Footnotes #407

New in 5.5

WordPress 5.5 Release Candidate 2 landed this week, and the final release date (August 11) is next Tuesday. Here are the latest updates and news about it:

  • There is more support for modernized JavaScript i18n, which Justin Ahinon explains. Take note: “some previously globally accessible localization variables could stop working and cause breaks in your code.”
  • We will be getting the latest version of Gutenberg (version 8.7.0) in core, which focuses on stability and accessibility. According to Riad Benguella, this particular release “saw a lot of improvements to the Post block suite that constitutes one of the important bricks for the Full Site Editing project.”
  • Isabel Brison explains there are some new responsive styles your custom blocks can use in the editor, along with new editor preview options for different screen sizes. Replacing the old preview button there is now a dropdown with “Desktop,” “Tablet,” and “Mobile” sizes, as well as the existing front end preview option.
  • It's possible to register default values for metadata. According to Jonny Harris on Twitter, it took over two years of work to get this into core. Jonny thinks “this is going to be massively useful for developers when using metadata.”
  • Anne McCarthy has a rundown of the a11y improvements with some helpful screenshots and videos.

With new development on WordPress 5.5 coming to a close, there is already a need for feedback on the wishlist for WordPress 5.6. 🏃💦

Chloe Bringmann has some specific questions, including one directed at Component Maintainers: “what tickets of yours do you think will be ready to ship in 5.6 and need some review/feedback/approval/etc?”


Big Step for BigCommerce

BigCommerce has become a public company on Nasdaq. CEO Brent Bellm commented that “as a public company we’ll be able to provide all our stakeholders more transparency than ever into our size, momentum, and industry leadership.” 🙌

Although BigCommerce is not an exclusive WordPress company, one can imagine that with additional funds, they might be able to devote more resources to the WordPress project — headless eCommerce perhaps?

We discuss this story more in our latest Commerce Journey newsletter. 📨


“I started using BigCommerce for WP in March and like it. The best eCommerce solution is the one you hate least … and I hate it least! The pricing worked well for us. No transaction fees. I’m excited to see them grow.”

PHP 8 is in feature freeze, and Beta 1 has been released. There are also new security releases for stable PHP versions 7.2.33, 7.3.21 and 7.4.9. 🔒

👨‍🎨 Theme developers, take note of the new admin menu page requirement:

Themes can add a page under the Appearance menu using add_theme_page. If they need to have subpages (e.g., documentation, FAQs, donation links, etc.), then they are allowed to use add_menu_page and add_submenu_page, provided they follow additional requirements.

The WP Admin Gallery is a growing collection of settings, patterns, and pages added to the WordPress admin interface by commonly used plugins.

Even if you aren't a plugin developer trying to get inspiration for your settings screen, the gallery is full of interesting (some good, some less good) examples of interface designs. 🤔

BuddyPress has a maintenance release (6.2.0) that will get you ready for WordPress 5.5 — it “is a recommended upgrade for all BuddyPress installations.” ☝️

A New P2 Debut has launched an updated new beta version of P2. In the past, P2 was a WordPress theme that has been used for “blogging at the speed of thought.” It was adopted for internal communications between teams at Automattic in 2009. A successor, O2, emerged in 2015 as a plugin rather than a theme. O2 was shared on GitHub, but that project has been quiet. So has P2, until now.

This P2, despite the same name, is significantly different from the old P2 that has been available for download at without updates in over two years. The new P2 adds Gutenberg support and likely many other under-the-hood modernizations.

Ben Gillbanks took a look and says the new P2 makes use of both the O2 plugin and the P2 theme with a lot of code.

The new P2 is “free to use” at now, and “current P2s will always be free to use” there, but a “paid version … is in development.” Sarah Gooding reported the commercial tiers will offer extended features and include an “enterprise” option, as described by P2 launch lead Jon Burke.

Currently you “cannot use custom domains,” and the FAQ says you can't self-host it “at the moment.” The code does not appear to be available, but Automattic “plan[s] to offer this option in the future.”

There is a blog post by Miguel Lezama about P2's debut with a link to the demo. 🆕✨

I enjoyed the first chapter of Jay Hoffman‘s new series for CSS Tricks on the history of the web, with a special focus on Tim Berners-Lee.

