) is something I am barely managing.

Teaching myself code, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP for WordPress is something I am determined to do and always in the process of. I try my best to make time to learn. I reckon this would have been easier if I studied a programming course in college but well, here I am.

WHAT THE WORDPRESS COMMUNITY LOOKS LIKE TO ME

I will be honest, I have only gotten in touch with the actual WordPress community only very recently. Of course I search for solutions from blogs about WordPress but never actually talked to or asked anyone from the community for a solution. The most personal interaction I have ever had with anyone from the WordPress community is when I talked to Topher when I applied to write a post for HeroPress.

I often just isolated myself from any attempt to interact at all because of the glass ceiling. There are these feelings you get; these things you tell yourself when you know you can never truly harness the power of WordPress because of your lack of a way to pay for stuff online: You could never be half as good as anyone in developed countries, you will never ever get premium support, you can never be eligible for premium support. I reckon these feelings are worse for people teaching them self how to code like me.

So when I came across a tweet from @HeroPress about a post that talked about how WordPress marginalises some, it piqued my interest. It was a post from a WordPress developer in India, and it detailed how people from developing countries could never paid the same way someone from the developed countries would for the same skills or services. I totally relate and knew right away I need to sign up to tell my story.

WordPress designers and wanna-be developers like me (who cannot access online pay systems) often feel side lined.

When it comes to classes, we stop at the freebies portion, often than not our Google Searches look like this

"Free image slider plugins for WordPress" "Free WordPress tutorials"

I wish more developers, or people with more global privilege would consider alternate ways for users who cannot pay for courses, themes, or plugins would make. We may not seem to be present, but we are there. I would love to see more WordPress tutors and developers open up ways to accommodate aspiring learners like me who cannot access plugins, courses and themes, to be able to give back and to participate at another level.

Many wannabe developers who come from situations similar to mine often shy away from participating with the WordPress community or getting deeper with WordPress because in the ways I have mentioned above, the WordPress community feels like it belongs to those only privileged enough on the internet.

WordPress has allowed me to find income I otherwise would not have any way in hopes of earning. Sure it is lower by global standards, but it makes a huge difference where I live. This is about to be my second year with WordPress, and coming across members of the community with varying backgrounds through HeroPress' stories tells me there is hope for WordPress users like me.

I believe through sharing stories like these not only will WordPress products/services be more accessible but aspiring self-taught developers like me will also find more courage in reaching out to connect with others out there.

The post WordPressing The Hard Way In Malawi appeared first on HeroPress.

30 Nov 2016 12:00pm GMT

29 Nov 2016

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WPTavern: Elizabeth Shilling Awarded the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship

The WordPress Foundation has announced that Elizabeth Shilling, one of three co-founders of the Women Who WP meetup group, is the second recipient of the Kim Parsell Memorial Scholarship.

The scholarship was created in 2015 to remember Kim Parsell and provide an opportunity for a woman who may not have the financial means to attend the largest WordCamp in the US.

Bridget Willard on the left with Elizabeth Shilling on the rightBridget Willard on the left with Elizabeth Shilling on the right

Shilling is a former biology teacher, business owner, plugin developer, and feminist leader. According to the announcement, Shilling was chosen for her dedication to open source and being a champion for women in leadership. The scholarship covers the cost of a WordCamp ticket, flight, and lodging. If you see Shilling at WordCamp US this weekend, be sure to congratulate her.

29 Nov 2016 10:48pm GMT

WPTavern: PDF Image Previews Among the Improvements to Media in WordPress 4.7

Among the many enhancements in WordPress 4.7 are improvements to the media component. Previous to 4.7, users who uploaded files to the media library and changed the title could not search for them by file name. Four years since the ticket was created, users will be able to search for media by filename.

PDFs are easier to preview as the media library will create an image preview of the first page. This image is used throughout the library and media attachment screens.

PDF Preview Images in the WordPress Media LibraryPDF Preview Images in the WordPress Media Library

In order to generate the previews, the webhosting server needs to support Imagick, ImageMagick, and Ghostscript. If support is not detected, WordPress will fall back and save the attachment without adding a preview image.

WordPress 4.7 also removes the caption text and the image title fallbacks to generate alternative text. Developers are encouraged to read the detailed notes surrounding PDF previews to ensure compatibility with WordPress 4.7. There's also a handful of other changes to media that users and developers can read here.

