Howdy, WordPress friends. We’re back with yet another edition of The WordPress Update for October 2019.
If you’re not already familiar with The WordPress Update, it’s our monthly WordPress news roundup where we share everything that’s happening in the WordPress community, as well as our thoughts on the latest stories. Then, we post it here on the blog and send it out to our newsletter subscribers.
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In October, WordPress 5.3, the last major release of 2019, crept closer to its release with a few different release candidates.
There was also big news in the web space in general, with the US Supreme Court declining to review a case involving accessibility and the Domino’s Pizza website. The decision could affect WordPress users in the future, depending on how the case is decided.
Finally, there were some interesting new product releases, with a new version of the popular Divi theme/plugin and a new eCommerce hosting offering from GoDaddy in partnership with WooCommerce.
Let’s get to all the noteworthy WordPress news and updates from October 2019…
WordPress 5.3 release candidate is ready
In last month’s edition of The WordPress Update, we shared some of the new features that you can expect in the next major WordPress release, along with a preview of the new Twenty Nineteen default theme.
While WordPress 5.3 still isn’t quite ready for primetime, we have made it to Release Candidate 3, which means it’s almost the final version and the team just needs to iron out any small kinks.
To prep for the release, the core team released the WordPress 5.3 Field Guide, which goes over all the technical changes in the release.
Supreme Court declines to hear Domino’s Pizza website accessibility case
While this isn’t specific to WordPress, the US Supreme Court made a decision that could affect how all websites, including WordPress sites, address accessibility.
If you’re not an avid observer of the US Supreme Court case docket, here’s the basic backstory:
A blind man was suing Domino’s Pizza because its website and app were not accessible to those with visual impairments. The basis for his case is the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) from the ’90s.
Domino’s, and trade groups, argued that the case should be dismissed because “companies don’t have to make their websites and apps fully accessible as long as disabled customers have other ways to get the same goods and services, such as a telephone hotline.”
A Federal appeals court had already ruled that Domino’s must defend itself in the case, but Domino’s had been hoping the Supreme Court would reverse that decision. With the Supreme Court declining to hear the case, that initial court decision stands and Domino’s must now defend itself in court – which makes this a lawsuit that you’ll definitely want to pay attention to.
Divi releases version 4.0 with theme building
Though Divi is definitely one of the most popular WordPress page builders, it had fallen behind competitors like Elementor and Beaver Builder when it comes to theme building functionality.
That is, while you could use Divi to build content inside your page, you couldn’t use the drag-and-drop builder to design headers, footers, or general templates.
That’s changed with the latest release – Divi 4.0.
Now, Divi supports full theme building, along with conditional templating (e.g. only apply a template to a specific category of posts) and dynamic content insertion to include content from custom fields.
If you want to learn about the Divi theme in general, check out our Divi review, which will give you a good idea about how Divi works at a basic level.
GoDaddy launches eCommerce hosting in partnership with WooCommerce
By the numbers, GoDaddy is the largest web host in the world and WooCommerce is the most popular way to make an eCommerce store. Not just the most popular eCommerce solution for WordPress – WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce solution overall, even beating out Shopify.
Now, the two are teaming up with a new eCommerce tier for GoDaddy’s managed WordPress hosting plans.
GoDaddy’s eCommerce hosting tier is an official partnership with WooCommerce and comes with a tantalizing incentive:
Access to over $1,000 worth of WooCommerce extensions at no extra cost including powerful extensions like:
- Product add-ons
- …plus lots more
You also get access to premium Storefront child themes to control your store’s design. And GoDaddy will also install WooCommerce for you and has integrated the WooCommerce setup process into GoDaddy’s onboarding.
All this with promotional prices starting at just $15.99 per month and renewal prices at $24.99 per month.
While GoDaddy doesn’t have the best reputation in the hosting space, it’s tough to argue with the value of this plan, especially for people looking to launch a WordPress eCommerce store on a budget.
You can learn more about the new offering in this WP Tavern article.
Malicious actors create fake plugins to mine cryptocurrency
Because of WordPress’ popularity, it’s always a juicy target for hackers and other malicious actors.
In October, Sucuri detailed a new attack that people are using:
Fake plugins that come packed with cryptominers or backdoors.
In Sucuri’s words, “over the past couple of months we’ve also noticed a considerable increase in the number of malicious plugins which have been added to compromised websites as well.”
At first glance, these plugins look legitimate because they mimic popular plugins. For example, Sucuri also found fake UpdraftPlus plugins floating around the web.
To protect yourself, Sucuri recommends monitoring for changes to both your core WordPress files and extension files, which most WordPress security plugins can help you with (including Sucuri’s free plugin at WordPress.org).
WordPress.org’s featured themes list might become a lot more curated
If you’ve ever browsed the WordPress.org theme directory, you’ve probably encountered the randomness that is the featured themes page.
While “featured” seems to imply that there’s something special about these themes, it really is just a random selection of themes…at least for now.
In the past, theme reviewers were allowed to submit themes to be featured, but this was shut down in April 2014 because reviewers were choosing their own themes (because the financial incentive was so high).
The solution after that program was shut down? Randomness.
Now, things might be changing again, with the Theme Review Team planning to return to a more curated approach.
The exact details are still up in the air, but the basic approach is to have a meeting every few weeks where people can nominate themes based on their design and quality. The Theme Review Team reps would then pick from those recommendations to create the featured list.
To avoid commercialization, the team also might decide that only themes with zero commercial upsells are eligible. That is, a free theme like Astra that has an upsell for the premium version (Astra Pro) would not show up on the featured list, while a 100% free theme like Anders Norén’s Hemingway theme could.
To learn more, check out this post at WP Tavern (and the comments as well).
Personally? I’d rather see a better tagging and filtering system. The current system just isn’t that helpful considering that most modern themes check pretty much every single filter.
MachoThemes makes moves in the WordPress gallery plugin space
The WordPress acquisition train continues, this time with a smaller acquisition in the WordPress gallery plugin space.
MachoThemes, the parent company behind the Modula gallery plugin, acquired three other gallery plugins.
Two of those gallery plugins – Final Tiles Grid Gallery Lite and PhotoBlocks Grid Gallery – will be merged into Modula, while the third plugin – EverLightbox – will stay as a standalone project.
I’m hoping Modula integrates the PhotoBlocks Grid Builder functionality into Modula, as it has a very nice approach to building a grid gallery.
Kinsta tweaked things for even better performance
Finally, Kinsta, where we host WP Superstars (our review), made some big changes to its hosting offerings this month to improve performance.
Specifically, Kinsta is moving to the Google Cloud Platform’s new compute-optimized virtual machines, which Kinsta claims has led to performance improvements of 30% to 200% in its testing.
You can learn more in this blog post at the Kinsta site.
And that wraps up all of the most important WordPress news and articles from October 2019.
Make sure to subscribe to the newsletter by using the box below. And also check back next month for all the exciting news that’s bound to drop in November.