Some older folks might remember how primitive the web was then, but there are very few in the WordPress community who go back to the days that Jay writes about here. If you want to know how things got started and the thinking that went into the early internet, sit down for a few minutes to learn about the tech past. 👴

Justin Gagne has a nice piece on accessible drop caps and how to code them. He proposes a simple, semantic structure with an alternative text pattern that works well with screen readers. You can simulate them in the demos on his post. 👍

We are WordPress

As recently reported by The Tavern, Automattic’s marketing team has updated the company’s press page with a notice to journalists who are writing about Automattic:

Automattic owns and operates, which is a hosted version of the open source WordPress software with added features for security, speed and support. Please append “.com” when referencing our product name.

WordPress is open source software, which is written, maintained, and supported by thousands of independent contributors worldwide….

This is an attempt to clear up some of the branding confusion often seen in the media where WordPress the project, code, and community we often refer to as — and are not distinguished.

Sarah Gooding reports, “This update was prompted by a recent conversation on LinkedIn between Caspar Hübinger, who works as a digital marketer at Human Made, and CMO Monica Ohara.” 😄

Flywheel‘s latest (5.6.8) release of the free version of Local, a popular development tool, has added a push/pull feature for staging and not just production sites at Flywheel or WP Engine. Previously, this feature was included only with the “pro” edition. 👏

If you work in CSS you may have heard of the CSS content-visibility property, which offers rendering performance benefits by skipping off-screen content. This article from Una Kravets and Vladimir Levin shows you how to leverage this new CSS property for faster initial load times, using the auto keyword. 💨

Matt Shaw shows how to set up Visual Studio Code and xDebug for WordPress development in a recently updated post. 👨‍💻

Matt also touches on important extensions such as Git Lens (which adds simple git blame annotations to the line that you’re currently working on), PHP DocBlocker for simple docblocking, and the Prettier extension for cleaning up your CSS, JS, and HTML code.

In a recent interview, Ben Gillbanks, a long-time WordPress developer, shares his thoughts on how to stay relevant in a “quickly shifting WordPress landscape.”

Ben says (1) avoid selling themes because it's a “really hard business to get into, and the quick bucks that used to exist are long gone;” (2) learn JavaScript; and (3) try to do something different that hasn't been done before with WordPress.

He's right. Even a relatively new concept, like block collections, quickly finds a crowded market.

Learn how to sell products online without an audience in our latest video/podcast at Commerce Journey 🛒

Jonathan Bossenger posted a recent update about the WP Notify project. It looks like things are off to a good start: the GitHub repository has been created. Code and design decisions are being made. 👍

☀️ As part of a summer of updates, Beaver Builder recently released a new version with a focus on new modules and accessibility. They also rolled out a feature request and roadmap board.

Don't Stress, Decompress

😷 Check out the data on remote work during COVID-19 collected by the US National Bureau of Economic Research: The average workday increased by 48.5 minutes, as did the number of meetings (up 13%). 😫

Yikes! Thank you to Christelle Rohaut — who rightly raises the question of burnout — for bringing this to my attention.

🧡 Speaking of stress and burnout, please take Big Orange Heart‘s Remote Work Wellbeing and Mental Health Survey before it closes on August 31st.

Founder Dan Maby reports their 2019 results turned up some really grim statistics. Respondents reported experiencing acute emotional distress at twice the US average, and nearly half of all respondents said their workplace made them feel anxious.” And that was pre-COVID. 😔

📅 Conference and Event Updates

  • 🔌 Brad Williams and Cory Miller will be holding a webinar on “Building Your First WordPress Plugin” on August 20, 2020, at 01:00 PM Central Time (the US and Canada). You can RSVP here for free. Based on the popularity of our first webinar on this topic, we're bringing it back. It's an extension of their awesome, newly updated book, Professional WordPress Plugin Development. Very, very practical and helpful for anyone getting started.
  • 💼 WPMRR Virtual Summit (September 23rd and 24th). Free, online. The focus will be “100% focused on helping you make monthly recurring revenue work for your WordPress business.” Scroll down the homepage where they publicly list the MRR (monthly recurring revenue) numbers from the speakers who will be participating! 💸
  • 🏕️ WordCamp Europe 2021 (TBD, Online). Ticket Sales are not open yet, but the Call for Organisers is. Looking ahead with hope to an in-person WCEU in 2022, the Super Bock Arena (Pavilhão Rosa Mota) in Porto, Portugal has been booked for June 2 – June 4, 2022.
  • 😢 In case you missed it from last week: WordCamp US 2020 has been cancelled. You can read the organizers' response to questions about their decision not to hold an online event as originally planned in April. Online conference fatigue and doubt about their ability to meet community goals were among the reasons given for the cancellation.
  • 🦠 This week all in-person flagship events — large, regional WordCamps — have been cancelled for the rest of 2020 and all of 2021.