29 Nov 2016 1:41am GMT

24 Nov 2016

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Dev Blog: WordPress 4.7 Release Candidate

The release candidate for WordPress 4.7 is now available.

RC means we think we're done, but with millions of users and thousands of plugins and themes, it's possible we've missed something. We hope to ship WordPress 4.7 on Tuesday, December 6, but we need your help to get there. If you haven't tested 4.7 yet, now is the time! To test WordPress 4.7, you can use the WordPress Beta Tester plugin or you can download the release candidate here (zip).

WordPress 4.7 is a jam-packed release, with a number of features focused on getting a theme set up for the first time. Highlights include a new default theme, video headers, custom CSS, customizer edit shortcuts, PDF thumbnail previews, user admin languages, REST API content endpoints, post type templates, and more.

We've made quite a few refinements since releasing Beta 4 a week ago, including usability and accessibility enhancements for video headers, media and page template support in starter content, and polishing of how custom CSS can be migrated to and extended by plugins and themes. The REST API endpoints saw a number of bugfixes and notably now have anonymous comment off by default.

Not sure where to start with testing? Try setting up a fresh site on a new installation with Twenty Seventeen (hint: head into customizing your site before touching any pages or widgets) and taking notes on what you enjoyed and what got you stuck. For more details about what's new in version 4.7, check out the Beta 1, Beta 2, Beta 3, and Beta 4 blog posts.

Think you've found a bug? Please post to the Alpha/Beta support forum. If any known issues come up, you'll be able to find them here.

Developers, please test your plugins and themes against WordPress 4.7 and update your plugin's Tested up to version in the readme to 4.7. If you find compatibility problems please be sure to post to the support forums so we can figure those out before the final release - we work hard to avoid breaking things. An in-depth field guide to developer-focused changes is coming soon on the core development blog.

Do you speak a language other than English? Help us translate WordPress into more than 100 languages! And if you haven't yet done so, now is a great time to take the Annual WordPress Survey and send it on to your friends.

Happy testing! And now for another Rami Abraham haiku break.

Select your language
Then let your users choose theirs
get_user_locale()

Theme authors rejoice
Any option may employ
Selective refresh

Custom header video
Make sure to add_theme_support
Bling above the fold

A new template dawns
A hierarchy member
Post-type templates live

PDF updates
Pack a parade of polish
Prettier previews

Template Post Type: New
Template Post Type: And Useful
Template Post Type: Thing

Let lists live lively
Laud wp_list_sort()
Less laconic lists

24 Nov 2016 4:26am GMT

WPTavern: Why Are You Thankful for WordPress?

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US. It's a time of reflection and an opportunity to express gratitude for the good things in life. In episode 143 of the KitchensinkWP podcast, host Adam Silver asked his two sons why they're grateful for WordPress.

"I am thankful for WordPress because it gives you a job for the household that we live in and it makes you happy which also makes me happy and smile," Parker said. "I am thankful for WordPress because it makes you happy and it makes me happy and it provides a roof over our heads," Carson said.

Inspired by the episode, Josh Eby created the #Thankful4WP hashtag on Twitter. Here are a few reasons why people are thankful for WordPress.

My #Thankful4WP List:
* Life I enjoy because of WP
* Lifelong, #Iceberg friendships
* Passionate @ithemes team
* Customers who support us

- Cory Miller (@corymiller303) November 23, 2016

My #Thankful4WP list: the awesome community, resources, WordCamps, building websites w/ WP, the people, oh and did I mention the people? ❤️

- Justine Pretorious (@jpretorious) November 23, 2016

I'm #Thankful4WP and particularly for #GenesisWP because it's afforded me opportunities I didn't have before and awesome friendships.

- Susan Ramsey (@onehappystudio) November 23, 2016

I am #Thankful4WP - People. Connections. A New Career. Teaching. Learning. Ah-ha Moments. WordCamps. Friends. Support. Good Times.

- BobWP (@bobWP) November 22, 2016

I am #Thankful4WP because it gave me opportunity to leave the 9to5 job and start something of my own #myownbusiness @wfanzine #WordPress

- Sanjeev Mishra (@sonziv) November 22, 2016

I'm thankful for WordPress because of the opportunities it has provided me and I've met some amazing people because of it. If you're thankful for WordPress please let us know why in the comments. From all of us at the Tavern, have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.

Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy - Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

24 Nov 2016 12:05am GMT

23 Nov 2016

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HeroPress: Building Confidence

Pull Quote: The WordPress community give me confidence to talk to people & in front of people.

I can clearly divide my life in two parts before and after marriage. Before I got married, I was staying in Chapra, a small city in Bihar. I had graduated in Botany, we only had electricity for 5-6 hours a day and no easy access to internet or computers.

After my marriage, I came to Pune, a bigger city compared to Chapra and things changed for me. I was exposed to exciting world of technology, thanks to my husband who was then working at a startup. I had lot of free time so I decided to learn as much as I could just to see what I can do and started by learning MS Office, then Photoshop a bit and in the process I also learned HTML, CSS. I tried but couldn't get much hang of JavaScript.

Once I got confident that I can write decent HTML, I switched to learning CMS and first one I tried was Joomla, and for me it was very hard to understand, I had more question then I could find answers to. So on suggestion of my husband I switched to WordPress. I was able to quickly figure things out with WordPress and set up a blog for myself.

In 2010, I joined WPoets as QA. In those days I had some free time.

To improve my skills I started looking into old reviews of the themes that were approved on WordPress themes repository.

This helped me understand theme file structures and various criteria to check themes for, I used skills acquired to ensure themes built by WPoets were also following these guidelines.

Sometime in 2011, once I was confident that I have understood the process I joined the 'Theme Review Team' and started officially reviewing themes in the repository. This was a proud moment for me. During my journey as theme reviewer I was helped and guided by Emil Uzelac, Chip Bennett & Edward Caissie.

In 2013, very first WordCamp was organised in Pune and I got a chance to talk about theme review process, this was my first ever public talk, and not being very good with English I choose to speak in Hindi. It was well received and many people wanted to know how they can get their themes approved. Again in 2015, I talked about what makes themes good in WordCamp Pune. Thanks to WordCamps, I got to meet Topher, Mahangu & Raghvendra.

Now a days, as I get less time between work and kids, instead of doing theme reviews I answer questions on WordPress.org support forum.

I'm an introvert and came from a small city so I'm always hesitant to talk to new people but the WordPress community give me confidence to talk with new people and in front of people.

This is a big achievement for me and my family feels proud of it.

In WP community every one ready to support and help to move forward because of this nature I love to this community. I want to emphasize the support that I have received from WordPress community in general and members of theme review team in specific who helped me gain the knowledge necessary to do my work better. I also want to thank all the organisers of Pune WordPress Knowledge Exchange meetup group, and specially Saurabh Shukla who helped in improving my presentation skills for WordCamp Pune.

All these happened because of WordPress community and via HeroPress platform I would like to thank everyone who makes this community rock.

The post Building Confidence appeared first on HeroPress.

23 Nov 2016 12:00pm GMT

19 Nov 2016

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WPTavern: Automattic Clarifies .blog Landrush Process After Bait and Switch Allegations

Earlier this year, Knock Knock Whois There LLC, an Automattic subsidiary in partnership with Primer Nivel, won an auction for around $19 million dollars to offer top-level .blog domains. On August 18th, an email was sent to users who signed up to Dotblog.WordPress.com notifying them that they could apply and secure a .blog domain name before November 21st.

Applying For a Domain NameApplying For a Domain Name

Chris Schidle took advantage of the opportunity and secured chris.blog for $30 per year with a $220 application fee. People who apply for a domain only receive it if no one else applies for it. If there are multiple applications, the domain goes through an auction process between November 14-17.

As the auction dates drew nearer and Schidle didn't receive any information concerning the auction, he contacted support. Support confirmed that his application was not successful and he received a refund on November 15th. After asking support about the auction process, Schidle was informed that chris.blog ended up on a list of reserved domains that were not available for registration.

In a blog post entitled "The .blog Bait and Switch", Schidle expressed disappointment in Automattic's lack of communication. "Perhaps it's not fair to call this bait and switch," Schidle said.

"Really it was bait and refund, and certainly the situation would be far worse had they chosen to not make the application fee refundable. But still, I thought I had a chance at securing the domain. That was the logical conclusion given the terms they outlined via a successful application or winning an auction."

Other applicants shared similar experiences on Twitter.

@cschidle i feel your pain. they also took my $250 for my app for https://t.co/8H0dBZfKny - surprisingly poor handling for a comm's company

- Chris Yim (@cyim) November 17, 2016

@cschidle I've got stood up in the same manner for https://t.co/wqDOQWyF2X Full-refund and no invitation to auction

- Octavian Cioaca (@octasimo) November 17, 2016

@cschidle Same thing happened to me with https://t.co/1bRlWkdtmy. Not cool.

- Mark Barrera (@mark_barrera) November 17, 2016

In response to Schidel's post, Paolo Belcastro published an explanation of the process behind activating some domains in the Founder's Program while reserving others. Belcastro says that as a registrar, they're able to activate up to 100 domain names. Some of the domains were given to third-parties and 25 generic domains were given to WordPress.com to be shared for free with millions of users.

The registrar reserved all one, two, and three-character domains from being registered. They also allowed Automattic employees to reserve a single domain each, some of which were first names.

On behalf of .blog, Belcastro apologized to those who filed applications in August and later discovered the domains were not available.

Many registrars started taking pre-registrations for the Landrush period as early as last August. We do realize that some users were disappointed when they discovered that the domain names they had applied for were in fact attributed as part of the Founder's program, or reserved, and wouldn't be possible to register or auction at the end of Landrush.

We would like to apologize to these users, but as the lists of Founder domains and Reserved ones weren't final until just before Landrush, we couldn't communicate them to registrars in advance (there is nothing registrars hate more than ever-changing lists of reserved domains).

In addition, domains were removed as well as added to the lists, and we didn't want to take the risk for registrars to refuse applications in September for domains that would be released in October.

To mitigate the uncertainty surrounding domain availability, fees were set up in a way so that only successful registrations would be charged. This provided a way to give full refunds to those with failed applications.

Schidle appreciates the company's apology, "It's unfortunate that their reserved domain list wasn't finalized prior to accepting applications, and that affected applicants like myself weren't notified sooner (auctions were scheduled to begin on November 14th)," he said. "But I think they realize their mistake in handling that communication and their apology is appreciated."

19 Nov 2016 12:03am GMT

18 Nov 2016

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WPTavern: WordPress Passes 27% Market Share, Banks on Customizer for Continued Success

photo credit: Luis Llerenaphoto credit: Luis Llerena

WordPress now powers 27.1% of all websites on the internet, up from 25% last year. While it may seem that WordPress is neatly adding 2% of the internet every year, its percentage increase fluctuates from year to year and the climb is getting more arduous with more weight to haul.

credit: w3techs.comcredit: w3techs.com

In January 2015, Mullenweg said the next goal for WordPress was to achieve 50% market share (the majority of websites) and he identified Jetpack as a key factor in preventing WordPress' decline, a controversial statement delivered at Pressnomics. At that time Automattic was secretly working on Calypso, WordPress.com's JavaScript-powered interface, but did not unveil the project until November 2015.

It's difficult to say what effect Calypso has had on WordPress' market share, as the w3tech's 27% stat covers mostly self-hosted sites. Following up with him a year later, Mullenweg estimates that less than 10% of those sites are hosted on WordPress.com.

"It does look like about a quarter of it is using Jetpack, though, and that has grown since Calypso was released," he said. "Remember - Calypso is for Jetpack sites as well as WP.com."

In a recent interview on WPWeekly, Mullenweg said he is also optimistic that the WooCommerce acquisition and Automattic's sale and management of the .blog domain extension will contribute "another 5-10% each to that market share." In fact, there is a team inside Automattic called Team 51 that works on strategies for getting the market share to 51%.

"For getting to 51% and beyond - it's more than just blogs and more than just websites," Mullenweg said. "We need to do stores well, we need to do wikis well, we need to do real estate sites well, we need to do restaurants well - all these things that may be outside what you normally think of as a core WP experience."

In order to provide the best content-creation experience on the market, in any niche, WordPress has some major work to do. The software is in imminent danger of being eclipsed by newer competitors if its core features don't improve, especially when it comes to customizing a new site. Jetpack cannot single-handedly solve WordPress' onboarding problem.

WordPress' Weakest Link Is Also Its Greatest Opportunity

In the past Mullenweg has identified customization as the weakest link in WordPress but also one of its most important areas for improvement, saying, "The Customizer is everything." During the 2015 State of the Word address he said, "Customization is the single biggest opportunity for improving the WordPress experience." I asked him if he thinks the necessary improvements to make the software more competitive need to come from core itself or if commercial products could introduce game changers for the Customizer, the editor, and other problem areas of WordPress.

"I think to have an impact on WordPress' growth improvements to customization have to happen in core or Calypso/Jetpack, otherwise there isn't enough reach," Mullenweg said. "It doesn't matter how great a commercial product is - being behind a paywall will mean it won't reach enough people to make a dent in WP's growth curve." He outlined how he sees the Customizer as a critical component of WordPress' future:

I think the needed improvements will only come from a customizer and theme system which is flexible, intuitive, and instantaneous, which might also need to break backwards compatibility, and a post editor which leverages the same language, patterns, interface, and concepts. We need to use and adopt a React / Redux approach to the javascript, like Calypso, and rename or make irrelevant concepts like Menus which are just plain confusing to people.

Customizer improvements have been a focus throughout 2016 and the feature's small team of contributors have made major strides towards improving the underlying architecture to build upon.

"It's customization that is the key need here, not necessarily the existing 'Customizer' interface that we have today," Customize component maintainer Weston Ruter said. "The key need WordPress has is to be able to live preview more functionality in WordPress, as Helen tweeted here:"

What if instead of opposing "shoving more stuff into the customizer" we supported "adding live previews to WordPress functionality"?

- Helen 侯-Sandí (@helenhousandi) September 20, 2016

Selective refresh was added earlier this year in 4.5, giving WordPress the ability to preview elements without full page reloads. This is one way the Customize API addresses that "instantaneous" aspect Mullenweg outlined above.

"The Customize Posts plugin is an effort to rebuild the post editor from the ground up with live preview for all changes to post data and postmeta at the foundation," Ruter said. "It's a JavaScript-first approach to the post editing experience. No more waiting for a full page reload to save a draft. No more clicking a preview button to load the post in a new window. All of the changes are saved as drafts and previewed live. It's reusing the TinyMCE editor component."

WordPress may be looking at front-end editing powered by the Customizer in the not-too-distant future. Ruter and contributors are also working towards using the Customize API to power the next generation of widgets in core, which would use JS for UI and open the door for widgets to be managed via the REST API.

"Changesets, coming in 4.7, is the most far-reaching architectural improvement to the customizer since its inception," Ruter said. "Changesets allow for live preview functionality to be de-coupled from the current Customizer interface. This architecture allows for live preview to be developed in other contexts, namely on the frontend and in REST API-driven apps and headless sites." Ruter anticipates the REST API endpoints for managing changesets to come in 4.8.

The WP JS Widgets project shifts widgets away from their heavy reliance on PHP and creates a JavaScript foundation in the Customizer that allows for any library to be used to build widget controls.

"A control can actually be implemented using any JS technology stack," Ruter said. "In the JS Widgets plugin I have a demonstration of widget controls in the customizer being built using the customizer Element, Backbone.js, and also React." The plugin currently implements three core widgets and contributors are working on more.

"It's somewhat of a 'Widgets 3.0' in core, focused on what they would look like in the Customizer first," Ruter said, "where the widget instance data is stored in a setting, and the control listens to changes to that setting and updates its UI to reflect the changes in the underlying instance data."

Although this particular project is being built to be JavaScript-library agnostic, Ruter said he thinks there would be value in exploring the use of React/Redux in a "Customizer 2.0" interface:

It would be great to experiment with re-implementing the Customizer UI (pane, panels, sections, controls) in React. #wcus

- Weston Ruter ⚡ (@westonruter) December 4, 2015

Taking the Customizer Beyond First Impressions

Ruter said he would have a difficult time proposing to build a client site that depended on the WordPress admin for site management and content authorship.

"A lot of the work we've done at XWP for the past few years has been building on the Customizer to provide the editorial experiences that I think are lacking in the WP admin," Ruter said. "We invest heavily in the customizer because we see it as the best foundation that WordPress has to offer to provide the experiences we want to deliver to our clients."

If the Customizer is so critical to WordPress' success, it's curious that the contributor team remains relatively small and few companies are investing in the feature specifically. XWP invests heavily in Customizer development and a great deal of that is prototype work in the form of feature plugins such as Customize Snapshots, Customize Posts, and several other plugin projects.

"I don't know for sure why more developers across the WordPress community aren't doing more with the customizer," said Ruter, who is CTO at XWP. "It may be in part a perception problem, where it has seemingly been stuck with a negative reputation. Or it could be a technology problem, where the Customizer is vastly different from other areas of WordPress being a JavaScript single-page application."

When the Customizer was first introduced it included support for 'option' and 'theme_mod,' followed by widgets and navigation menus a bit down the road. The WordPress community didn't have a full understanding of the scope and capabilities of the Customizer for addressing some of the project's chief concerns, including content authorship with live previews. Users simply saw a constrained UI they didn't like using to customize themes. Most users had no concept of the Customizer providing the architectural underpinnings of other aspects of WordPress.

"Part of the problem is a lack of contributors," Ruter said. "But even more than that, the biggest problem is one of having a shared vision. When the WP community throws hate on customizer improvements with each new release, it's somewhat demotivating.

"If the community realized the vision behind and appreciated a full admin experience that had live preview and staging of changes, then that would make a huge difference," Ruter said. He and contributors find it challenging to articulate the scope and they are considerably short-handed.

"It could be a problem with getting ramped up," he said. "But that's been the mandate for the WP community as a whole - to learn JavaScript deeply. I say, why not learn JavaScript deeply by building on the customizer?"

GoDaddy Plans to Invest in Core Customizer Improvements

GoDaddy is a surprising company to emerge over the past couple of years as another key player on WordPress' road to 50% market share. WordPress product and service companies, along with hosts, are keenly interested in seeing the software continue its market dominance.

"It's very important to GoDaddy that WP market share increases," Gabe Mays, head of WordPress products at GoDaddy, said. "We're deeply invested in the success of the WordPress community, not only because many of our customers use it, but also because of what it represents."

Mays reports that approximately 1/3 of all GoDaddy sites and half of all new sites are running on WordPress. With millions of customers using the software, the company took the initiative to create a new onboarding experience specifically for WordPress customers. I asked Mays if GoDaddy is concerned about competitors like Wix and Weebly cutting into the WordPress market share.

"I don't know if 'worry' is the right word, because 1) we know the problem and 2) we're capable of addressing it," Mays said. "As a community we either care enough to fix it or we don't. There are negative consequences associated with the latter that pose an existential threat to the community."

Mays has been involved with the WordPress community for the past 10 years and is working with GoDaddy to improve the new user experience.

"Part of the issue we're experiencing now is that WordPress benefitted from such strong product market fit and, subsequently, such high growth that there weren't the typical feedback mechanisms forcing us to make things like the UX better," Mays said. "On the other hand, our competitors fought hard and iterated for every basis point of market share they have. We're like that natural athlete that got to the top with natural talent, but now need to master the basics, get our form right, etc. to stay on top as the game changes."

GoDaddy's new onboarding experience is a stab at improving this UX and Mays said the company has significant WordPress core improvements in the works to provide a better first-use experience.

"I'm happy to say we'll also be contributing these improvements back to core," he said. "We're happy to have had Aaron Campbell join us as our first core contributor earlier this year and we're working on more ways to accelerate our core contribution efforts."

Mays said GoDaddy is planning to submit core contributions to the Customizer and related core components in the near future but would not disclose any specifics at this time.

"Hosts benefit immensely from WordPress and as hosts we can collectively do a lot more to move WordPress forward," Mays said. "We want to lead by example here and have big plans for this in 2017."

WordPress product and service companies are also deeply invested in the software's success and eager to see its market share grow. Cory Miller, CEO of iThemes, one of WordPress' earliest theme companies, said growth is one potential sign of WordPress' health.

"As WordPress has grown, so have we with it," Miller said. "The opposite of growth is scary - it's stagnation or decline. Many have predicted that in WordPress for a long time, but it continues to grow and push new limits, like the defiant teenager it is."

Miller said one of his concerns with competitors in the space is that they have started to cut into the lower or lowest end of the market, "the do-it-yourselfers that many of us count as a key part of our customer base."

"WordPress is fantastic, and so are all the innovative tools and services around it, from themes, plugins to hosting," Miller said. "But I'm increasingly seeing the reason why many, on perhaps the bottom end of the market, say, 'I don't want to mess with updates, or worrying about security, or pulling 15 separate tools together to do what I need. I just want a simple website, I want everything in one bundle, mostly done for me, and so I'll just go with SquareSpace or Weebly.'"

Although WordPress provides so much more in terms of community and extensibility when compared to Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace, getting started is the hardest part for new users. This is where tools like Jetpack and GoDaddy's onboarding experience are useful for giving users what they need to succeed with WordPress.

Even with a strong background in HTML and CSS, customizing a WordPress site can be challenging. Your site will never feel like your home on the web if you struggle to customize it to suit your preferences. The good news is that the WordPress project lead, contributors, hosts, and product companies are working together to improve customization in different, complementary ways in order to ensure the future of the project in an increasingly competitive market.

18 Nov 2016 10:48pm GMT